I have loved doing the research and exploring this microUMA, finding out more about my new beloved instrument. I have dug some way into it’s origins, found the person that made it by their own hand, researched more about the history of percussion and particularly tuned ‘drums’ such as steel pans. I’ve explored and considered it’s name – a ‘steel tongue drum’ and why it might be called that, who mas made these drums. I’ve asked and wondered about the relationship between these instruments and senses of masculine and feminine energy, and I’ve been drawn to see who is playing these instruments, especially where this feels queered in some ways.
What I feel up to now, is that using vibration and sound is deeply embedded in human ways, and always has been in all places. Meeting the need for sound and sound connection, and the use of sound as a way to engage with ourselves and others has resulted in the innovation of all kinds of different instuments, over human history. The first place we make sound is in our own bodies, our voices, the clapping of our hands, stamping of feet, through movement, through contact with things around us. Through our own heart beat and pulse. There is a beat to it all, a movement, a vibration, expression. And instruments that are made are a way to further enhance, amplify, and vary our expression of this. My experience is that the instrument that I have helps me to release and channel a sound that comes through me but that I try to interfere with as little as possible. It’s a vehicle for the expression of an energy and a sound that is more than me.
By the way, I’ve decided my drum is called Snaily, because of the pattern on it looking like a beautiful snail shell, and as I love snails it feels fitting. So I will refer to it as Adam (who made it) did, a steel tongue drum (even though it isn’t technically a drum, I want to respect his sense of it), but then in my work and way with it I’m going to just call it Snaily. I hope, once I’ve settled into my own practice with it, to offer sound baths to other folk who like it too.
I’ve just been reading this article by Jennifer Engrácio. I loved this part:
“Drumming is often used in shamanic healing ceremonies; the drum can be used to shake up low vibrating energies that are lodged in the client’s energy field so that transformation can occur. The drum is used to harmonize chakras and restore balance to the energy field. In fact, studies are now showing that engaging in singing and percussion activities can help to heal the effects of historical and intergenerational trauma. (I highly recommend Resmaa Menakem’s book “My Grandmother’s Hands: Racialized Trauma and the Pathway to Mending Our Hearts and Bodies” for those who want to learn how to use these embodied practices.)”Jennifer Engrácio
These feels so resonant to me and what I was describing in my first #microUMA post about psychic attacks and my experience of playing Snaily. I read this from Shaheen Miro:
“Because of the vibratory nature of bells they are an extremely effective form of spiritual cleansing and protection. Bells can ward off negativity and unwanted visitors, this is the origin of the funeral toll. The vibrations from the bells will break up the negative and stagnant energy left hanging in the air. They move and jolt to life the stagnant and worn-out.”Shaheen Miro
What I want to say also at this point, is that I’m really not into the idea that playing these instruments, making this sound, is reserved in some way for some people, some places, some ways. Sound is a healing modality. It can clear our bodies and energy. It can break through aspects that are not serving us, that may be blocking or harming us in some way. It’s really powerful, and I fully believe in everyone feeling that they are entitled to and have permission to engage in this directly, and not be dependent on somone else or be limited by ideas that it’s not for them to experiment and engage in this. Some people like to wild swim, some people like to run, some people like to stretch, there’s s many different ways that people might be drawn to for spiritual and energetic care and healing. Making sound, by using percussion for example, can be as normal and everyday as getting in the shower, or stretching first thing in the morning.
I like to create a ‘set’ when I play Snaily – I like to light some candles, breathe first, relax, set up in an intentional and careful way. It helps me then to feel into what is happening and have as intuitive and free experience as possible. But that isn’t necessary all the time. I like to sing, I like to listen to music too, remembering to bring that into the every day is good for me.
Snaily was made from repurposed steel, from a recycled gas tank:
Adam forged it with love, care and intention. But this is Snaily, this is where Snaily came from, what it is made from, and I don’t intend to forget that by removing my sense of playing Snaily from something that is deep and down in the ground, from it’s roots. This is what has helped me heal myself and cleanse my energy. From this gas tank. Thank you gas tank.
Steel pans/drums also come from these types of material origins:
“In 1877, the ruling British government banned the playing of drums in an effort to suppress aspects of Carnival which were considered offensive. Bamboo stamping tubes were used to replace the hand drums as they produced sounds comparable to the hand drum when they were pounded on the ground.
These tubes were played in ensembles called tamboo bamboo bands.
Non-traditional instruments like scrap metal, metal containers, graters and dustbins were also used in tamboo bamboo bands. However, by the 1930’s these metal instruments dominated the tamboo bamboo bands. The bamboo tubes were eventually abandoned and replaced by the metal instruments.
These early metal pan bands were a rustic combination of a wide variety of metallic containers and kitchen utensils which were struck with open hands, fists or sticks.
The metal pan players discovered that the raised areas of the metal containers made a different sound to those areas that were flat. Through experimentation, coincidence, trial and error, and ingenuity on the part of numerous innovators, the metal pan bands evolved into the steel pan family of instruments.
As the pan makers knowledge and technique improved, so did the sound of the instrument.”
And look at Evelyn Glennie play her kitchen:
The first percussive sound, first beat and vibration that we hear must be that of our mother’s hearts when we are in the womb, a constant beat. My babies are big now but they still love to cuddle up to that beat – it must be healing. This is my baby when he was little, resting against my heart:
I’ve had an idea for the hand bells that I am going to have access to once I’ve moved in a few weeks time. I’m going to try out something that I’ll call ‘intuitive ringing’. One of the great things about Snaily is that it’s tuned to a chord. That means, that whatever and however you play, the notes are complimentary. I want to try seleting a set of bells that are also a chord, distribute them to those that are there to play, and then create the opportunity for each person to ring their bell as and when and how feels right to them. I think I might experiment with setting a timer for this, so lets say, we all can play in this way, in the chord, for 3 minutes. I’d also like to try it where there is no timer, and like with Snaily, we start and continue until it feels time to wind down to the end. People will be able to close their eyes, and not worry about making a ‘wrong note’, becuase there will be no wrong notes. And we can see what it is that emerges, what we make together. I think it will be great.
I want to explore more about how I might bring bells and Snaily into my own spiritual and witchy practice. What types of ways I want to do that, how it might be and what if any other percussion I might want to add to what I already have as part of that. My partner Max has a rain stick, and I’d love it if she might want to weave that into this story too….