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Persona Music


Tribal Techno

Human societies follow a dialectic path with advances and regressions, sometimes occurring together in a confusing contradictory way. The obvious features of pop music in the first decade of the 21st century involves dancing, sexual movements, and costumes that range from the sublime to the ridiculous. Some rock musicians combine hair arrangements, tattoos and costumes that blend the appearance and behaviors of Ancient Africans with American Indians. To a visiting anthropologist, the linking of these expressions suggests an atavistic revival of ancient human celebrations simulated by a kick drum in 4/4 time and a deep bass drone to keep the audience in a frenzied state. Other "rock" music heads for sadomasochistic frenzy, anger and simulations of brutality that are intended to be grotesque. Music? No way. Primitive? Yes. This is old human behavior dating back thousands of years.

I came to British Columbia and settled on Texada Island in 1971 to be the island physician and to enjoy living closer to nature. Texada was an industrial island on its northern tip with an iron mine and three limestone quarries. Logging and fishing had been important industries. There were two villages, Vananda and Gillies Bay that housed most of the working population and the remainder of the island was forest and mountainous terrain. When I arrived, there was a squatter’s settlement in Davie Bay several kilometers out of the village of Gilles Bay where I lived. A group of American draft dodgers and young Canadian adventurers shared Davie Bay a forest with seaside property owned by the Ocean Cement company who tolerated their presence. There were many interesting characters in the group with different levels of settlement from tents, VW vans to improvised driftwood dwellings. Ilmars was one of the squatters who became my friend. When I first knew him, he lived on the beach with an attractive Danish woman and her 2 year old son. Together, they were Adam and Eve, two young and healthy humans enjoying the fruits of summer in a natural paradise. Ilmars took to the forest and beach like a native human with hundreds of thousands of years of survival experience. One of his special abilities was drumming. He had made a large congo drum with a stretched deer skin on a tapered wooden barrel and could play for hours. His drumming was hypnotic and soothing. With his help, I made a similar drum and joined him and others for drumming sessions, beach fires and a new sense, for me, of tribal membership. For many years I would participate in beach gatherings that featured drumming, dancing and music performances that continued to develop a wonderful sense of group identity.

I was reminded of those days when I read an account of the Shambhala Music Festival that began as a local party, expanding by word of mouth into an annual festival on a 500-acre cattle ranch in British Columbia's Kootenay region. MacCuish described the curious collision of primitive behaviors with modern technology: "The festival features mostly electronic artists and DJ's, though you'll find live bands at stages like the Rock Pit. The Village stage features a 100,000 watt system that pumps out drum and bass, dubstep and glitch hop throughout the festival. Nearly every genre of electronic music is represented, from funk to psy-trance, breaks to beat boxing."

Shambala Music

The Village Stage at Shambhala Music Festival. Photo Rikki MacCuish. Accessed online Oct 2010.