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What IS a Drum Circle?
Definition of Drum Circle
Drum circles are activities and events. They are open to people dropping in without any equipment and without much training. Usually, they are based around playing African and middle-eastern sorts of hand drums. However, the most important thing to bring to a drum circle is openness to learn. Also, the desire to bang something with some kind of rhythm is a prerequisite. After that, the spirit of welcoming acceptance ubiquitous to drum circles guarantees a comfortable experience for participants.
Is it chaos?
Not exactly. Usually there is a leader who brings extra instruments for (1) those who have none, and (2) those who want to experiment with auxiliary "toys." The leader will often set up chairs in a .....circle (duh) and put instruments in an accessible area. If fees are charged for drum rentals, the leader takes care of that. Also, sometimes donations are collected for either rental of the space or other charitable purposes.
A little teaching during drum circle
Although a drum circle is NOT a group lesson, a little bit of teaching can occur. The leaders can help newbies get oriented to whacking at a hand drum, such as a djembe or doumbek; or smacking a stick on a djun-djun. The leaders often get the group started on simple patterns to warm up. These simple warm-up rhythms can serve as the foundation beat for subsequent group creations.
African Drum Music to inspire you
Well, in my book, any percussion is fun. Consider, though, all the various instruments that fall within the percussion family: rattles, maracas, sticks, whistles, shakers, shells, tambourines, castanets, rain sticks, guiros,etc. Just about anything that can be struck or shaken is a percussion instrument. (OK, I know that a whistle is blown, but percussionists get to lay claim to police and slide whistles. Also, think what fun the Cuban 3-tone whistle could be for you!)
Acceptance of all in drum circle
Acceptance is the supreme mode of behavior. People do simple or complex things and it's ok. People change instruments in the middle of a "song" and that is great. It is impossible to "play wrong." Like the saying "all God's critters have a voice in the choir," it really all works together and everyone's contribution is valued as a fiber in the fabric of the whole.
Did you ever have one of those days at work where you were so frustrated and angry that it was all you could do to keep from quitting on the spot? Banging away on something is a great way to get all the angst out of your system. A big, heavy, sonorous djembe can take that energy and convert it into something positive! Or, have you been so happy to be alive that you need to shout? Again, the African drums allow you to share that joy with a community of drummers. Furthermore, if you are the sort of person to whom words do not come easily, drumming may be your mode of communication.
Give a drum circle a try
You'll like it. And, unlike lessons, there is no commitment for time or money. Show up when you can. Pay what you can. But beat the music of your soul out into the world!
Text and photos copyright 2008 Maren Morgan
More on djembe drumming
- Drum Circle in Sinking Spring, PA
A Sinking Spring store jam=packed with African goods hosted a new drum circle. This gathering of west African drumming was so successful, it will continue every First Friday of the month at Spears-Harambee Company. It is worth visiting for the store
- Fantastic Djembe Tuning Tutorial
If you enjoyed this article, check out the review (thumbs up!) of a YouTube on djembe tuning.