by Rick Mattingly
Frame drummer Layne Redmond died on October 28, 2013. She was known for her virtuoso abilities on tambourine and her authorship of the influential book When the Drummers Were Women
, and she also produced a number of recordings and instructional videos.
Born in 1952 in Florida, Redmond attended art school, first at the University of Florida in Gainsville and then at Rutgers in Newark, New Jersey, before studying painting with Joyce Kozloff at the Brooklyn Museum as a Max Beckmann scholarship student. She became a member of a performance art/dance collective located in lower Manhattan and began to create performance art pieces.
In 1981 she attended a Glen Velez concert and subsequently began studying frame drumming with Velez. As she helped organize a collection of images of frame drummers that Velez had collected, she became intrigued by the fact that most of the images depicted women playing frame drums. She began researching the ancient playing styles and history of the frame drum in religious and cultural rituals.
Redmond appeared on Velez’s recordings Handdance
(Music of the World label) and Internal Combustion
(CMP), and then she and Velez formed a trio with bansuri flutist Steve Gorn, which was known as the Handdance ensemble. That trio recorded Seven Heaven
(1987) and Assyrian Rose
(1989) for CMP.
Layne left Handdance and started an all-female frame drumming group, The Mob of Angels. In 1991 they released Since The Beginning
, featuring guest artists Gorn and violinist Vicki Richards.
After an editor at Random House saw a Redmond performance and slide lecture, Layne signed a contract to write When The Drummers Were Women
, which was published in 1997. A review in Percussive Notes
hailed the book, saying in part, “By searching out the lost, early history of the frame drum, Layne Redmond has uncovered an important missing chapter in the history of humanity—a chapter in which goddesses ruled beside gods and in which women’s spirituality, wisdom, and sexuality were affirmed through rituals involving drumming. In an age where people are rediscovering the communal and healing powers of rhythm, When the Drummers were Women
establishes the link between ancient knowledge and the contemporary emphasis on the importance of passion and soulfulness to life.”
Meanwhile, Remo, Inc. created a Layne Redmond Signature Series of frame drums, and Interworld Music invited Layne to make an instructional video. First released as Ritual Drumming
, the video was renamed Rhythmic Wisdom
when it was released on DVD.
In 1995, Layne met drummer Tommy Brunjes (aka Tommy Be), who became her collaborator on several CDs including Trance Union, Chanting the Chakras, Chakra Breathing Meditation, Invoking the Muse, and Heart Chakra. In 2004, Layne wrote the book Chakra Meditation for Sounds True.
In 2006, she volunteered to teach percussion at UFBA, the university in Salvador, Brazil, and Escola Pracatum, Carlinhos Brown’s music school in Candeal. She met Rosangela Silvestre, and they produced a CD of traditional candomble´ songs and shot footage of six orixás, the gods and goddesses of Afro Brazilian legacy, which led to Layne’s interest in making music videos and short films. Redmond also met Tadeu Mascarenhas, a young musician and engineer who became a collaborator on her next four projects: Flowers of Fire, Wave of Bliss, Invoking Aphrodite, and Hymns From the Hive.
She moved to Brazil in 2007 and then came back to the U.S. and settled in Asheville, N.C. in 2009. She launched Golden Seed Films, which released the 6-DVD set Frame Drum Intensive Training Program in 2010 as well as the Trance Union Series of instructional DVDs. She also created an archive of materials related to When the Drummers Were Women, and an expanded e-book edition was being prepared at the time of her death, along with the film Axé Orixá, Dreaming Awake the Gods and Goddesses of Brazil.
The February 2000 issue of DRUM! magazine listed Redmond as one of the “53 Heavyweight Drummers Who Made a Difference in the ’90s.” She was the only woman on the list. Redmond performed and lectured at colleges, universities, and music conferences around the world, including several appearances at PASIC, the last of which was in 2009. She also contributed articles to several journals, including several for Percussive Notes.
Read “Frame Drums and History” by Layne Redmond. Percussive Notes, Vol. 50, No. 1, January 2012.