Island Men's Journal Articles

Drumming Up a Storm at David Cloud's

by Eric Allen Montgomery, Hornby Island

Rumour had it that there were Spirit Drumming gatherings somewhere on the island. I'd heard specifically of women's groups, and one weekend there was a $200 workshop with a Senegalese drum master, but these weren't for me. I kept my eyes and ears open, and at various points, I would ask people that seemed tapped into the island's pulse and kept finding random intelligence, but no solid leads. A couple of weeks ago I was chatting with Kathleen in the CO-OP and mentioned my quest. "Oh, well, you should talk with David Cloud. He runs drum gatherings. He's just returned from Thailand, in fact that's him in the vegetables..." When I approached him with my question, he blinked and remarked that he didn't "run drummings", but, then again, as he'd just returned, it would be nice to get together, maybe a potluck, and see what came of it. He'd think about it and let me know. A week or so went by, and I got a call: "On for Sunday! Bring something to nosh and something to make noise with."

So that Sunday, I arrived at David Cloud's, pail of tortelini in one hand and big plastic bucket and lengths of fir branch in the other. David had said to watch for the cloud shaped number sign at the driveway's foot. That was just a prelude. The curving tree arched drive/tunnel led up to a cleared area of lawn and gardens, with his home/workshop/temple nestled to one side. Picture a two story building reminiscent of a sailing locker. Its whole front is divided into two doors which in turn create a giant sun-burst of wood and glass. Upon passing through, you enter a single two storey high space with a small sleeping loft across the opposite wall with a translucent full moon window rising above it. Suspended from the loft a variety of sail boards and accessories, below it kitchen space and office/living room space. Ringing the the room are shelves and spaces of labelled boxes ("lids and jars", "photography", "fun"); books and more books; photos and posters; one wall is a wood shop, tools neatly placed below windows hung with stained glass, an eagle wing mounted high on a wall. A table saw just off center in the room spends its off hours draped as an alter; all candles, sage wands, eagle skull and feathers, fresh flowers, angel cards and affirmations. All in all, amazing! Already four or five have arrived, and food was being spread upon the table. Over the next hour or so, more men arrived, with introductions, bowls, pots and the first offerings of wine and herb. There followed feasting, tales, and faces exchanging looks, smiles, compliments, queries, and narratives of near and far ramblings.

Someone sat to a drum and began a tentative rhythm. It was quickly joined by another drum and some sticks. The tapestry began to be woven.

Men had brought beautiful drums: several large marimbas, two or three amazing stump drums (one received from a Senegalese master). Others of us had brought sticks and blocks, tambourines and small skin drums. Those with larger drums set the rhythm. In the center of the circle was an exquisite Taiko - a Japanese "Big Drum" - easily two feet across and three and a half high, giving us a heavy bass upon which to build. Also on hand were one or two tin whistles, and lengths of plastic tubing. Throughout the evening, ingenuity expanded the diversity to include ladders and table tops, a steamer trunk, all manner of kitchenware, walls and floors, a body or two, even a ceiling slung clothes dryer drum. Once the first pattern of rhythm began, time shifted, slowed, roared ahead, stopped, rolled back, spun, and danced. Hands blurred, drew forth surges of energy and spirit. Feet stomped, bodies swayed, eyes lit and grins bright. New paths were explored as we added chants, drones, yips, howls, screams, and shouts of laughing joyous energy. Our thunder shook the night. We raised our heads and laughed with the joy of life.

As the night rolled on and as shimmering stars echoed our pulse, we one at a time reluctantly took our leave, even though head, body and feet swayed and tapped to the continuing ribbon of sound. I too moved into the night, back down the black, tree-lined tunnel to the road, bucket in arm's crook, hands free keeping the sticks tapping in time to the now muffled thrumming. As the ribbon of stars above guided me, I made the walk home, never stopping the rhythm sticks, playing the night, keeping the heartbeat pulse.


Updated on:30/06/00 09:39 PM

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