“Different Drummer” by Jeff Strong charts a two decade exploration of the potential of drumming to influence brain activity. Through memoir and case examples, Jeff takes us into the world of his lifelong passion for drumming.
Under the influence of his mysterious mentor Lloyd, a street drummer who provides an antidote to his more conventional college studies, Jeff is led into the world of the Orishas, ancestral spirits originating from Africa. Through their evocation by drumming, Jeff watches as Lloyd affects healing. Finding that this explanation doesn’t sit too well with the American Bible Belt, he begins his own explorations to explain scientifically what actually happens to the brain when listening to the different rhythms of a drum:
“Essentially I removed the Shaman’s hood and replaced it with a lab coat”
Formulating Rythmnic Entrainment Interventions (REI), he provides case examples of how it can help in a wide range of neurological and psychological conditions through inducing calmness (or in some cases stimulation) and potential receptivity to change.
It seems there is no area where drumming doesn’t have an application from autism, ADHD and Tourettes to mood disorder, sleep difficulties and aggression. I struggled a little with this side of the book, not because music doesn’t have the potential to create highly therapeutic benefits for even the most difficult to reach issues, but because it came across as too much of a panacea for all things.
Perhaps that shows a touch of anglo-saxon scepticism on my part and Jeff is definitely not advocating a one-size fits all approach: he meticulously tailors his drumming to the needs of the individual, searching for the right rhythms and tempo and frequently going back to the drawing board to tweak and refine as he learns along the way. In this he shows genuine humility and openeness towards his clients.
For anyone with an interest in the therapeutic aspect of music this is a gem of a book. For parents wanting to explore different approaches to help their children it will make interesting reading. As a lay person who just enjoys playing the odd CD I found myself a little overloaded with music and technology theory and was more interested in reading about how following a lifelong passion such as drumming can lead to the most unexpected places and discoveries (although as someone with auditory sensitivity I’m not tempted to try it for myself).
Above all this book is a testimony to beating your own drum and following your own path and the outcome is decidedly upbeat.