Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Influence of Layne Redmond's book

The book by Layne Redmond, When the Drummers were Women is a book that holds a prominent place in my personal library as well as in my life, "literally" documenting the teachings I'd learned ~ that is, practices of rhythm and movement which have been handed down in oral tradition for thousands of years.   Thanks to Layne's work, much of this information now was compiled and in print with photos of historic artifacts related to the spiritual history of rhythm and rituals dating back to ancient matriarchal cultures.

However, BEFORE this book was published, going back I believe to the year 1996, my friend and then accompanist Benjamin Iobst** first hosted Layne Redmond at an event in Kutztown, PA, which I attended. Layne announced with great pride that her book was about to be published.  Meanwhile, that afternoon she led us in a group chant while encouraging our playing several of the basic strokes associated with the frame drum. She was a a natural talent dedicated to her frame drumming skills and she was a master facilitator; no wonder, since we'd come to learn she'd been studying and playing with Glen Velez for years. Glen is a master percussionist, vocalist, and composer, specializing in frame drums from around the world and recognized to be largely responsible for the increasing popularity of frame drums in the United States and around the world.  BTW, I went on to produce several programs with Glen years later which I will write about in a subsequent post. 

By this time (1996) Benjamin and I had been collaborating for a couple years.  He was originally introduced to my craft when attending one of my shows at Musikfest.  He had signed my 'fan' mailing list and in short order we subsequently met in person at a Middle Eastern Dance concert produced by Nagwa Said at the Annenberg Center in Philadelphia, PA.  As fate would have it we were in line standing side by side awaiting admission to the performance when he introduced himself.  Ben went on to say that he'd been studying percussion and would like to play for my troupe of dancers.  I agreed to audition him, was delighted by his talent and we fast became friends.
That's Nagwa (front and center) with her troupe of dancers
performing "
El Raks Sai'd" @ the Annenb erg Center, Philadelphia

[Long story short, I was a fan of Nagwa Said since 1982 when I met her teaching a charming scarf dance at a week-long training session at the Bellevue in San Francisco produced by the legendary Jamila Salimpour.  In fact, I still adhere to the dance vocabulary Jamila developed. Read more about Jamila ala her daughter's website ~ go to: Suhaila Salimpour.]

But I digress.... Inspired by many (all) pages of Layne Redmond's book, I particularly resonated with p. 102 related to the 'birthing chapel' at the temple complex dedicated to the Goddess Hathor so when I had the good fortune to visit Egypt in 2007, I made certain Dendera was on the itinerary!   Much to my surprise upon seeing the Temple of Hathor, tears welled up in my eyes and then streamed down my cheeks.  I was overwhelmed with a feeling I couldn't quite identify, it was as though I was being welcomed "home" and yet, mind you, I am an American woman born of German and Irish descent who was raised in New Jersey.

Upon returning to the US, I found myself compelled to add a sistrum to my collection of hand percussion instruments.  It would be an understatement to say I was disappointed to discover my research indicated at that time, none were available for purchase ~ at least not like the ones I saw depicted on the temple walls.  I thought "ho hum, that is a shame," shrugged my shoulders and went back to my daily routines.  

A couple weeks later I awoke with a start and sat straight up in my bed.  I kid you not!  It was really startling, as though the Goddess herself had shot an arrow into my heart with a note inscribed detailing my mission to re-emerge the sistrum. I could not ignore nor deny that I had been 'called' and, long story short, permit me to simply say it has been a labor of love and devotion to the Goddess not to mention a bowing with reverence to the temple priestesses of ancient Egypt ~ among them Meresamum, for example.  

It would seem my life-long vocation honoring the rituals, rhythms, and movements of traditions steeped in women's history(herstory) thus led me to being "instrumental" in the re-emergence of a percussion implement played by women at the temples of ancient Egypt. Apparently, it was simply a matter of course ~ dare I say, my destiny.

Now nearly seven years after my visit to Dendera, I am pleased to announce:  The Tahya™ Ceremonial Systrum, manufactured by Mid-East Mfg., replicates the percussion instrument used as rhythmical accompaniment in temple ritual and festival processions in ancient Egyptian culture.  For more information with links to videos, etc., I invite you to visit
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**Benjamin Iobst "Singing Bowls of Tibet"  © '99 Seven Metals Records produced by Randy Crafton, Engineer/Producer/Owner @ Kaleidoscope Sound