In the above video Xavier shares the West African rhythm, Soli, which is a rhythm played for initiation rituals inaugurating a boy’s passage into manhood.
Initiation is a specialized type of ritual activity important for the same reasons myth is important: providing controlled access to numinous energies and guidance to effective use of archetypal patterns. There is a vast and ancient tradition of initiation the world over. Tribal societies from time immemorial have used rites of passage events in order to mark the movement from one phase of life into the next.
In Africa, rhythm is an important feature of daily life. It is also experienced as an expression of the elemental energies of the worlds of nature and spirit. West Africans of the Malinke culture and their predecessors have played specific rhythms for thousands of years to accompany, underscore, and perpetuate various aspects of life.
Music is often used in ceremonies and celebrations, wherein musical pieces are danced and played with drums and other instruments. These occasions mark the progression of people’s lives from birth to death and instances in between, such as initiations and rites of passage for youth, warriors, numerous guilds, and societal sub-groups.
In the above video, Xavier plays the ceremonial rhythm for the Moribayassa, a sacred rite of passage for West African women who have endured and emerged from a challenging circumstance or life storm, such as infertility or grave illness. The women dance in celebration and deep gratitude to their deity, Moriba Yassa. Through ritualized power of drumming and ceremonial theater, these dancers harness rhythm, vibration, and collective energy to produce alchemical magic and initiation.
In the video above, filmed in 2008, I guide young men through celebration ritual using traditional West African Drumming and spoken word as a means of expression, initiation, and transformation.
The wisdom of the ancients is not just something for interesting ethno-anthropological studies, read by academics secluded from the societies in which they are rooted. Rather, these studies are ways of mapping the future for one’s own self, family, and society. As in music, without a conscious attempt to integrate rhythm, all that one creates is noise.
It is my belief that troubled young males are in trouble precisely because the containing structures of myth, ritual, and mentoring are not there to help them traverse the dangerous path from youth to adult. Left on their own, they make “noise” and are punished for it. It is thus all the more essential to explore ancient practices and find effective ways of bridging the gap so that an almost-lost generation becomes the fire that burns for the good of self and other rather than a wildfire that destroys.