Pat Blythe – Drums, Food, the Happy Hormone …and Music!

I am surrounded, lady-rounded and all the little roundeds by music and rhythm…..whether it’s listening to the 600+ songs my phone shuffles through, pounding a beat on my steering wheel, hearing the thumpa thumpa of somebody’s sound system as they cruise past, wending my way through a nightclub, wearing headphones and walking to the beat, banging on my drums or simply humming the tunes that run through my head. Music….always a part of my life, always with me, I have become increasingly aware of how much it affects our lives. I’m not going to get into the science of it, suffice to say music has a very large impact on our well-being, especially our brain and our heart’s well-being.

The language of music is universal, the beat keeps us moving in time, whether it’s your fingers, toes or your entire body. Music also increases the levels of oxytocin.  One of the reasons Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga’s duet Shallow is such a  hit. Often called the “feel good” or “cuddle” hormone, oxytocin also has a more far reaching effect on our health and happiness than was first thought. Oxytocin….it’s the bond between mother and newborn, it’s the build-up to and rush after orgasm, it’s the relaxing peace after an enveloping hug, it can reduce fear and anxiety, it builds trust, it’s that lovely, warm feeling of ahhhhhhhhh after a piece of melt-in-your-mouth dark chocolate. It is also an antidote to depressive feelings and plays a role in empathy and generosity. Add a little music to the mix and…..well…..the song Don’t Stop Me Now comes to mind. That’s the effect oxytocin has on me….. it fills me with positive energy, sometimes making me higher than a kite combined with a dreamlike, almost “floaty” feeling….and always with a grin. Shallow…..that song gives me goosebumps, makes me weep and lifts me right out of my skin.

Shallow – Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga

So reach out….hug more, touch more, listen to some great music….oxytocin, it’s truly the one “drug” that could cure much of the hate in this world. Oh, and take pleasure in that lovely bar of dark chocolate you’ve been craving….you deserve it.


Indian beef taco….this meal will last you literally all day

Another random Saturday afternoon in Kensington Market with Barbette. After feasting on an Indian beef taco (me) and smoked salmon with poached eggs (Barbette) at the Pow Wow Café Barbette had a special gift for me. After woofing down that incredible meal (see pic) and a chat with Pow Wow owner/chef Shawn Adler we head off to a surprise destination. African Drums & Art Crafts on Dundas St. West. Owned by Saikou, he and the store have been part of the Kensington Market community for 25 years. Adorned with wall-to-wall authentic, hand-carved African drums of all shapes and sizes including Djembes, Kpanogos, Bugarabu and Dunduns there is also African art, jewellery, fabrics and furniture, carvings and all sorts of other musical accoutrement. You could spend a week in there on a discovery mission and still not see everything. Saikou himself also provides drum tuning, skinning and restoration along with a beautiful smile and words of wisdom.

l-r – Saikou, Pat Blythe, Barbette, Njacko Backo

Warmly welcomed by Saikou, we were ushered to the back of the store where there is a small stage/platform with various seats and drums scattered around. Njacko Backo, a close friend of Saikou’s and a professional drummer, was already producing some beautiful sounds. Barbette and I spent the next hour or so listening and watching, learning how to play our African drums, creating the different sounds not only by where you hit the drum but how. I could have stayed all afternoon. An incredible experience that had us both leaving with a lighter step and big smiles. It was a beautiful gift from a beautiful friend. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. For more info check out the website at

Sole Survivor…….

Owned and operated by Lorena Agolli, Sole Survivor is an all-female shoe and leather repair shop located in Kensington Market. I discovered them by accident when wandering around with my niece last summer. I immediately passed on Agolli’s name to fellow photographer Lisa MacIntosh for her ASK series. (that’s another story but click here to find out more). Lisa had already “discovered” the shop and its owner and has since photographed Agolli for her book. A few months later I brought in a very old camera case that had belonged to Chris. The stitching had completely rotted but the case itself was in reasonably good condition. Agnolli looked it over and confirmed the case could be repaired but it would have to be hand-stitched back together.

I picked it up last Saturday and almost wept when I saw it. I was ecstatic with this beautiful case that was presented to me. The high-quality craftsmanship in the stitching was perfect and the entire case and strap had been reconditioned. A new leather “string” was added to hold the key. I met the young woman who had so lovingly put it back together and I’m sorry I didn’t get her name. She should be very proud of her work. My favourite boots are next.

Sole Survivor opened in 2013 and head cobbler Agolli and her staff are kept busy with the various repairs on shoes, belts, bags, etc that line the shelves of this intimate space. Love and caring is put into each repair, so much so that if your favourite piece of leather can no longer be brought back to life, Sole Survivor will gently but firmly tell you so. I’m thrilled to find a place that is reasonably priced, embraces their craft and put so much care into their work. If you want to find out more check out their website  I love their tag line…..Let us *heel* your *soles*

I couldn’t resist checking the many songs with the name Sole/Soul Survivor. Here are a few:

Soul Survivor – Rita Ora

Sole Survivor – Blue Oyster Cult

Sole Survivor – Asia

Back to drumming for a moment…..

Bear with me here…..the more I’m exposed to drums from any genre (although “Latin” has a certain allure) the more fascinated I become… the beats and rhythms are created.  Each time I watch somebody play (either live or on a screen), ask a question looking for a simple answer (and of course there isn’t one), or simply hearing the music of the drums, it draws me in more and more.

The beat is the meter or steady pulse that you “feel” in a song, generally carried by the snap of the snare drum. You clap or tap your toes to the beat. The rhythm is the actual sound, the notes the drums produce, like the words in a song….which is also why it’s extremely important to tune your drums….top and bottom. It was the first thing I learned. Then there’s polyrhythm. Definition….”the simultaneous occurrence of sharply contrasting rhythms within a composition.” — I was rather shocked to find out very recently I actually “feel” and the polyrhythm and that’s what I was doing, without thinking about it, with the shakers I was goofing around with. I’ve often been told I was “off-beat” so I stopped banging out what I was hearing when anyone was around. I stuck to my steering wheel or whatever I hit at home. I’m not sure what I hear is always polyrhythmic but as long as it feels right, I’ll keep doing it.

It’s all so pleasantly confusing and overwhelming. What started with  “I want to learn how to play the drums” has morphed into something much more. The ability to actually co-ordinate three limbs and slap out a few songs some day, well that picture is rapidly started to change. There is so much more to this beast than I ever suspected. I’m watching and listening to drummers more closely now, trying to disseminate exactly what they’re doing and how, and absorb as much as I can. Now….to sell my rock kit and purchase that smaller jazz kit that has my name written all over it!

From this …

…to this.

Subeme La Radio – Enrique Iglesias

African Bamba – Santana

Don’t Stop Me Now – Queen

Eight Miles High – The Byrds

Gimme Some Lovin’ – Spencer Davis Group

For drummers who want to stretch themselves and add to their repertoire here’s a link to a couple of books that should probably be in your collection, DeLong Way To Musical Phrasing On The Drumset (just released) and DeLong Way To Polyrhythmic Creativity On The Drumset  They are beyond my ken but the lightbulb is not as dim as it once was.


All photographs ©2019 Pat Blythe, A Girl With A Camera except the Blue Satin Flame Gretsch kit


Pat’s column appears every Wednesday.

Please scroll down and leave a comment. Thank you.

dbawis-button7“Music and photography….my heart, my passions.” After an extended absence —  33 years as a consultant and design specialist in the telecommunications industry — Pat has turned her focus back to the music scene. Immersing herself in the local club circuit, attending the many diverse music festivals, listening to some great music, photographing and writing once again, she is eager to spread the word about this great Music City of ours…..Toronto. Together for 34 years, Pat little-red-headed-dancing-girlalso worked alongside her late husband Christopher Blythe, The PictureTaker©, who, beginning in the early 70s, photographed much of the local talent (think Goddo, Frank Soda and the Imps, BB Gabor, the first Police Picnic, Buzzsaw, Hellfield, Shooter, The Segarini Band….) as well as national and international acts. Pat is currently making her way through 40 years of Chris’s archives, 20 of which are a photographic history of the local GTA music scene beginning in 1974. It continues to be a work in progress. Oh…..and she LOVES to dance! 

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