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Grandmother’s of the Drum: Linda Thomas Jones

This entry is part 3 of 5 in the series Grandmother's of the Drum

“Drumming is a healing art and the world needs healing. ”
Linda Thomas Jones

After studying djembe for about ten years I began to hear the name Linda Thomas Jones  in traditional Lukumi Dance circles.  I thought this was a beautiful name!  It spoke of  beauty and grace.  I was told she was a master drummer and that I should meet her some day.  I began to put out a desire to meet this mysterious woman drummer.  The answer to prayer came in the early 2000’s  when I began my studies of  traditional Orisha Music.  I had an opportunity to travel to Texas to work with some powerful Orisha Women.  Amongst them was one Linda Thomas Jones.   Forget that by that time I had been playing for over 10 years.  She promptly handed me a bell and began teaching me as a first year student.  “Learn that,” she said “Then I will give you more.”  Thus began a new friendship and artistic alliance with one of the most talented female cultural artists  I have met.  She could sing, drum, dance and compose beautiful original music.  So who is this mysterious musician. Here is a portion of how she got started in her own original words. 

While in high school in Cleveland Ohio I was given the opportunity to attend college through the first Upward Bound Program. I enrolled in Case Western Reserve the summer of 1966.  Of course this was the time of the Hippie; and yes I was one.  It was also a time of free love, spiritual growth and freedom of expression.

As students we worked hard during the week and played hard on the weekends. One day that we all looked forward to was Sunday. This was the day when people would gather at the Art Museum’s lagoon area.  There were dancers, singers, magicians, people playing guitars and most fascinating of all drummers.  This was the first time that I heard conga drums played live and I was so excited I couldn’t keep still. I saw an African American man playing a set of bongos. When he noticed that I was watching him he offered to let me play them.  When my hands touched the drums I could feel the vibration of all the other instruments being played.  I really had no Idea what I was doing, I just knew it felt  wonderful.

I continued to go the Lagoon every Sunday for about year and every time I went I would play the bongos. I learned that  the owner of the drums  was Chuck Smart who later became a well known  percussionist  and  visual artist.  We became good friends, he even took me to my first live Jazz performance.

During this time period, I was a dance major and had classes everyday.  My dance teacher was a very petite Greek woman whose body was so thin you could see every bone, muscle and the tendons that held them together.  She used to play a large round dance teacher’s drum to accompany class. One day after I had been playing at the Lagoon for about a year, I asked if I could play for class. She said yes  and gave me her drum. I took it and started playing the same way that I played at the Lagoon. That meant that I was improvising and playing whatever I wanted. Of course I was not paying any attention to what the dancers were doing.  Right away, my dance teacher stopped me from playing and had a truly disgusted look on her face. The rest of the students were trying not to  crack up laughing.  I was completely embarrassed and confused because I thought I sounded good.  She told me that I had to watch the dancers and support them with my drumming.  She then made me play just a steady pulse on the drum without changing tempo or rhythm. It was the most boring thing that I had ever done. However, I must say that what my dance teacher put me through was one to the greatest gifts anyone could have given to me. She taught me discipline!

Series Navigation«Grandmothers of the Drum: Edwina Lee Tyler Part 2Grandmothers of the Drum: Linda Thomas Jones part II»

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