Throughout time, drums have been a cherished tool of communication. Whether being used to message members of faraway tribes across the plains of Africa, bestow praise and thanks upon the gods, or communicate among plantation slaves from different ancestral lands, drums have always represented a way of talking without using words. Verbal communication has its benefits, but almost nothing matches the drum when it comes to sending a message directly to the heart and soul.
Even today, we use drums as integral parts of our cultural communication. Marching bands are still given clout, whether they are part of a sports activity or a holiday parade. Everyone looks for the big drum that replicates the sound of wildly beating hearts. Drum circles, full of djembes, bongos and cajons, are a pretty normal occurrence throughout the land. Even if people have never participated in one, they’ve likely heard of them and are often interested in attending. This speaks to how drums communicate; using notes that often sound and feel primal enough to resonate within us all.
Music therapy is a growing profession that utilizes the rhythms of drumming in bringing about emotional and psychological balance. With drums, people are able to convey feelings that perhaps cannot be formed using words. When we think about how drums communicate, we take into consideration that some emotions run so deep that only an equally deep sound or vibration can move them to the surface. When we drum, we are not only listening to and beating the drum, we are also feeling every thump, every pulse in our bodies. The experience is, quite literally, moving.
Using drums in music therapy, people may find that they are able to more easily find words to express themselves. As feelings are brought to the surface, they are also able to move through processing steps which can lead to the ability to communicate more easily. Using drums to communicate this way can also benefit any physical therapy and occupational therapy goals individuals may have. Drumming as part of a music therapy has been found to help develop motor, emotional, and communication skills.
How music affects us is always an individual thing and drumming is no exception. When we consider using drums to communicate, we not only consider the conversation between drummers, but also the exchange between drum and drummer. Whether one is drumming as part of a drum circle or alone, the process of talking through drumming affects people on a deeper level than using words.