The Djembe Drum

There are three traditional hand drums in our home. We use them at gatherings and ceremonies or whenever the feeling of praise and thankfulness hits us. They’re good friends and their comforting presence is a blessing. I always feel empowered when I play them, uplifted, made more.

            There’s also a traditional African drum, djembo that came into my life a little over a year ago. Its head is made of goatskin and it’s body is the hollowed out trunk of a tree. It has nothing to do with my Ojibway roots or heritage but it still affects me in a good way.

            I’ve listened to African music over the years and part of my music collection is devoted to it. But until that drum came into our home I’d never considered how much that form of expression might fulfill me. I mean, I’m a North American Indian after all.

            But when I sit and play that drum and allow myself to just express my emotions through it, the time just slips away and I become transported just like I do when I use our traditional instruments. There’s joy to be found there and nowadays my life would be less without that African drum.

            I sat on our deck one sunny day in mid-morning. My wife was away and I was lonely. But it was a glorious spring day and I began playing a soft, slow beat on that djembo drum. I closed my eyes and just allowed it to flow out of me.

            I don’t know how long I sat there with my eyes closed and my face raised to the sky and my hands beating out that soft rhythm but I do know that nothing else existed in my world except that sense of communion with the drum and the sky.

            When I stopped and looked around me it was the same day but the lonely feeling had vanished. In its place was a sense of order, of belonging, of being connected – exactly the feelings I garner from using an Ojibway drum.

            There are a multitude of spiritual tools in this world. They are thousands of ways to be connected to spirit. As Native people we limit ourselves when we only tell ourselves we can only express ourselves with Native things. There’s no color or no race in spirit – there’s only connectedness and celebration and we all need that. Free yourself. Experience.


About Richard Wagamese

I am a published author with 13 titles published by major Canadian publishers. I am a First Nations person from the Ojibway Nation in Northwestern, Ontario, Canada. As a professional writer since 1979 I have written for newspaper, radio television, magazines and book publishing. I love the culture of books and the people who populate it. 2012 recipient of the National Aboriginal Achievement Award for Media & Communications. View all posts by Richard Wagamese

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