‘Drumming for Drumming’: connection between Indigenous community and dance is found

The Cooma-Monaro Aboriginal Health Council, run by Shari Humphies-Knight, says a drumming movement needs more research.

Children in Aboriginal communities in southern New South Wales know what it means to “drum”, as is evidenced by a Facebook clip of Nepean MP Andrew Constance in a celebratory drumming session in the Manning River district.

As Constance is sharing culture, Drumming held its inaugural gala festival this month, honouring people’s time in the traditional cultural practice. The Australian Indigenous Drumming and Songwriting Awards ceremony was attended by music and academia.

Drumming for Drumming: Australia in Black and White Read more

Drumming is a labour of love for director and creator Drumming for Drumming – “rhythm, rhythm, rhythm” – co-ordinator Shari Humphies-Knight, who plays the timpani and was designated as honorary advisor to this event.

Yet most Aboriginal people, it seems, have never heard the practice performed. One of the challenges in drumming is overcoming the misconception that it’s as “namby-pamby” as dancing, prompting the production of The Drumming Handbook by Drumming for Drumming co-author Tony Dickins, whose Aboriginal advisory board is also co-ordinator.

That book was presented in Melbourne’s Federation Square in 2013 and developed following the worldwide Drumming for Justice project where songwriter Noel Pearson led the national initiative for drumming equity through the non-government organisation Restorative Justice Victoria.

In that project, participants explained they “drummed for purpose” because they felt it brought them “closer to their understanding of the spirit of the people”, and they “drummed to express themselves in the group and to create a new rhythm”.

A drum by her father, Dennis Knight, played at a Culture and Spirit drumming workshop. Photograph: Tony Dickins

Humphies-Knight wants people to join the three-day Band NT “Magical Indigenous Art, Music and Indigenous Storytelling Festival” for her final drumming festival on Sunday 18 July in Jindabyne.

In recent years, she has brought groups of students and drummers from Cooma TAFE to take part in Drumming for Drumming and originally helped initiate Drumming for Drumming in Cooma.

On reflection, she believes her drumming heritage allows her a space that’s culturally engaging and effective. “If I focus on the talking, the pacing and the expressing of the drum, I get more out of it,” she says.

She describes the spirit of spiritual connection and protection, the place of connecting to spirits and the world that’s a place of peace, harmony and purpose.

More research and support should be provided for Indigenous drumming, according to Humphies-Knight, who says she’s already seen life changing impact at events such as the Drumming for Drumming celebration.

In the past, she says, she’s been able to “churn out rhythm” and make people dance through euphoria but through the experience, “I was able to bring people together in a way that they felt supported and loved”.

“I see a lot of very vulnerable young people connecting with their spirituality when they’re dancing and all of a sudden they’re tearful, there’s just something magical about it.”

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