Mark Wood once gave rhythm to traditional rock bands, but the lifestyle - lugging around gear, committing to one particular band - wasn’t for him. Wood knew he wanted to continue to drum, but he wanted to play freely, with a variety of people, and in a way that was more travel-friendly, making the djembe the perfect instrument for him.
Wood appreciated the community, celebratory, and communicative aspects of African drumming, so he transitioned from rock drummer to djembe player by studying djembe music and playing in drum circles and workshops. He also brought his djembe to health and wellness centers throughout New Jersey, including a cancer support center. “That’s my first real event of doing holistic work and from that point on it just kind of bloomed into this whole career as far as working with at-risk people,” he recently told the Daily Record.
Today, Wood uses his “Wood’n Drums, Promoting Unity Through Drumming” program to provide drumming and music therapy as a form of alternative medicine. During his sessions with patients or students, he teaches traditional African drumming and rhythms. The program is especially helpful for autistic kids and other children who have trouble communicating verbally.
While Wood is committed to helping others through his drumming therapy program, his career still gives him the freedom to explore music and play with others. In fact, in 2009, Wood took a trip to West Africa, where he immersed himself into the community lifestyle and played the djembe outdoors every day with friends and visitors. But it was playing with people he’d just met that really heightened his love for djembe playing and highlighted the community and communicative power of hand drumming. “...One day we walked into a marketplace and I got an opportunity to play with all these guys that I had never seen before in my life. None of them spoke a lick of English. And I got to sit down and play with them,” Wood said.
Photo by Karen Mancinelli from the Daily Record.