So once again I find myself in a circle of strangers, feeling pretty awkward and ‘warming up’ with some gibberish. This was pretty familiar, but thankfully I wasn’t alone – having roped in my new friend Gazala who I’d met at Laughter yoga. This was my first drumming experience…well I say first. I confess, there have been several times in my youth(er) days when I’d found myself dancing in a drumming circle – but this wasn’t at Glastonbury or in a club. This was a Sunday and I was sober.
After several clapping circles (making a beat with our hands and feet while walking in a circle) I was loosening up and starting to feel some rhythm.
The London Drum Circle (again found through Meetup.com) is run by our group leader Nihat who’s endearing warmth and easy manner instantly put you at ease. We did a getting to know you activity where we had to introduce ourselves by clapping out/singing our name (some did this with more gusto than others – try coming after a lady with literal operatic enthusiasm! Terrifying) We were a mixed bag of age, cultural background and experience but it transpired most people hadn’t been before either so my lack of percussion technicality wasn’t an issue. The more I go to these things the more I learn to let go of any preconceptions about who will be there.
All warmed up in body and mind – the drumming began…. but I didn’t have a clue and the drum in my hands felt totally alien. Nihat took us through an easy beat and the guys who could actually play percussion led the group. I threw myself into it and was soon banging away like a pro (I thought) though I’m sure had I been called to a drum solo it may have been a different matter.
Those who could sing (and there were a couple of very good singers) were encouraged to join in and we drummed continuously for at least another 10 minutes. I tuned into the rhythm and the cacophony of drums, tambourine, shakers, voices was pretty impressive. I found it was easy to loose yourself in the action and sound – though a couple of times I tuned back in to find I’d lost all rhythm and was literally just banging! Making myself concentrate a bit harder I continued and found I was having a great time. Huge smiles all round.
Nihat stopped us half way through and told us that out of Western society drumming circles are not seated and so encouraged us to stand up and dance if we wanted. The sun was set and the curtains were drawn to close out the night. The room was lit by a single lamp but the soft glow allowed everyone to relax and lose their inhibitions. The drumming began again and I found that the tambourine was much more my instrument. Gazala and I danced around the room and I can honestly say, I was having a brilliant time. Some members of the group totally lost themselves in the music – dancing (very) enthusiastically and playing louder. I admit it, I closed my eyes once – but I got most enjoyment from watching how everyone else was interacting with the experience. The lead drummers changed the beat a few times from fast to slow and then the music crescendo-ed again. We played for about 20 minutes, though I wasn’t keeping time, then Nihat brought us back together and the circle closed with a beautiful song by Fajad in Urdu – the words ‘This song we sing, brings our hearts together’
Final spontaneous drumming erupted and the instrument no longer felt like (such) an alien object. As Gazala put it ‘I felt like a drumming Queen!… and we did.
I would say that the best thing about the whole experience wasn’t whether or not you lost yourself in the music but the general brilliance of making collective music. The reality is that once you leave school and that band you were in when you were 16 (the one you were certain was going to make it) there are few opportunities where you make music if you’re not a musician. Which is such a shame!
And really, what better way to spend a Sunday evening than dancing in a dimmly lit room with a load of strangers… .and not waking up with a hangover.
So what do you reckon lovely readers? I say find yourself a musical outlet. It’s brilliant.
More soon. Off to a lecture about generousity and happiness tonight.
To join the lovely Nihat and the London Drum circle click here
To see our Youtube video (yes really!!!) I’m on the far right getting into it.cringe. click here
To read about the origins of drum circles click here