I've always been against the idea that life is something that one seizes, one grabs, and one adds to the list of things and achievements that one wishes to take into one's grave. Let's face it, life is something we experience, perhaps the way one experiences light, and it has nothing to do with what we make of it. This latter idea, of making something of life, is mainly an idiotic Western thought developed to counter both the fear of death and the feeling of guilt for not investing enough time and energy into thinking about what life really means. This month I was fortunate enough to spend time among people who, for the most part, are trying to understand what life is on its own terms. When asked they all said: “everything is connected, so why bother with petty things and cultural constraints?” Most of these people don't have families, they don't do the right thing in terms of getting a solid and stolid job, and they don't give a shit about moral principles based on lots of hypocrisy, lying, and regular dishonesty. And they don't compromise either: if they can't get the stallion, they don't settle for the mule. They are all drummers attending a drumming workshop with the best master, the Lord of the Frame Drums himself, Zohar Fresco – also the Lord of Light, if you ask me, blessed be his name. He keeps it simple too: “remember that you're here to serve, and to read souls.”

Zohar Fresco is not only a man who can bang on the drum in the most sublime way imaginable, but he is also one who has mastered the art of simplicity, elegance, and correspondence. He communicates through dynamic soundscapes made up of equal measures between four elements: the pulse, color, energy, and spirit. “The drum is only a tool, tav in Hebrew, and has embedded in its name both the idea of oneness and life. Then there is also the idea of connection – the Hebrew letter vav is the sound of being joined, one and another, AND.” I let myself be pulled into the kabbalistic philosophy of Zohar's drumming, and think about how amazing the idea of joining is, yet joining not horizontally, as one may think is logical, but vertically. Of course, the one and the other cannot and should not be dissolved into one another. They must remain independent. “Before a child is born,” Zohar tells us, “the first thing that he hears is his mother's pulse and her voice.” “Remember,” he then says by turning to the majority of men in the room, “what we all want is this, to hear the woman's voice and her pulse. The woman always wins, remember that.” Something in Zohar's voice leaves no room for disagreeing. He speaks softly, and his words fly as do his fingers on the drum. I insist on touching his hands for the whole time I'm present. And he lets me. And we both feel the power of the shekkinah. He knows why I'm there. I'm not there to imitate his inimitable style, nor am I there to learn how to drum. I'm there for the light, the formless form, which yet in his hands exudes the rigor of discipline. Zohar masters to perfection not only what can be turned into articulate and clear sound, but also the voiceless, what he calls the ghost notes. I like these notes the best. They allow me to follow the movement of his hand into 'almost' sound. The sound of the silent O. “I'm zero,” Zohar says, "I start from zero on this round thing which is the drum, a zero itself, and I give nothing. But I want this nothing to move people.” His playing moves me. I cry. And then I cry some more as I realize that he plays for me, just for me. Zohar wrote a piece called Echad, One, and I understand what he means by pulsating at unison with another's heart: D-, -T, --, T-. So we also drum for each other. Each in our own way. And the collective beat of 22 joins in. Zohar's gaze following our fingers reminds us to remember the connection: as above, so below. And yet, while his drum electrifies vertically, his gaze establishes a horizontal line as well. We're all under him, but only because he insists on no hierarchy. “I'm here to serve” is his mantra, and one hears it as the doum on the drum, the very vehicle which creates dynamics. Zohar leaves us all flat on our bellies, supplicating, or flat on our backs, ecstatically contemplating the stars.

People ask me whether I drum for shamanic purposes. While I reply in the negative, I tell them about various archaic techniques of trance-inducing rituals. By drumming, most shamans of the world believe that they can fly to the Cosmic Tree. The skin of the drum is revived through a pulsing touch and voice. The sounds taken together recall various spirits. As such, the drum is used as a means for ascension. The shaman is a medium who creates a correspondence between theriomorphic ancestors, the mythical subterranean beings nurturing the roots of the tree, and the cosmic branches holding the dead souls. The way Zohar slides his finger on the drum, pressing on it as if to demonstrate my point, creates a swishing sound that always makes me bite my lips. His moist hand tapping gently on the dead skin reanimates some other worlds which I'm trying to mix in with my own. “So, you are an alchemist,” a biochemist interested in drumming asked over dinner. “I don't know about me,” I said, “but I know that Zohar is one. He has the right ingredients, and he knows how to mix them. He puts into his playing neither too much, nor too little, but exactly as much as it's necessary. He takes balance and control to sublime levels. The level where we can all hope.”

A few German percussionists insist that I'm a kräuterhexe, a healing herbalist witch with a penchant for synthesizing philosophies and religions. “Drumming is a form of divination,” I say. The drummer summons the sun and the moon, the underworld, the Lord of the Dead, AND... the Echad.” “You will hear spoken in symbols, what you already know,” I tell another, who calls me a healing Tarotist. “The shamans of the tundra Yurak call their drum a singing bow,” I further say, and they offer horse-meat to the master of the drum. What can we offer Zohar? Perhaps an acknowledgment of what we are, including the ghost notes. “I'm all these things because of the magic of noise and the magic of music. We're all summoned by light.” “You have to pull the light to yourself,” another Kabbalist drummer says, and concludes that I'm a “funny woman.” At the end of the day, I don't know about the funny part, but fun I had. In Zohar's company, one always thinks of him as a pulsating light. Splendor is embedded in his hame. If Zohar is a zoharic pulse, then drumming must return to him. Let us then intone with the shaman, the alchemist, the kräuterhexe, the Tarotist, and the ghost note: Zohar Fresco, we bow to you in refraction. Let there be fragments of light.


Stalo said…

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