Radical music: 'Every nation has a drum'

IssueDecember 2021 - January 2022
Comment by Penny Stone

We’ve been privileged in Glasgow during COP26 to have the Minga Indígena delegation of Indigenous leaders from across the American continent.

They have eloquently shared their experiences, fears and hopes alongside a clarion call for global unity and action. And woven through their sharing, like writing through seaside rock, has been song and dance as well as the holding of reflective and connective spaces.

They have called on us in the Western world to recognise that we are inextricably connected to the planet we live on. And part of how they have made this call is to sing and dance. It’s not separate from speeches and conversations, it’s part of it.

Music and dance give space for us to connect with each other, to hear each other and to vibrate and move together.

Reflective space gives us time to really absorb the truth of what we are hearing; gives us time to grieve and to feel the depth of anger and rage.

The sharing of music and dance in these contexts give us the opportunity to begin to heal together, so that we may move forward and be able to act more defiantly and strongly to face the climate crisis.

Antonia Alba from the Guna nation urged us to ‘be in love with all of your being so that one day we will all be deeply united, [and we] will work for nature’.

Gersom Paredes of the Wanka nation called out: ‘Brothers and sisters, in these important times for our Mother Earth, I tell you that you must keep resisting and dancing, sharing our good way of life, but also with the hope that everything will be alright. Always with the internal happiness, unravelling the fears, the hate, the pain and everything that is negative that ends our life. We are millennial beings and today we must share with our Mother Earth.’

Indigenous and First Nation peoples living all over the world share the same understanding that humans are not separate from the environment we live in.

“Heartbeat of the drum is the heartbeat of Mother Earth. And every nation has a drum.”

Navajo singer Tom Goldtooth tells us that: ‘One the of the things we [diverse Indigenous peoples] have in common is that we have the deepest respect for that sacredness of our mother earth… The bushmen, they talked about generations before and generations to come. That’s what we talk about here too. We talk about our relationship to this environment that you see. We are connected to the winds, we are connected to the ground, the earth, we are connected to all the birds that exist, and we are connected to the sacredness of the fire, the fire of understanding. We are the rich biology of life.’

You don’t need to understand his spoken language to understand some of what Tom Goldtooth is communicating when he beats his drum and sings. You feel it in your body and find yourself beginning to move with the beat.

"The songs inspire us, heal us. In the first place, we need to keep our souls and minds healed."

When sharing a song for Indigenous People’s Day in Canada in 2020, First Nation Blackfoot singer and drummer Winston Wadsworth Jr tells us that the drum begins before he sings his song and continues afterwards because the ‘heartbeat of the drum is the heartbeat of Mother Earth. And every nation has a drum’.

Part of the role of song and dance for many of these communities is healing. It is about taking time to be with each other and to be with the earth that sustains us. Sometimes it is energetic and sometimes it is reflective, but it is always connected.

Speaking from Brazil, one of the ‘Guardians of the Forest’, Cíntia Guajajara, tells us that: ‘Through songs we, as indigenous women, receive a very powerful energy that encourages us to face challenges.… The songs inspire us, heal us. In the first place, we need to keep our souls and minds healed. And that strength gives us the desire and courage to continue to fight for our people.’enny Stone


Radical music

“The songs inspire us, heal us. In the first place, we need to keep our souls and minds healed.”

Topics: COP26
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