It began with the hand of man, hollow logs, and skins of animals. Eventually a stick or two was implemented.
It cannot be denied that the percussive drum was the first instrument fashioned by the hand of man. It cannot be denied that the unwritten beat was first handed down from master to apprentice long before a written note appeared on a musical staff. And it cannot be denied that the drum is the most regal of all the instruments with its first maker putting the heart of the animal, whose skin he used on the surface, inside his drum.
The drum has been used in every tribe and society of people since the beginning of time. Man has used the drum as a means of communicating information, as a means of stimulating dancers and listeners in ritualistic ceremonies, as a means to conjure up good, or ward off evil, spirit forces. Man has used the drum in celebrating all occasions of social jubilance and tragedy. The drum has been used on every continent among every language group, in every village, in every town and in every city that ever came into existence or went out of existence. Indeed ‘the beat’ was first discovered when humans listened to the rhythm and beat of their own hearts.
As early as the 18th century the European drum found its way onto this continent. Sad to say the French used the drum roll during their revolution to execute aristocracy. The English came to The Colonies in Redcoats to deal with their revolution marching into battle, row behind row, to the beat of a drum, while the revolutionaries introduced them to guerilla warfare. However on a more upbeat note during this period, the drum played beautiful waltz and exciting reel time for both sophisticated society dancing as well as gypsy folk music dancing. Native American drumming preceded this era by millennia.
Far to the south in French owned Louisiana Territory and also throughout the Caribbean Islands the hideous African slave trade was booming. With the influx of Black culture to this continent came a new drum and a style of drumming with an entirely different thinking, meaning, structure and propulsion behind it. Intriguing, mesmerizing and frenzied polyrhythms were being heard, danced and shouted to. It was so threatening to White culture it was suppressed for a period of time. With the blending of Spanish culture, established earlier in this region, many styles of drum playing, many new rhythm patterns and structured dances were created and refined. Known as the Spanish tinge – early choros, habaneras, boleros, and tangos were foundation patterns for later pulsating meringues, tangos, rumbas, cha chas, bossa novas, etc.
America still is the great melting pot! The need for man to expand his concepts using percussion, coupled with his ingenuity during the age of inventions, it didn’t take long for the drum to develope. In 20th century America the development of the drum took gigantic leaps forward. How so? Well, America was dancing! Today American culture for the most part has returned to being a listening audience. The type or style of music that got people out of their chairs and onto a dance floor had a beat and the drum was the foundation of that music. It was in 2/4 or 4/4 time. It was choppy sounding at first but it quickly came into its own. Popular dances of that era were The Charleston, The Fox Trot, and The Peabody. Some of the early bands of “The Roaring Twenties” were Isham Jones, Jelly Roll Morton, The Original Dixieland Jazz Band, James Reese Europe, Duke Ellington, Paul Whiteman, King Oliver and Louie Armstrong. The ‘trap’ set was evolving along with the music during this period. By the 1930’s, with Swing band popularity, the drum-kit came into its own and to this day the set-up is the standard which all drummers go by. Yes, additional tom toms, bass drums, foot pedals etc. have been added, but little if anything has been taken away. Some of the drummers who introduced and developed the modern solo concept that brought the drum to the forefront were: Baby Dodds, Gene Krupa, “Big Sid” Catlett, Jo Jones, Buddy Rich, Chano Pozzo and Tito Puente, Kenny Clarke, Joe Morello, Art Blakey, Max Roach and Elvin Jones. With the coming of the Rock era during the 1960’s and 70’s- forefront powerhouse drummers were John Bonham, Keith Moon, Ginger Baker, Neil Pert, and Carmine Appice (to mention a few). Much of today’s drumming is about, volume, power, speed, mic-ing and marketing. To a large extent the artistic temperament, the shadings, the nuances that made drummers so unique and so individual in the past… is simply not there anymore. There is drumatiCymbalism.