Belief is Rhythm

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The end of the rainy season approaches and the day draws to a close. The sound of the rain forest is amazing, as if a wild orchestra is practicing. Cicadas set the tone, accompanied by bird calls. A little later, as if at the press of a button, the rain stars to fall. It drums on the roof of the forest.

The rain has almost abated and the singing of the frogs is now the only sound that can be heard. They are the drums of the forest. For the next few hours, they provide the sound backdrop and set the village in a trance like state.

The same is true for all indigenous peoples: music is not played for enjoyment or relaxation, but is rather an element of belief and spirituality.  Belief is all – embracing. It offers an explanation for phenomena in the outside world and at the same time, provides the measure governing the lives of the individual and the group.

Take a look at any aboriginal community and you will immediately find out that it has such a great rhythm. It is probably the fact that it has not lost yet its tact which makes them peacefully leave together; they have not yet succumbed to the temptation of Western rationale and consumerism, or Islam’s promise of salvation.

As already stated, music, like all other activities, has a context. This context enables the people to survive. Whoever digresses from this music, breaking the rhythm, sets himself apart from the community, with all the possible consequences that may follow. Whoever breaks the binding taboos also breaks with the community.

All activities that may not be carried out under any circumstances are covered by a taboo. If a man is to make demands on nature, he must also give it time to replenish itself. At the same time, taboos serve to self insure the community and to distance it from others. Taboos, and therewith their related traditions, are maintained, overseen, and passed on by privileged persons who may well be the chief, the oldest woman, the shaman, or the medicine man. They provide the rhythm in which the community lives. However, they also provide the link to the supernatural, to that which threatens or protects. In contrast to the scientific methodology that has explained our world down to the last nanometer and the bending of time and space, thereby creating more confusion than solving it, natural religions offer a holistic explanatory model.

The boundaries between animate and inanimate material, between microcosm and macrocosm, are transcended with ease. This approach allows natural religions to appear attractive to many of us leaving in the West and who find science a bit “soulless” and cold.

It is the group that strikes the beat, from birth to death, and usually in a highly regulated fashion. The seasons of the year have their own rituals and music. The various stages of a human life are also subdivided; one need only to bear in mind the great importance of initiations rites that almost all cultures have in common. Here too, the pace is given by the beat of the drum. It appears to be an element that links together the various types of natural religions. The drums call the community together and set the mood to the point of trance.

Several notes in succession put into order – that’s all what music is. Humans communicated by means of noises and sounds before they developed language. Music has existed for as long as human beings have organized themselves into social groups. There is no culture on earth that manages without music, and a culture’s music tells us a great deal about the people singing it. Music not only reflects aesthetic preferences and social values, but also maps the contemporary technical possibilities of production and performance.

Music is an expression of emotions, of grief or happiness. It is the spiritual fingerprint of its singer, his whole identity. Sometimes it can work like medicine. It can open a door from one world into another. Important is only the experience and open-mindedness that one brings to listening. Without them one may not be able to enjoy our daily drum orgy.

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