40 Days of Drumming!

It’s time.


It’s time for me to make the Big change.  In myself, in my life, in my drumming.


This year, I just turned 40.  The Big 4-0.  To celebrate, and to help invite that change into my life, I’m going to undergo 40 Days of Drumming.  I will eat, sleep, and drum.  That’s it.  I will not be logging on to Facebook, I won’t be texting anyone, I won’t utter a word to another human being.  I will be in isolation from the rest of the world, alone with me and my drums.  My mom and dad have graciously offered up their home, and to help out with my food during this time.  We still have to work out the details, but in a sense, they will be providing room and board.  So I can simply go to the fridge and grab something to eat, then get back to drumming.


I want to re-invent myself as a drummer, re-invent HOW I approach the drums.  I want to learn to play the drums in such a way that I can still play when I’m 80.

Those of you who have seen me play may or may not be able to see this, but every time I play, there’s a certain amount of struggle going on.  Mostly it’s mental, but the mental aspect manifests itself in the physical.  So my body now shows some signs of that struggle- in the form of a wonky back, tight hips, tight shoulders, a lovely ganglion cyst on my left wrist, and muscles in my forearms that haven’t been loose in years.  Different substances at different times helped me loosen up, but that’s not a sustainable path for me.  I’m working on getting myself in great shape through doing yoga, but I play drums a lot more than I do yoga, so it’s time to get back to basics and re-examine what’s going on there.


This is also a spiritual quest for me.  The idea for the 40 days of drumming comes from the tradition of Master Musicians in India who pass along their tradition from master to student.  When the student is ready to become a master, they go “up upon the hill” for 40 days, and just play drums- in this case, the tabla.  Their mother is there to prepare their food for them, but words are not exchanged.  It is a sacred time.  I read an account of this by a Master Tabla player, Zakhir Hussein, and he describes how after about 4 days, the spirits of his forefathers came and visited him, and showed him how to play.  Now almost anytime he plays, they are there with him.


Now, I don’t come from a long lineage of master musicians, nor was I taught by a master musician.  I was taught to read music first:  make sounds by hitting this drum in organized patterns as dictated by the notes on the page- a very mechanical process at first…  then eventually the spirit of music got ahold of me.  Music has been in my life longer than my son, my wife, and almost all of my friends.  Other than my family, there are very few people I can think of who have been in my life longer than music.  So while I don’t have a lineage that I come from, music has been with me for most of my life.  I can’t imagine my life without it.  I had the realization a while ago that music is like a mistress in my life…   She came into my life, and lured me in with her siren song.  Showed me a different way of life.  When I dedicated myself to her, she would reward me.  She’s treated me pretty well.  The more I give myself to her, the better she treats me.  She’ll make me be true, and can tell when my heart’s not in it, and it’s because of her that I am who I am today.  So it’s time to find out what music wants from me.  What voice wants to come into the world through me?  Will spirits come and visit me and teach me new ways to play?  I don’t know.  Who am I to say that it could or could not happen.  That’s not my reason for doing this either.  But I at least want to find out what happens if I sit there alone with some drums for that long.


In my years of playing, I have seen and heard many masters play, and have even had the honor to play with some master musicians.   If you’ve ever seen one play, you know what I’m talking about:  there’s something magical that happens when a master plays.  It’s almost as if they have become a vessel for something bigger than themselves.  They’re simply letting the music come through them.  Everybody in witness can feel it-  it’s why we go see them play again and again.


That’s really why I’m doing this.  It’s not to make me famous, it’s not so that I can be ‘faster’ or have the most insane single stroke roll on earth.  It’s to see if I can connect to something bigger when i play, my Higher Self.  To see if I can step aside, and allow myself to ‘be played’.  This is what I’m striving for.  Perhaps 40 days of drumming isn’t going to magically allow me to do this, but I feel like now is the time for me to give it a shot.   I signed up for a 1 year tour with Blue Man, but it turns out that the tour ended early.  We planned on the full year tour, so my wonderful wife Yuki and my amazing son Taiyo planned on being in Japan until the middle of September…  which has now been pushed back to early December for several reasons.  This leaves a magic window of opportunity where I’m going to do this crazy thing.  Financially, this isn’t the “smartest” thing I could be doing with my time, but that’s not what this is about.  The opportunity is here, I just turned 40, what better way to start this next decade, or chapter of my life!



wish me luck!











Published by rionsmith

drummer husband father philosopher composer lover of life

4 thoughts on “40 Days of Drumming!

    1. My friend Rion, Dude, in my book you already are a Master ! When I first saw you in Shak, you reminded me of a mini Neal Pert, and you got better from there ! You seemed like a Machine back there, never missing a beat, with all kinds of finese to make things interesting ! I hear you have a reunion Gig this Friday with the old Bandmates. You know I have hoped you guys would reunite, coz you have a really special blend going on there, so I hope to see you doing more S N Gigs together in the Future ( and more C D’s would be Cool too ! LOL ) Of course I respect the choice of each Band member to do what is right for them, I know us Shak Nasti Fans are hoping that you will all choose to do the S N project for a long time, or maybe even a very long time, wheather it’s a Full time thing, or a side thing, it’s still always a special event for us Fans ! Good luck with the 40 Days of Drumming. Hope you realize what you want out of it. If I can’t make the Gig Friday at the Peacock Room, i look forward to hearing and seeing you playing again, at Tanqs or elsewhere. Really miss your drumming Bro ! Wish all you guys the best in whatever you choose to do going forward. —- Much Respect and Admiration, Tony-Joe from Brevard. 🙂

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