Dance to a Different Drummer: Groovology and Politics

14 May

Groovology, about the groove, the human groove, the dancing and music-making at the heart of human community and togetherness. A line of thinkers going back through Darwin and Rousseau argued that it’s music that made clever apes into human beings – and, wouldn’t you know? that connects to the apes, the rabbits, fish, bees, flowers and the earth as well. Because we sing and dance we are human. Groovology is lightness and joy, but also sorrow and healing. It binds us together in common action and feeling, in community.

What has that to do with politics?

Politics too is about community, about negotiating among that various needs and desires of people living in a group. When the group is small, the negotiations are face-to-face, as is grooving. When the group is small, groovology and politics are commensurate, their connection is obvious.

It is when the group gets large, very large, that the connection is obscured. The USofA is very large, our political leaders distant from the local places where we politic and negotiate. And yet there are obvious connections, still.

Politics is not all backrooms and stolen votes. Politics is also ceremony, and ceremony has music: Hail to the Chief, The Star Spangled Banner, Battle Hymn of the Republic, Washington Post March, Taps, and much else.

What about the Civil Rights movement? It changed the nation in the mid-20th century, perhaps not enough change, but change that was real. It was incubated in the church, the black church especially, and the parishioners sang their community: Go Down Moses, Wade in the Water, and Swing Low, Sweet Chariot. These songs stretch back to the origins of the nation, and before. Without them, no counter force, no civil rights.

Radiating outward from this church music we have various secular musics, the blues, RnD, rock and roll, jazz, and hip-hop. This music too brought about change. It was resisted, it persisted, and things changed.

And we’ve got to do it again, and again, and again. New grooves, move locally, think globally, change the world. We’ve got to forge new communities.

But the grooves aren’t enough. Necessary, yes. Sufficient, no. We need ideas: What ideas? We need action: What actions?

Vamp’ till ready.

And then HIT IT!


One Response to “Dance to a Different Drummer: Groovology and Politics”

  1. Charlie Keil May 14, 2012 at 6:03 pm #

    Different drumming is on my mind a lot these days. The drumming changes most and for the better when you drum for different dancers! A few weeks ago we brought the guaguanco volume way down so that a set of dancers could hear Buffy’s instructions very clearly. Suddenly the question became how much groove can you generate with the least effort? Can you get real soft and not lose the tempo? With Victor’s example in front of me, a nice clear tone coming out of his drum with very small movements, it felt like I was getting the “LESS is more” message inside my own finger tips for the first time.

    Not only could we hear Buffy’s words, we could hear each other better, pay better attention to the dancers, I could relax, smile, play that way forever and become aware of the whole scene and my small but key part in the groove. “enLighten up”

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