Singers, Dancers, and Drummers

On one particular night years ago, I found myself at an underground samba nightclub in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Loud, live, wonderfully rhythmic music, a maze of beautiful people, and a staggering quantity of delicious looking beverages of all colors and flavors plastered the senses. I was sitting up on a balcony just relaxing and watching people like usual…sipping something fruity. Suddenly, a woman approached my table and invited a few of us onto the dance floor. I obviously resisted. In her heavily accented english, she luringly insisted. “I don’t dance” I said. “I’m not a dancer.” She stopped and looked at me sternly. “Everyone is a dancer” she said. And the next thing I knew, I was in the middle of scores of sweaty Brazilians trying to dance samba. I had no idea what I was doing. I still don’t. But I danced, and I loved it.

On another occasion I was in the car with somebody I used to know and I was singing along to a song. I knew this person knew the song. I knew they loved the song and listened to it regularly. I paused it. “Why don’t you sing along with this song!?” I asked. “I’m not a singer” she said. I looked at her probably the same way the Brazilian girl looked at me that night in Rio. I remember telling her how ridiculous that was. She could sing, but she never did.

In the world of drumming, it’s easy to impress people. Why? Because humans love drums. Throughout my 15+ years of playing drums, many a time have I been approached by people saying things like, “That was great. I wish I could do that.” Or the classic yet completely inaccurate, “You’re so cool. I would love to be a drummer.” To these comments I usually replied with something like, “What, drums? Oh, anyone can do it.” Or, “You can be a drummer.” Usually people just laugh and shrug.

The social approach demanded of the world in this modern age is one of diversity – the observing and embracing of our differences. Champions of diversity and inclusion are elected to public office and those ideals dominate the media. Allow me to suggest that the longer people focus on the diversity of humanity and cultures, the longer our societies will maintain these detrimental differences that only further lay the groundwork for continual war and dispute. Hear me out. In people’s efforts to pin the celebration of diversity as the solution to our problems, they are, in a way, reinforcing the polarization they are trying to correct by dwelling on differences. My message is quite different…yet totally parallel. Does it not make more sense for us to focus on and explore our similarities? I think so. Lists and pages could be written easily about the differences of the world’s peoples, but I propose a list of the opposite nature. Let’s start with three: Everyone’s a singer, everyone’s a dancer, and everyone’s a drummer.

To me, the elements known as voice, movement, and rhythm are some of if not the most absolute basic components of our humanity. Since the beginning of mankind, it is known of the most ancient and indigenous of peoples that dance was a thing that they did. Music, in whatever way it is defined whether eastern or western or what-have-you is inside all of us – even the deaf, the mute, and the lame. Children born in every nook of the world reach a certain age where they hear or feel sound and music and they begin moving – bouncing, bobbing, flapping. When they hear singing they will often make noises – trying to imitate what their minds are interpreting. I hardly need to mention hitting things. Children hit anything with everything, including themselves and others, and adults want to. Therefore it doesn’t take a PhD in Anthropology, Bio-Chemistry, Human Development, or Musicology to conclude that singing, dancing, and drumming are in our DNA. They help make us.

I always hear the following arguments: “But Dillon, I happen to be absolutely terrible at singing. I’m tone deaf. I’m also a miserable dancer. I look like a complete buffoon when I try. I can’t drum. I’m the most un-coordinated person ever. It’s impossible!” These arguments have absolutely no place in my mind and are completely beside my point. Your technical skill level has absolutely no impact on the simple truth that we are all dancers, singers, and drummers. Anyone can learn and improve. Did I mention when I danced at the samba club in Brazil, that I publicly made a complete fool of myself? Did I mention that even to this day I absolutely loathe dances? Not because I hate dancing…but because I fear what people think of my dancing. That’s probably the case with all of us. If you saw me behind the safely closed door of my bedroom when I hear a new song that makes me move, your good opinion of me, if you have one, would likely be questioned in complete awe of my dancing pathos. When you’re alone and your jam comes on, I am willing to bet grand sums on the fact that you, even the most terrible of singers technically speaking, will sing. And when you rat-a-tat-tat with your fingers on the steering wheel or tabletop for any reason or cause whatever, you are drumming. Why? Because you are a drummer. Everyone is. Oh and there is no such thing as tone deafness.

Many of us, if not all, will continue to repress our artistic impulses of dance, song, and rhythm. But that in no way means that we can’t do it. So next time you find yourself humming a tune, bobbing your head, or patting your fingers on the table in that subdued manner you do them, just remember the following truths: Everyone’s a singer, everyone’s a dancer, and everyone’s a drummer.

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