rhythms for renewal
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The Tribal Trance Lineage
How these workshops came to be.

Europe. The 1950's. They had quite a problem.
So much infrastructure had been destroyed during the war; they needed to rebuild. But the male populace was largely dead or incapacitated, and the women were busy doing everything else that needed doing.
They needed a labor force.

So it was that during this period many European countries opened their doors and invited people from other countries, continents, and cultures to join the labor force that would rebuild Europe's infrastructure.

Many came, answering the call, seeking a "better" life in Europe, better than the places they were coming from. They came to work, to make money, to join the "modern world".
They came from many places. Very many came from Northern and Western Africa, due to the existing colonial relationships. One place they came from was Guniea.

And some of those who came from Guniea were drummers. Masters. Some of the last real initiated Masters who had grown up in the village, in traditional culture.
They didn't come to drum, mind you, they came to build roads and bridges and schools and to make money and chase that "better" life.
But they couldn't help but bring their culture along with them.

One can envision how the story went:
They were drummers; they wanted to drum.
Traditional West African percussion is a group activity, a team sport, a village vibration, you can't do it alone. So they started teaching some of their new European friends how to drum, for the simple reason that they needed people to drum with.

But those new friends liked it, a lot, and they encouraged them to share their music, their culture, both teaching and performing. It didn't seem like a bad idea, and anyway it was sure better than working on the road crew...

And so this music, this tradition was brought out of Africa to Europe, where it has grown and thrived and spread all across the globe. There are 4 men specifically who are known as the ones who first brought this gift to the "western" world. One of these men is Famoudou Konaté.

Famoudou ended up in Germany. He lived there 30 or 40 years, married and had children there. He has had a long career teaching, touring, performing, recording. Famoudou has aged, has moved to Mexico last I heard, and is slowing down with his work, passing off the torch to the next generations.

Now a young German man enters our story, Herman Kathan. Herman was young, excited about life, interested in drumming, and found Famoudou. Herman was enchanted by Famoudou, the music, the culture, everything, and would become his protégé. Not only did Herman study with, perform with, tour with, and teach with Famoudou over the course of several decades, but his experience with Famoudou opened up his curiosity about indigenous music, and specifically about cultures which utilize rhythm for trance, ceremony, and ritual.

Herman would dedicate his life to this exploration. He has traveled the world seeking teachers and experience with cultures which still practice trance rhythms. Specifically, for more than 20 years, he has spent one month every year in the Bamana region of Mali practicing west African percussion, and one month every year in Bahia, Northern Brazil, practicing Candomblé. He has sat many hours with many Masters, and now when he travels to these places he is not only welcome but sought after to play for ceremony and ritual, a very rare occurrence as a foreigner.

Herman has not only done a great service in supporting the continuation of these traditions, he has become a great translator of them, enabling modern "western" people to access the deep medicine of this music in profound ways. He does record and perform, but mostly he teaches, transmitting this musical tradition as the healing art that it is.

Now I enter the story, Cannon, your story-teller, the founder and director of Rhythms for Renewal, the creator and facilitator of the Tribal Trance workshops.

I have enjoyed a 20 year journey in the study, practice, and teaching of indigenous skills and technologies. Along that path I met Herman, and through his teaching I myself became enchanted with this music, this tradition, experiencing directly the tremendous healing and transformative capacity of this art form when practiced with deep intention.

The layers of medicine in this practice are so profound and so full, and it is a medicine so very accessible to so many different sorts of people, I myself have also been inspired and guided to dedicate my energies to the study, practice, and sharing of this tradition.

And so was born Rhythms for Renewal, my platform for the sharing of this music, and the Tribal Trance workshops.
I have been engaged in this for about 7 or 8 years now.
My sharing began in northern Arizona, where I began with some simple classes, but then started sharing this music as a therapeutic practice in addiction recovery facilities.
Since then, I have shared this practice with very many people in the desert Southwest of the USA, in the Black Forest region of Germany, in various regions of Portugal, and, most recently, in North Carolina, USA.
The Tribal Trance workshops are the evolution of my attempt to share this musical tradition as a deep-healing modality to a world so desperately in need.

For a long time I struggled to explain exactly what happens in a Tribal Trance workshop to people who have never experienced such things, as it is so different from most music classes or workshops.
Then last year one of my students in Portugal shared the following quote with me, as it so perfectly touched on their own experience of the workshop.
I leave you with this quote, as I find it to be the most concise explanation of exactly what we are doing in a Tribal Trance workshop.
It comes from Layne Redmond, a drummer, composer, film-maker, educator, and author of When the Drummers were Women.

I leave you with her words, and I extend my hand to you, clear-eyed and smiling, and invite you to join us for a Tribal Trance workshop, to join us in this holy communion.

Now you enter this story!


“One of the most powerful aspects of drumming and the reason people have done it since the beginning of being human is that it changes people’s consciousness. Through rhythmic repetition of ritual sounds, the body, the brain and the nervous system are energized and transformed. When a group of people play a rhythm for an extended period of time, their brain waves become entrained to the rhythm and they have a shared brain wave state. The longer the drumming goes on, the more powerful the entrainment becomes. It’s really the oldest holy communion.”