Layne Redmond 1952 – 2013

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  October 29, 2013 — 11 Comments

[This tribute to the life of Layne Redmond was written by academic, activist, and performance artist, Wendy Griffin. Wendy Griffin is the Academic Dean at Cherry Hill Seminary and Professor Emerita from California State University in Long Beach. She and Layne have been friends since the early 90s.]

Layne Redmond, author, mythologist, teacher, historian and drummer par excellence, passed over early Monday morning on October 28, after fighting breast cancer for several years.

Layne Redmond 1952 - 2013

Layne Redmond 1952 – 2013

Born in 1952, Layne lived her early life in Florida, graduating from the University of Florida and doing Master’s work in art. A move to New York put her in touch with well-known drummer Glen Valez, who promised to teach her how to play the hour-glass drum known as the dumbek. The Fates intervened, however, for when Layne arrived for her first class, Glen told her his ceramic dumbek had fallen and broken. He handed Layne a frame drum and, in a very real sense, Layne never put the frame drum down.

As she grew more proficient as a frame drummer, she began to teach other women and formed performance groups that did drumming rituals on the solstices and equinoxes. Traditional holidays were reimaged, as Valentine’s Day became a ritual dedicated to Innana and Demuzi and reenactments were done of the procession of women drummers on the walls of Hathor’s temple in Egypt.

During her 15 year research on the drum, Layne discovered a large number of ancient images of women playing the frame drum from the Mediterranean and almost no images of men and the drum. Incensed by one museum’s description of these drummers as women with cakes, Layne began writing “When the Drummers Were Women,” the book that explored the little-known history of the frame drum as a sacred tool, the fact that the primary percussionists for a period of almost 3000 years in the Mediterranean were women, and the reasons why that changed and the information was lost.

The book was immensely popular and translated into German, Dutch and Persian. Layne collected thousands of images, and in the majority, the drummers were Goddesses or their priestesses. The many images and histories of women with powerful spiritual authority and the use of the drum as a sacred instrument resonated strongly in the contemporary Pagan and Goddess communities. Some women’s groups began to incorporate the frame drum into their sabbat rituals.

In 2000, DRUM! Magazine listed Layne as one of the 53 Heavyweight Drummers Who Made A Difference in the ’90s. She was the only woman on the list, as well as the first woman to have a Signature Series of drums with Remo, one of the world’s largest manufacturers of drums. Layne recorded, taught and performed internationally. Among the many things for which she will be remembered is returning the frame drum to Malta, and the group of women she taught there still performs spiritual rituals.

While performing at the UFBA Percussion Festival in Salvador, Brazil, Layne became fascinated by the spiritual tradition of Candomble. She spent the last few years filming the living presence of the Orixas in modern Brazilian culture.

When her breast cancer returned this year, Layne faced it with fierce courage, deciding to live her life fully until the very last moment. A few months ago, she began to turn her film on the Orixas into short videos she could post on Youtube. She wanted to make sure those who contributed to her filming on Kickstarter would see the results of their generosity. When she went into hospice, she told friends that she was only alive to finish that work.

Thirteen days before the very end, a friend helped Layne slip out of hospice in North Carolina and go to her 43rd high school reunion. From there she went to Manatee Springs, a place from her childhood. “Really,” she wrote on FaceBook the day of her last visit, “I was raised in the womb of Oxun.”

And now Layne Redmond, High Priestess of the Drum, has returned to Her. We are impoverished by her loss but immensely enriched by her life.

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Jason Pitzl-Waters

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  • PJ Graham

    What a terrible loss. Layne’s work has been incredibly empowering and inspirational for me and many other women drummers. Tonight I will light a candle, but I will also drum for her.

  • Chas S. Clifton

    Thanks, for writing this, Wendy.

  • Doug

    Beautifully and bravely written, Wendy, all the more so because of how difficult this must have been to write.

  • Renna Shesso

    I was already drumming when I took a weekend workshop with Layne – it was life-changing, in both style and spirit. Thank you, Layne, for your drumming, your amazing and so-important research, and especially for your spirit, which carried the drum so powerfully to so many.

  • David Salisbury

    What a beautiful piece, Wendy. May her memory be a blessing to all who love her.

  • Kelley Harrell

    Wonderful memories. Thank you.

  • bls

    Beautifully written. Thank-you, Wendy. Do you, perhaps, mean Cyprus instead of Malta? Cyprus is where the Ma Gaia frame drummers were taught by Layne and continue to this day –very actively so!

  • Evelyne Pouget

    Thank you Wendy. Layne was my teacher and my friend, I will miss her. She was an inspiration to me and to so many.

  • Anita Stewart

    I was honoured to drum with her several times…a blessing to know her. She walks with the Goddess now…

  • Terry Reimer

    Layne inspired me so totally in my quest as a woman drummer and in starting Women Spirit Drummers in Chicago. I’m grateful to have played for her, and I will always celebrate her grace, wisdom, perseverance and leadership! She will inform history as the women before her did. May she revel in beautiful rhythms forever!
    Terry Reimer wprmagazine@aol.com

  • Larry Brickner-Wood

    Layne will be missed, and her revival and work with women and drumming was ground breaking and inspirational.