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the rhythm of life
singapore sunset
amw
When we moved to Australia in 1997 the first thing i did was try to find the local rave scene. I fell into the outdoor party/psychedelic trance scene, which was a weird space where hippies, backpackers and ravers collided. About once a month i took the Greyhound to the city and then hitched rides with DJs or crew to get to the parties held on secluded beaches or out-of-the-way farms. Back in our small town i went to the library and read a lot - mostly science-fiction, but also books on music and philosophy and other things.

One day i picked up a book called Trance Dance by Frank Natale. My mom had been into "new age" stuff for years, plus i was hanging out with hippies every few weekends, so reading about shamanism and trance states was just another book... but somehow that one really clicked with me. Alongside bringing the ideas to raves with me, i started reading more about the topic online. I found a site where new age-y people of all persuasions chatted about their beliefs and became somewhat active in the ecstatic dance forum. Everyone there was really into drumming, so i took a couple visits to a local cafe that had weekly drum circles. I remember meeting someone from the forum in 1998, and he gave me a clay "starter" dumbek that had been given to him by a writer in Massachusetts. I tried to teach myself a bit and went to a few drumming events and had a blast.

Over that year things really went downhill for me. There was drugs and party politics and fucked up friendships, not to mention my own gender/sexual identity crisis... by the end of the year i couldn't handle the psytrance scene or the hippie scene either. I wasn't comfortable dancing in public any more. I started getting all angsty and miserable and i pulled out my old Nine Inch Nails CDs. Anywho, through early 1999 i think i only went out to the park a few more times to bang that drum. After i moved into an apartment where the neighbors rapidly got to hating me for blasting my industrial music it went into hibernation in the closet.

I remember after coming back to Australia from California in 2002 i was kinda reinvigorated and i wanted to play again, but somewhere along the way the drum had broken. I guess that's normal for clay, but instead of buying a new one i just kinda forgot about it.

I didn't even really think about it again until i met this chick at a club in 2007. We didn't talk much, i mean it was only a one night thing, but she was a drummer, and what we did say was all about like.. the rhythm of life and the groove and i'm sure it sounded out there to most people but it made sense for me. It made me think back to that Miles Maeda gig earlier in the year - he teaches yoga and there was this big buzz that he made all his sets into some spiritual journey... for me in the psytrance scene that had just been par for the course, but you don't usually hear about that kind of stuff in the house music scene so it was interesting. Anyway, i started becoming more conscious of dance and rhythm as something more than just a bit of fun. This stuff really does do wonderful things for my mood.

So when i was looking for shrinks the other week and i saw a local mental illness support organization doing a drumming group i signed up. Of course that was when i was all on top of the world and yeah can do anything, right? Then it all went to shit, but i pushed myself to go anyway. Let me tell you it's fucking nerve-wracking for me to go to a place where i know everyone else is also going to be as fucked up as i am, even if we're not actually talking like a real group session. It's like coming out of the crazy closet. Not fun at all, no sirree. But the teacher gives us all djembes and gets us hitting out all kinds of basic rhythms. Each time after the groove comes apart he gives us all a pep-talk, about how when you're down there's always a drum to beat on, don't cut yourself or hit your wife or whatever, reach down inside, drum out your feelings and so on. And it's fucking positive and real and suddenly i realize he's right - for a moment i'm not depressed any more.

This weekend, coincidentally, was the international drumming festival in Toronto, so today i went downtown to see. I don't think it's really J's kind of thing, she wanted to leave after a little bit. I'm behind on school work because i haven't done shit in the last two weeks so i stayed behind sitting in the grass studying. All around there's beats playing, people dancing, toddlers hitting out rhythms, hipsters at the market stalls and families sitting down to eat amazing Caribbean food... And it's like fuck, yes! I actually studied, and i listened, and i grooved, and i ate curry and rice and beans, and i didn't feel depressed. Melancholy perhaps, but not that complete fucking numbing i-don't-want-to-do-anything incapacitating depression. That's a good thing.

I need to get more connected back to that beat, it makes me feel good. I can't go clubbing because i can't afford to take a taxi all the way out here in the middle of the night but maybe i can get the fix elsewhere. The drumming group is going weekly for the next month or so. Perhaps i need to line up something else after...

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