Drum Circles, a Unique Experience
Unique Drum Circle
I had a unique experience over the weekend in Atlanta visiting my son and daughter-in-law, attending a drum circle with a huge bonfire in the middle of the circle. As the temperature was in the 30° range, the bonfire was much appreciated, but it is standard fare at these events.
There was a multitude of people around the fire playing music, and some were dancing while others were sitting quietly enjoying the music.
What is a Drum Circle?
I didn’t know that drum circles are very popular around the world, and there are many different types or purposes of circles. A drum circle of course, has drums with a couple of other instruments in the one we visited. I noticed one person with maracas and one with a tambourine, but the event is definitely about the rhythm of the drums.
If you close your eyes and just listen you can hear the coordination of a predominant rhythm with others using beats that complimented the main rhythm. The rhythm moves you, and I really enjoyed the experience. There are many types of drums used, such as Bongo drums, Congo and a drum called Ashiko, plus several others types. The drumming I saw was all done by hand.
Rhythm is one of the easiest forms of musical expressions as rhythm flows through our bodies and really around the world. It is so easy for people to join in to this type of music since you really don’t need any special training. You will not see drummer’s sticks. One man told me it is a great stress reliever instead of just playing the drums at alone.
Description of the Drum Circle
This particular place in Atlanta is unique in that the property is owned by members of the community, called Lake Claire Community Land Trust, and they have a communal garden on the acreage also. Thet start at dusk, and it costs $5.00 to get in. There are no alcohol or drugs allowed. If you start trouble you will be asked to leave. There is one way in and out which makes you feel safe.
You could sense the harmony among the most of the people attending and know that they were regular attendees. As the evening wore on more people showed up, and the intensity of the music increased. We didn’t stay as long as we would have liked to due to the cold.
Description of the Dance
There were also a few ladies very adept at belly dancing at this event. One lady danced over to me as I was standing near the fire for warmth; I must have looked willing as she waved me toward her and quickly told me a couple of basic steps. Yours truly belly danced at a beginner’s level, feeling a little silly, but I was still having fun. I’m game to try anything once.
I learned the dancing was all about the knees. You stand and keep your feet straight and fairly close together, then move your knees to the rhythm, which in turn will more your hips, and if you speed up the movement you will be doing a shimmy. It is important to keep the core part of your body still. My daughter-in-law knows how to belly dance, and there are numerous movements that are way beyond me. It was a beautiful, sensuous dance.
A Bit of History
Community drum circles are informal gatherings of people, who meet for the purpose of playing the drums together. They often take place in public settings, such as parks or at the beach, but many also be organized via a community center or some other location.
Community drum circles differ from facilitated or conducted drum circles in the music is entirely improvised through the group interaction, which makes it so unique. There is no leader, so the participants make up the music as they go along. Participation is, of course, totally voluntary.
In some groups they may sing or chant. I also thought it was unique that there were all types of people participating as to race and socioeconomic status, and the music just flowed beautifully.
Drum Circle with Bonfire
On a personal level, I think the community drumming outside with a bonfire adds a unique element that you probably wouldn’t find in a lit room of a school house or community center. However, since I have not tried any of this before, it is just my personal opinion.
The dark with the bonfire seemed to enhance the feel of the rhythm. We had a lot of fun, much laughter, and I know how to shimmy properly!
The copyright, renewed in 2018, for this article is owned by Pamela Oglesby. Permission to republish this article in print or online must be granted by the author in writing.