The Quiet Voice of the Frame Drum by Oxana Poberejnaia


oxanaLayne Redmond passed away on 28 October 2013. Days before her death I received by post her signature Lotus Tambourine which Layne developed with Remo, manufacturer of world frame drums. Remo posted a tribute to her on her page as a Remo artist. Percussive Arts Society published an In Memoriam of her, along with the link to an article by Layne Redmond “Frame Drums and History”. Facebook and especially Women Frame Drumming page exploded with expressions of gratitude, sympathy and testimonials of how Layne changed people’s lives. Here is an account of Layne’s last summer by a person who supported her in her end-of-life transition.

Woman_mirror_tambourine_MBA_Lyon_L631FWLayne Redmond was intensely busy with two projects during this time: completing her film about drumming spiritual practices to dream awake Afro-Brazilian Gods and Goddesses, and preparing her seminal book When The Drummers Were Women for re-printing with new materials and photos. She put out appeals for both projects, including on Karen Tate’s show “The Voices of the Sacred Feminine” in June 2013, and people helped with their money and time.

I got my first tambourine, after two and a bit years of sticking to frame drums without jingles. The first time when I sat down with the tambourine to watch Layne’s training video she was in the same world as I, and the very next day she was gone. My Beginners’ Frame Drumming Group has been growing over the summer. My Intermediate Group has been going for a year now and we are preparing two performance pieces based on Layne’s Malfuf variation for upright and sitting playing positions.

arbaniLayne Redmond was a strong woman who followed her own path. With her research into the Spiritual History of Rhythm (subtitle for her book) she contributed to recovering Herstory. With her frame drum performances and teaching, Layne gave thousands of women an opportunity to connect to Goddess in a very physical way, which is at the same time artistic and spiritual.

I learnt to play frame drums from Layne’s DVDs and CDs and I learnt from her book When The Drummers Were Women that frame drums were – and remain – a sacred instrument to the Goddess played by Her priestesses. This puts my personal drumming practice and my teaching into context. However, this is not the main reason why I started and continue drumming.

From school years, although I did go to the Soviet Music School for eight years to study a Russian folk instrument domra, and to various Arts classes, I was mainly interested in academic studies – which led to my earning a PhD in Government from the University of Manchester and working there.

The first major change happened when I read Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way. By the time I had finished, I admitted to myself that I was actually an artist – a realisation not easily arrived at, nor easy to deal with: now what? I re-started writing, re-started painting and re-started playing domra. I went to creative writing course and other events, including a community drum circle.

My frame drums by a standing stone on Anglesey

My frame drums by a standing stone on Anglesey

On a side table, away from the African drums, there were percussion instruments, and a Bodhran (An Irish frame drum played with a beater). I picked that Bodhran and banged on it. And it just immediately did something to me. The experience of holding the drum close to my chest, the sensation of the wave of vibration going through my body – that was it. I was hooked.

Had it not been for my experience with The Artist’s Way, I would have not acted on this experience. One of the steps on The Artist’s Way is listening  to the quiet voice from within and acting once you have heard it. I invested in a couple of frame drums (not Bodhrans). I started learning from YouTube videos and then bought Layne’s DVD and CD set.

The more I drummed, the more I saw it was for me, it fit. Or I fit. By the way, this was very similar to the process of me learning Buddhist meditation: I knew I was meant to do it, however difficult and painful it was for the first year and a half. It is not any particular aspect of drumming that I enjoy, or any one rhythm. It is the whole experience: the way the frame feels against my knee and palms, the sensation of the frame drums against my fingertips, the different sounds and vibrations of the drum, the way my whole body gets engaged in the playing process and starts oscillating like a wave – or a snake.

The initial period of learning a rhythm is exhilarating, albeit irritating. I love getting to know the rhythm. I love the moment when my body has incorporated the rhythm fully. I love witnessing other people, women and men, discovering the magic of frame drums. I laugh at their initial hiccups and then delight at their first successes. These moments when a group manages to create a rhythmic web, everyone contributing, everyone listening to each other and to the whole.

SB_-_Altay_shaman_with_drumThese are all gifts: from the Goddess and from Layne Redmond. More gifts followed: meeting my shaman friend who now teaches me, and all my other frame drumming friends who give me joy. My best friend took up Bodhran and together we went on a frame drumming pilgrimage to pre-historic sites on the island of Anglesey (off Wales)

In an article “Remembering Her” in Diane Stein’s anthology The Goddess Celebrates, Marion Weinstein says:

“She tells each of us individually or personally – not only what to do – but who we are. We Are Her. She is us. Not only is it a different set of messages [from patriarchal religions], it’s a different set of techniques – and the techniques are the message also. The process of discovery is also the message.”

I have experienced that with my Buddhist meditation practice and my frame drumming practice: the process of discovering, taking on, following up, and sticking with – it has been all part of the message. And the key to this journey has been listening to the quiet voice from within.

Oxana Poberejnaia was an Officer of the University of Manchester Buddhist Society while studying for a PhD in Government, and has been involved in organising the Manchester Buddhist Convention, now in its 9th year. Oxana is now exploring the Sacred Feminine through marking seasonal festivals, working with her menstrual cycle, frame drumming and shamanic journeying, while keeping the practice of Buddhist meditation. Oxana is an artist and an author. She teaches frame drumming and meditation. Her works can be found on her blog.

http://poeticoxana.wordpress.com   

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Categories: Body, Buddhism, Goddess, Goddess Spirituality, Herstory, Music, Spiritual Journey, Women and Scholarship, Women's Spirituality

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18 replies

  1. Excellent read – really resonates. I was just in the USA graduating from a painting course and all of the women painted their own drums – we watched the Layne Redmond short movie before we started painting and made tribute to her. I admit to becoming quite interested in keeping some different varieties myself. I made my own many months ago and I am madly in love her, just one beat of her takes me to another place instantly. I drum my children if they cannot sleep – it works every time. Thank you :)

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  2. Thanks for this very sensitive reflection, Oxana!! I wish I were a drummer!! To honor Layne Redmond’s passing, here’s a magnificent quote from her book, WHEN THE DRUMMERS WERE WOMEN:

    “Hand-held frame drums are among the oldest known musical instruments. They are hoop-shaped drums with a diameter that is much greater than the depth of their shell. In prehistoric times, their rhythms helped shamans and seers attain the sacred trance state necessary for healing and prophecy. The rituals of the earliest known religions evolved around the beat of frame drums.

    “These religions were founded on the worship of female deities — Mother Goddesses who evolved into the many goddesses of Mediterranean cultures in classical times. In the oldest times women’s bodies were considered holy, because they had the seemingly magical ability to give birth, to create new human beings. As a result, women became the first technicians of the sacred, performing religious functions we would today associate with the clergy or priesthood. Sacred drumming was one of their primary skills. It remained a powerful tool for communal bonding and individual transformation until the fall of the Roman Empire.

    “Though the existence of cultures whose primary deity was a goddess has been well documented in the last twenty-five years in popular and influential works by scholars such as Marija Gimbutas, Buffie Johnson, Merlin Stone, Rianne Eisler and Joseph Campbell, the role of women as custodians of the spiritual life of these cultures is not as well known. Perhaps for this reason, the significance of the frame drum as the focus of women’s spiritual power has been virtually overlooked.”

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  3. Thank you for this tribute to Layne!

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  4. I studied with Layne years and years ago and still own one of her drums. She was as kind as she was talented.

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    • Wow, Barbara! I never knew that! This is so exciting! As I said, I never met Layne. So, it is only through the actual music that I have my connection with her. I am so happy to be in the line of women frame drummers, many inspired by Layne.

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  5. Thanks, Oxana, for this post. Layne was an important foremother for us, reminding us that drumming wasn’t a masculine pursuit, but originally a women’s passion and a technique for discovering the Goddess within us…a technique like meditation. Both are kinesthetic. I would bet that you’re very kinesthetic, too. It’s so wonderful that Julia Cameron allowed you to discover such important things about yourself.

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    • Thank you, Nancy, for your comment. You are right, I am kinesthetic! Yes, see, frame drumming is something I would wholeheartedly recommend all women do, and The Artist’s Way I always recommend to pretty much everyone I meet. It is about finding your true self in your current circumstances, and suits any walk of life and any belief system.

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  6. What a beautiful tribute to discover. Thank you Oxana. Happy to know you are passing on her teachings and found your calling to drum! My life was changed when I witnessed her drum and saw all the ancient images. It was a home coming. She is the reason for the Women Frame Drumming youtube channel and social network pages. Bless your path, my heart supports you! Rhythmic Blessings, Miranda

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  1. Layne Redmond in our lives – Soma

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