Review by Sophie-David
The Healing Drum Kit is a multi-media product containing a set of cards that lend themselves well to both oracular and meditative use, while encouraging direct musical and auditory participation in the reading process.
This product consists of a sturdy box containing a 10” drum, guidebook, 24 rhythm cards and two play-along CDs. The kit is the work of Christine Stevens, music therapist, author, speaker and consultant to the Remo Drum Company. Published by Sounds True, Inc, this set sells for $37 Canadian at Amazon.ca, or $33 US at Amazon.com.
A similar frame drum would sell for between $20 and $25 by itself, so the kit price of $36 is good value. I would have been willing to pay up to $10 more to buy this product in a retail shop, but I found it at priced at $60 in my favourite Vancouver esoteric bookshop. I decided that this price difference was a little too much to ignore.
Unfortunately, in checking the cost at Amazon.uk I found this kit selling for £27, or approximately $59 Canadian. This price has been reduced from £35, making it a more reasonable buy than it had been, but still significantly more expensive than in North America. It may make sense to buy directly from Amazon.com and pay for international shipping and customs clearance, or to have a North American friend buy this kit and send it over by parcel post - one would have to weigh the cost options carefully.
This kit is a participatory experience in drumming for wellness, and is suitable for complete novices as well as experienced drummers. The guidebook provides interesting background information explaining how and why drumming can be so effective in healing the mind, body, emotions, spirit and soul. Following this, Christine discusses the care and use of the drum, and how to take the drumming experience further. She concludes with information on further resources.
Having read the guidebook as an introduction, I worked through the two CDs as a sequential course. These CDs contain about 2 hours and 40 minutes of audio, firstly guiding you through the rhythm cards, then ending with three freeform segments. The cards begin with simple rhythmic forms, and slowly develop in complexity. This format provides a non-threatening and fun method that allows the student to progress at just the right pace - even if the individual has never touched a drum before.
Christine’s voice is calming yet joyful and encouraging, and it is clear that she has successfully presented similar material in both workshop and therapeutic sessions to many different clients. After an introductory track for each rhythm, the play-along segment includes other instrumentalists, allowing the participant to enjoy some of the group dynamics of music making.
Following some general introductions to the process, the student is introduced to the seven red Life cards, as follows:
Next, the course develops through the eight orange Spirit cards, as follows:
After both the Life and Spirit sections, Christine has included an integrative play-along that contains several of the rhythms previously presented. Note that these first two sets of cards tie in quite well with Chakra healing work, each rhythm often operating at several levels simultaneously across the span of the rainbow bridge.
Next, the seven yellow World cards introduce the following rhythms. I have placed the country of origin in parenthesis:
Ayube (Middle East)
Agilablanca (Mexican Aztec)
Econcon (West Africa)
The World cards build on the energy, skill and enthusiasm developed in the first two sets, with an emphasis on joyful celebration and inclusive community.
Adding these three groups together, there are, like the Major Arcana, a total of 22 active cards. In addition, there are two useful reference cards, one presenting some selected “Playing Positions”, and the other some information on “Drum Tones” and “Reading the Rhythms”. The cards are 5-1/2“ by 4“ in size, and finished with a coating that allows them to be gently cleaned.
Lastly, the CDs conclude with two drum circle samples – “Reviving” and “Relaxing” – and a beautiful guided drumming meditation called “The Ancient Drummer Within”.
Christine is careful to ensure that the program is religiously neutral and spiritually non-threatening and therefore open to as many people as possible. However, she does include a paragraph called “Trust the Process” in which she describes choosing a card at random to “embrace the information you gain as meaningful in your life”, then follows this with the suggestion of selecting a particular card to work with “that supports a change you’re making in your life or a mood you’d like to embody. A particular rhythm can even be used to cope with a difficult situation or transition in your life.”
As with any oracle, there are many possible techniques and spreads that could be used, but I thought it might be helpful to include two practical examples.
First Question: “What is my spiritual lesson for this week?” In this case I used the three sets separately, associating each with its specific position within a three card spread. As Christine suggests, the Life cards are associated with awareness of one’s personal rhythms, the Spirit cards suggest a direction for healing, and the World cards relate the individual to the community.
Life: Heartbeat - “Feel the connection to the source of love and life within you”. I had been doing intensive heart Chakra work the previous weekend, and this card suggests that I continue in this direction.
Spirit: Inspiration - “Follow your heart to your own inspired dreams and ideas.” This card relates well to the Heartbeat, building on the heart rhythm until a breakthrough occurs.
World: Clave (pronounced “kla-vey”) - Let go of control, “move [your] hips and dance”. Manifest your inspiration through creative expression, even if it may be outside your comfort zone. Your heart will feel good for it!
Note that these cards are inherently directive, not merely suggesting what energy potential to expect, but what energy to actually focus on in answering the question. This energy development starts by actually playing the rhythm drawn from the cards. The answer is likely to come more fully from the actual involvement of the body, mind, emotions, soul and spirit directly in the rhythm rather than by considering the rhythm from a passive and abstract perspective.
For this reason, you may gain deeper clarity by drawing from the Tarot or a more conventional oracle for a sense of the potential energies involved, and then drawing a Healing Drum card to suggest how you may best relate to this potential. This is the pattern I used for the next question.
Second Question: “What is the wisdom of the oracles for this week?” I drew one card from the Hanson-Roberts Tarot using a single cut. For the Healing Drum cards, I shuffled all three sets of cards together – the way that I normally use this deck. Since each set has its own colour and title on the back, I fan and select a card with my eyes closed.
Tarot Answer: Queen of Rods Rx – an over-ambition towards self-development has the potential to become strained, overblown and sterile. It is time to ease off and take it slow.
Healing Drum Answer: Relaxation - “Relaxation is about slowing down and recharging your body, mind, and spirit.” By actually playing the rhythm on this card, either with the assistance of the appropriate CD tracks or by oneself, one may immediately work on the solution.
In conclusion, I have found the Healing Drum Kit to be a rather unusual but inherently integrative technology to aid in the spiritual journey. The use of the cards as a consultative oracle, together with the immediate provision for actually beginning to embody their prescription within one’s daily life, provides a unique but very practical path towards wholeness.
Sophie-David lives and works on the coast of the open Pacific, loving nothing better than to walk, photograph, drum and vision by the waves of the ocean. In the Spring of 2004, David's life began again, through discovery of and integration with the Inner Beloved. The transformative process continues.