A drummer’s Pride and joy

Losing your sight means adaptation, in life as well as music. I seize the rhythm.

2 minute read
Danie Ocean, a Black person in shorts and tank top, plays an electronic drum set at home, singing along to the music.
Are they a good drummer? Not yet. But they have potential. (Image courtesy of Danie Ocean.)

There’s nothing more gratifying than a stick slamming snare. It brings out my earliest memories of delight. I’ve decided that delight is something I want more of, so I picked up the sticks in December when I bought an electronic drum kit as a birthday gift to myself. My self-care routine now includes paradiddles and drum rolls as I rock out to my favorite songs.

Am I good? No! No one is good after practicing for only six months, but I have fun and I have potential to play a song or two at a dive bar open mic. Potential means I have a new dream, and dreaming keeps the demons of doubt, apathy, and depression at bay.

I’ve been losing my vision due to a degenerative eye disease called Retinitis Pigmentosa. I now walk with a cane, watch all my movies with audio descriptions, and use a screen reader for all of my computing. Losing sight is a particularly challenging life experience in which you are consistently remembering things you once were able to see and do. Sometimes this reality mimics a sense of old age, a sense that life is nearly over. But I’m 38, and my hope is that I have a lot more life to live.

Something any differently abled person will tell you is that life requires adaptation. I didn’t pick up the drums by accident. I’m a singer-songwriter who produces all my own music, releasing three albums in the last two years. I’ve been playing the guitar for more than 20 years, and I also play bass guitar and piano.

Each instrument teaches me something about life through songwriting. Guitar teaches structure and temperance. Some of my earliest memories of learning guitar tunes by tab still leave me with pride. The beginner blisters reminded me that everything worth doing takes discipline and a little tolerance for pain and discomfort.

Piano taught me the importance of balance within melody, harmony, and rhythm. Bass guitar taught me the importance of foundation and intention. As a songwriter, knowing where you’re going is an important part of musical fluency. I picked up the drums because I wanted to understand stability and consistency.

Left, right, left, left go my sticks to the snare. I measure my breathing, staying in time with the metronome. My arms, hands, and feet become one with each other as I meditate with movement through the measured ticking. And afterward, when I’m done and my shoulders feel loose and broad, and there is no worry or fear about tomorrow in my head—I am done for the day. This Black, queer, blind, nonbinary person still has something more than suffering to experience in this life. It’s gratitude.

Catch Danie Ocean performing live at this year’s Disability Pride Philadelphia parade and festival, Saturday June 11, 2022 at Thomas Paine Plaza.

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