Fifteen years ago I was introduced to the Medicine Wheel Tradition of the Rhythm Circle in a gathering of 50 men, all playing rhythm instruments, in a friend's timber framing workshop.
Rick Geggy spoke forth about how in the South, the direction of Innocence and Trust, the Summertime, we find the heartbeat of the drum.
In the West, the direction of the Sunset, the Autumn, and Introspection where we wish to cut thru the illusion of our patterns, we play the wooden stick, the clavé.
In the North, the direction of the wintertime, the elders, we seek the wisdom off all things going in the same direction by playing the rattle.
And in the East, the direction of the Springtime, the Illuminating Sunrise, and Inspiration, we play the bell, the chime and/or the flute or whistle.
As a flute player, and occasional drummer, I began experimenting with this concept, this teaching, in my life experience. I have joined drumming and rhythm circles playing from the East, with my flutes, in a rhythmic way, rather than in a melodic way. I have enjoyed the experience, while the compliments have encouraged me to continue.
While helping set up the campgrounds at the Woodstock Festival, I was blessed by Tom Law teaching us Yoga in the early morning. To begin, though, he said that he had recently learned this form of yoga and felt it was his obligation to share what he had learned with us.
In a similar vein, I wish to share with you the teaching of the Medicine Wheel and the Rhythm Circle, through the medium of this recording.
Most of the songs have all four directions at play.
Thanks for listening.
1. The Song of the Earth Mother is by Tony Shearer from his great story book for children of all ages, "The Praying Flute" (1-800-390 5353)
While Jean is playing Pat's hoop drum, I am playing Jean's Native American Flute, which she received in trade for an Astro-drama workshop she gave in New England years ago. Watching Jean dance with 2 Rainsticks as she added the extra track was a delight.
2. Caynah Udu - Summer Flowers of the Field. Download | Stream (128kbps) (R.H.A.) This is a melody that has naturally come through this wonderful light G Quena. Leo's evocative tones on the Udu give it a new rhythm.
The Quena was handcrafted by Jeff Whittier in California from Hawaiian bamboo in the unique style of the craftsman of Cuzco, Peru.
Leo is playing a clay Udu Drum (jug drum) from Nigeria, Temple Chimes from Nepal, a Caxixi (pronounced "Casheeshee") shaker from Africa and a vibra slap, bringing us all four directions.
3. Tamboa Travels, the Wind In the Trees. (R.H.A. & L. Brooks) Twenty years ago I used to handcraft local hardwood boards into a tuned box drum that is played with rubber mallets. Gilles Perrault of Quebec now makes these incredibly well tuned "tongue drums", one of which is perfectly in tune with my pentatonically tuned D Shakuhachi (I Shaku Ha Sun) handcrafted by Monty Levenson. Thankfully, Leo owns this Tamboa drum and plays it masterfully. We put them together in one room and this is what emerged. Leo added a Bodhran from Ireland to enhance the bass and heartbeat.
4. Sholom Haverim ("Peace Friends"). (traditional, arr. R.H.A.) A song and melody I've known for a long time and which Jean has drummed to for the local "Dances of Universal Peace".
Jean is playing her Egyptian Doumbek, Indian Kanjira and middle eastern finger zils, while I am playing a Cherry Native American flute in the key of F, which I handcrafted years ago. For the words to sing along, see page 197 of the "Rise Up Singing" songbook.
5. The Peace of Ken - (R.H.A. & L. Brooks) Leo is playing one of Ken Easton's wonderful Kalimba , an African thumb piano, while I am playing my G Quena.
Leo has also added a Surdo (bass drum) and Rainsticks.
I was once told that "ken" also means "understand" in Scottish, so the title is also speaking of the peace that comes with understanding.
6. Zum Gali Gali. (traditional, arr. R.H.A.) A song of the Israeli pioneer farmers. The words translate into "The Pioneer is for his work, the work is for the pioneer. This Pioneer is for his friend, His friend is for the Pioneer". We are all pioneering a new way of living and of making music.
"Drew" is playing a West African Djembe and Dunbek, while I am playing my E Shakuhachi ("I Shaku Roku Sun").
7. The Flight of the Butterfly. (R.H.A. & L. Brooks) It was a memorable scene: The local naturalist club out "counting butterflies" by chasing them thru flowering meadows with big nets that allowed them to catch the butterflies without harm, clearly identify them, and then release the butterfly to continue on its way. Listening to this spontaneously emerged piece of Leo's African Balaphon and my G Quena, brought that image back to me so very clearly.
8. We Circle Around. (traditional Arapaho, arr. R.H.A.) A song I learned and sang around many a campfire circle: "We Circle Around, We Circle Around, The Boundaries of The Earth. Wearing my long wing feathers as we fly...."
I am playing my F Cherry Native American flute and "Drew" is playing my homemade elk hide hoop drum.
9. Hang In There Medley. (Holly Near and traditional) Here I take a melody from Holly Near's great song and shuffle up the rhythm along with "Joshua Jericho" and "Every Little Cell", a healing song which I learned at a Rainbow Family Gathering back in '88, basically to the melody of "Shortnin' Bread":
Every Little Cell in my body is happy, Every Little Cell in my body is well (2x)
I'm so glad, Every Little Cell, in my body is happy and well (2x)"
I'm playing the E Shakuhachi and Jean is playing a West African Djembe made by Leo Brooks. Errol is playing a shaker from the North.
10. The Bonnechere Valley KuKu. (R.H.A. & L. Brooks) In our last half hour in the studio together, I said to Leo that I had a melody that I hoped he could find a rhythm for, which interrupted him saying that he had a rhythm that he wanted to record so I could find a melody for it. They found each other. Kuku is a rhythm from the Manian People of Guinea, West Africa played with a melody that arose and was recorded in the Bonnedhere Valley of home.
I'm playing Bansijeff's G-Quena. Leo is playing a Djembe drum from Mali and pair of Doundouns he built himself.
11. Sometimes I Feel Like a Fatherless Child. Download | Stream (128kbps) (traditional melody arr. R.H.A.) A traditional melody, usually "motherless", yet I'm personally only "fatherless"... The traditional melody "Wayfaring Stranger" blends in midway.
I'm playing an E-Shakuhachi, Leo is playing the congas, Guiro, Afuché (beaded shaker/rasp), and a Chinese cymbal.
12. The Djun's Dance. (R.H.A.) A rhythm traditionally played on the Djun Djun, a African Bass Drum (aka "Doundoun"). Something went wrong with the drum head.... so the Djun player got to dance instead of drumming.
I'm playing the G "palla" (pahd-ya), small Ecuadorian pan pipes, and Jean is playing the Djembe and the tube rattle.
13. Aylee-aw-hu Ha-Taino. Download | Stream (128kbps) (traditional, arr. R.H.A.) A mix of two traditional Passover melodies celebrating the miracle working prophet, Elijah, who left Earth in a flying vehicle and whose return was promised to precede the coming of the messiah. Interwoven is the Dayenu melody, which thanks G-d for all the miracles that brought the Hebrews out of the "Narrows" into Freedom, saying "if only we had just been given this, it would have been enough, yet we were also given that, and that too would have been enough, and we were also given more, how blessed we are.... Dayenu, which is so close to the name of the first tribe to welcome Christopher Colombo in his "flying (sailing) vehicle", the Taino, and who, after teaching their creation stories to their guests, were subjected to the first cultural and physical genocide in this hemisphere. Wasn't it enough?
I'm playing Bansijeff's long D-quena and Drew is playing my elk hide hoop drum. Errol is playing the blocks.
14. Tête à Tête (Heart to Heart). (R.H.A. & L. Brooks) A conversation that emerged between Leo, Errol and me. Leo began on the Taama (African talking drum), I replied on the deer antler whistle and Errol joined in on the Djembe. I had more to say, so I switched over to the South American E pan pipes, and then shifted on to E Shakuhachi when the trialogue really got going.