Friday, 27 March 2009

It's Official: Drumming is Good for Your Health!

I recently read a BBC news article which links drumming to improved health although an obvious response is "It may be good for your health but what about your ears?" Bear with me for the next 5 minutes.

Over recent years there has been a lot of interest in links between music and health, and music and brain activity. Only today I read an article in our local paper that two guitarists playing a piece in unison generate the same brain wave patterns.

But my interest really is in the field of drumming and percussion as I run workshops in these for a wide range of clients: schools, businesses, community etc.

Over the years I have been struck how often people change during a workshop:

  • Inhibitions decrease
  • Confidence grows
  • People begin to listen to each other
  • People respond to each other
  • Those who are shy may become leaders
  • People begin to smile and feel great about themselves (no small order when your group comprises young adults who feel neglected by society)!

A blind friend of mine has commented more than once, "I really enjoy these events because it feels as if my head has been hoovered clean of the rubbish that was there before I started."

So, when I cam across the following article it was great to see that others are experiencing similar responses and in this particular article, the benefits are even wider and deeper.

Here's the BBC article. It makes very interesting and encouraging reading:

As presented on the BBC, 10th February 2009

Could a natural rhythm - which some experts believe we all possess - be a cure for a variety of health problems?

Some certainly think so. Musician Simon Lee, from Kent, is called on to teach drumming to patients with problems ranging from addiction to autism, and learning difficulties to mental health issues. He has even offered help to terminally ill patients needing palliative care. And he says the results are amazing.

Experts believe that rhythmic drumming can aid health by inducing a deep sense of relaxation, reducing stress, and lowering blood pressure.

"Drumming has a number of benefits," said Simon. "It can energise or relax. It can foster a sense of playfulness or release anger and tension. It can also help in the conquering of social isolation and the building of positive relationships."

One patient, an alcoholic, told Simon her drumming sessions had helped her so much it had given her the inspiration to continue with a gruelling detox course. "She said when she came into the clinic she was extremely negative and the first two or three days the treatment was purely about detox and heavy stuff," said Simon.

"The drumming was the first time she engaged and smiled." She said "I came out of myself and saw that I could survive."

Simon, who also carries out drumming sessions for the general public, said there was a growing interest in the therapeutic effect it could have, both on the individual and the community. "There is strong evidence to suggest that drumming may actually be a healing activity," he said. "Some have gone so far as to prove that time spent drumming can positively affect our immune systems, levels of stress and psychological well being."

Until next time ...

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Tuesday, 24 March 2009

What I Can Do or Who I Am?

I have recently been enjoying Cuban music, in particular that of the Buena Vista Social Club and its members.

For those of you who are not familiar with this group of musicians, the story is a modern-day fairytale ...

Cuban music has for decades been the envy and shining star of the World (especially Latin) music scene. Many of the stars who put it on the map had retired or had to find an alternative living to make ends meet: selling lottery tickets or shining shoes in the street, or selling tobacco.

In 1996 Juan de Marcos González, a young Cuban bandleader and arranger was fascinated with the old stars of Cuban music traditions such as Son, Guajira, Son Montuno, Rumba and Bolero. He set out to see how many of them were still living (many had been stars in the 1940’s, 1950’ and 1960’s). To his amazement he was able to contact a large number of these national treasures of Cuba’s musical heritage; the list was impressive:

  • Don Rubén González - legendary pianist and pioneer of the mambo
  • Orlando ‘Cachaito’ López - third generation bassist
  • Ibrahim Ferrer, Piya Leyva, Raúl Planas, Manuel ‘Puntillita’ Licea and Omara Portuondo - legendary singers
  • Compay Segundo and Eliades Ochoa - tres player and guitarists
  • Amadito Valdéz – percussionist
  • Barbarito Torres - Laoud player extraordinaire
  • Manuel ‘Guajiro’ Mirabal - Cuban legend, trumpet
  • ... plus more
In order to understand the stature of this group, each one of these names was at the very top of their profession, many having had a significant impact on the history and direction of Cuban music. Each one of these musicians (plus other top calibre musicians) performed together, in the same room at the same time to record the largest selling Latin album ever (over 8 million copies sold). Everyone enjoyed working and performing on the album and no-one was interested in where their name went on the list of credits. Music was being made for the love of the music and no thought was given to any potential financial gain (though this was eventually considerable).

Live performances in Amsterdam followed release of the CD, and the jewel in the crown was when this group of Cuban musicians were able to play a sell-out concert at Carnegie Hall, New York in 1998, captured on film and CD. When you read the album notes and DVD booklet or watch the performances, the joy and emotion of making music together is clear.

This fairytale ending to the story was that these humble people found a new lease of life as they achieved global recognition and ‘stardom’ when many of us would think of taking it easy: most were in their 70’s or 80’s (Compay Segundo was in his 90’s).

By 2005 many of these great characters had passed on and only recently (Feb 2009) the great Cachaito also died ... but their legacy continues.

Why have I taken the time to mention all of these people?

Well, imagine a group of top name Rock n’Roll stars gathering to record an album, or business 'icons' producing a new book. Now think about the ego problems; who they would work; who they wouldn’t work with; who would want their name at the top of the list?

For me, the great power and impact of these Cuban recordings is the enjoyment, passion and love of the musicians for their music that shines through so clearly. Everyone is in it for everyone else, making the whole band look great. It’s even recalled that at one stage, Ibrahim Ferrer had a bad throat and was struggling to sing and suggested that perhaps someone else should finish the album! That’s a bit like Eric Clapton suggesting someone else should finish off his guitar solo. This level of humility is rarely seem today in a world of get what we can, when we can, however we can.

This excursion into Cuban music has taught me a lot more than just the notes and beats. Engaging with characters of history (and today) who are prepared to make everyone else look good by playing their part has re-challenged me to ask myself, “Is that the sort of character I am? Do people use me in for who I am as well as what I can bring.”

I read many stories today where the key to a ‘successful’ career isn’t so much what you can do, but what you a as a person bring to a particular situation. I also read that our output usually reflects our personality.

All I can say is that I hope some of my 'performances' haven’t really let people know what I was feeling on the day!!

I know that rediscovering my love of Latin music through encountering these characters has re-challenged me to be a person that other people want to know, rather than a person whose talents are admired. It has also reminded me that I cannot try to project and hide behind a different ‘persona’. Just as music is too transparent for that, so too is our daily walk. If we are not consistent, the cracks and inconsistencies will soon show!

I guess my priority is consistency as a person and as a business professional.

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Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Can We Afford to Suspend Training in Our Organisations?

With the credit crunch and current downturn in the economy, the greatest temptation is to pull in our belts, cut back on our spending, save what we can and try to weather the storm.

Unfortunately, life in the turbulent waters continues for everyone and some will successfully ride that storm whilst others will capsize, sink and drown.

Can we predict who will survive?

In all honesty, probably not BUT we can say who has the best chance of survival.

The survivors are those who will become creative with their time, their staff, their talents, their money, their business practice and more. They will see new ways of doing things, identify new niches, identify staff who can perform new roles and new tasks and create strategies that will enable them to negotiate the obstacles and steer towards fertile fishing grounds.

But in order to do this, there is still the need to train staff, not only for now but also for the future. Failure to do so will lead to inertia and a lag-phase before they can take full advantage of the new scene. Failure to do so will allow others in to steal the goods and opportunities.

Planning for the future involves taking steps now. Training is a key part of the success strategy and planning process. And it needn’t cost very much, especially if companies learn how to look within themselves for the talent they need. Part of that process involves a reorientation to find out what talents lie within that are currently hidden and capitalising on those to help on the road to the future.

Perhaps it’s time to stop looking outward for talent and look for help that will enable us to discover the talent we already have. With so many current recommendations NOT to cut back on training, can we afford to ignore the calls?

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