Nacho Everyday Percussionist

Nacho Arimany’s years working with rhythm showed him how natural harmonic patterns heal the human body and mind.

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At first glance, Nacho Arimany can easily be confused for a European version of holistic healer J.P. Sears in the “Ultra Spiritual” spoofs.

But after a few moments into an interview or demonstration, Arimany reveals himself as the real deal. Here, he explains the cultural component of the recent neuroscientific findings about the effects of movement and rhythm on the brain:

Known around the world as “one of the most sought after Flamenco percussionists, composers and musicians for the brain,” ground-breaking, multi-cultural instrumentalist Arimany has mastered sound-scaping instruments from tiny harps to singing bowls to gourds. His work in bands and studying diverse ethnic communities and their percussion instruments drew Arimany down a rabbit hole of Fibonacci perfection when he began to make the rhythmic connections between mathematical truths like the golden ratio, frequency in the natural world, and the effects of certain resonances on the human body.

Arimany’s work rests on the foundation that 432 hertz (Hz) is the resonance of biological rhythms, termed “sound biology.” Humans exposed to instruments tuning to 432 Hz undergo physiological changes that enhance cellular harmony—bodies and minds literally tune themselves to this frequency (as bodies are chock full of biological rhythms). The result, Arimany explains, can improve fine motor skills, mental health and promote brain function through harmonic resonance. Over time, he created the Arimany Method, a blend of movement and rhythm used as a meditation to create “new architecture in the brain.”

Nacho Arimany, who performs for the first time at The Straz with Flamenco guitarist Pablo Sáinz Villegas, will serve in his traditional role as multi-talented percussionist to Villegas’s famed flying fingers. You’ll see percussion incarnate, and just know, if you start to feel an unfamiliar sense of cosmic resonance, that Arimany may have taken you on the magical 432 carpet ride.

Art as a Survival Tool Series: III

Good Vibrations
Polyrhythms, sound healing and the significance of vibration

This blog is the third in a series of five on Art as a Survival Tool, blogs that examine the crucial role art plays in the fulfillment of the human experience.

tie dye baby at drum circle

Famed scientist Nikola Tesla once revealed “if you want to know the secrets of the universe, think in terms of energy, frequency and vibration.”

Where we come from, this is called music and dance. And what would these art forms be without drums?

Mixing energy, frequency and vibration in different rhythms happening simultaneously results in polyrhythm, a phenomenon that occurs in natural vibrations and sounds which humans captured and mimicked with the invention of the drum.

women drum polyrhythm

African, Indian and shamanic cultures employed polyrhythms to sacred purpose, intuitively applying frequency and vibration to heal physical or psychological wounds and treat illnesses. The drum literally knitted communities together, entwined them with their environments and “talked” across distances, communicating messages from one tribe to another.

So profoundly integral and powerful a tool was the drum that, at the start of the trans-Atlantic slave trade, European colonizers realized the easiest way to break the culture of Africans was to strip them of their drums—which they did; however, stripping a culture of its rhythm, embedded in its cells for millennia, is impossible. In time, polyrhythms, drumming and the power of beat dominated popular music in every country that utilized African slave labor, especially in the United States, where we witnessed the birth of intricate jazz and hip hop polyrhythms that would define popular culture for several generations.

drum connection tampa bay

Kathryn and Sally Robinson, the mother/daughter team of DrumConnection Tampa Bay, who use traditional African drumming for community building. (Photo: https://drumconnectiontampabay.wordpress.com/)

Today, neuroscientists identify the ability of rhythm and sound to affect neuroplasticity in the brain and their abilities to release chemicals such as the “stress hormone” cortisol, a natural anti-anxiety medication. Certain polyrhythms, as employed in African, Middle Eastern and Indian cultures, induce the brain into a trance state, which researchers now understand allows a person to re-tune her frequency, harmonizing the body’s vibration to well-being, much like tuning a violin or, as it were, tightening a drum head.

Grammy®-nominated recording artist Jonathan Goldman describes this re-tuning as “resonant frequency healing” and, when performed in a group, creates entrainment, a natural phenomenon of synchronizing that can happen without the listeners’ being aware of attuning to others in the group. Goldman’s sound healing, which may strike the more hard-science-minded as wishful thinking, gained scientific support in July when a study from the University of Bristol tracked ultrasound (high frequency sound waves) as having a vibration high enough to speed healing in physical wounds.

Polyrhythms got you intrigued? Then check out this online polyrhythm generator and let us know what you think.

Cool Facts About Performing Arts: Afrobeat

The journey of rhythm is like water. It is a building block of life, to make and sustain it, and water takes many forms, traveling, growing, changing, and converging with other water sources to create incredible phenomena such as the Okavango Delta in Botswana or Florida’s very own Everglades. In its own way, rhythm works to sustain life. Some would argue rhythm is life, taking many forms, traveling, growing, changing and converging to create new and impressive musical genres.

One such phenomena of rhythm happened in the 1970s when a Nigerian musician named Fela Kuti drew on traditional Nigerian and Ghanaian music, converging these polyrhythms with American jazz, funk, chants and call-and-response lyricism. In the 1960s, Kuti and other socially conscious artists used their art as a means to carry messages of social criticism to inspire social change. Challenges to the status quo and political injustice imbedded in the lyrics, creating a unique, gigantic, big band African-drums-meet-American-jazz sound whose infectious, horn-filled thumping traveled around the globe in a new brand of music that Kuti dubbed Afrobeat.

Afrobeat spread, and one of the greatest American-based Afrobeat bands today, Antibalas Afrobeat Orchestra, teams up with African soul-and-R&B artist Zap Mama for a rare appearance together on the Ferguson stage on Thursday night. Afrobeat is also enjoying a resurrection in the UK, erupting from the underground into mainstream mixes.

We are really excited to present Antibalas and Zap Mama on Thursday night, bringing this ultra-fun, enormous, funky African sound to Tampa Bay for long-time fans and, hopefully, new audiences who may best appreciate the life-giving joy of Afrobeat by experiencing it—like a long drink of cool, cool water.

Cool Facts About Performing Arts: Entrainment

Have you ever heard that clocks ticking at different beats will eventually synch up to tick in time? Well, it’s true.

Christiaan Huygens, the Dutch physicist who first identified this process using pendulum clocks, called this curiosity ‘the sympathy of the clocks,’ although what he actually identified was the phenomenon of entrainment, an exceptionally cool rhythmic synchronization that also happens to humans and animals: fireflies lock into a same beat, humans adjust their rhythmic speech patterns to each other in conversation and our brain waves, when entrained with certain frequencies, create in us states of deep peace and tranquility.

So, if you’ve ever wondered just what “it” was that made that concert feel like one giant, shared experience, why we’re so euphoric when we leave … well, we were entraining with the rhythm, and, by definition, with each other. In a bio-musical sense, we literally became the same rhythm. For a brief amount of time, a thousand humans in Ferguson Hall can synch into one giant, molecular pulsing phenomenon—one thousand clocks ticking in time. Entrainment makes us feel good, it can propel us to trance states, it explains why our ancient ancestors used drums to connect to the Great Spirit, to amp up for war, to celebrate life and death.

When researchers began to describe the phenomenon of entrainment, they assumed that “beat induction,” a component of entrainment that makes it possible to synch up to the beat in different tempos, was a unique human ability. Of course, it’s not. It turns out this sulphur-crested cockatoo, named Snowball, knows perfectly well how to entrain to a beat, and we’d be willing to bet he’s not the only one.

Entrainment reminds us that the performing arts—music, dance—were never created purely for entertainment purposes. They are as vital to human life as our other biological processes. Think about it: what is rhythm, anyway, except the replication of a beating heart?

Many thanks to ethnomusicologists Martin Clayton, Rebecca Sager and Udo Will, whose 2004 article, “In time with the music: The concept of entrainment and its significance for ethnomusicology,” was indispensable in informing this blog. Here’s the whole article, for your reading pleasure: http://www.open.ac.uk/Arts/experience/InTimeWithTheMusic.pdf