Dancing on a Sunday with strangers

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.

Peace

xx

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

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The Fashion Police – or why it’s a good thing not to have one. (Pass me that onesie.)

So, I wouldn’t class myself as a ‘follower of fashion’ (whatever that means) – generally I find that ‘bright’ and ‘quirky’ are tags I get most about my wardrobe – much more high-tops than high heels and rarely out without a flower in my hair.

But I do like tattoos and I’ve had my face pierced twice (not including my ears!)  So when I saw that the Horniman Museum in Dulwich, South East London, had a temporary exhibition called The Body Adorned (part of London fashion week) I thought I’d pop along…

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I really enjoyed the exhibition and came out thinking much more about how and why we chose to wear what we wear.

Looking at London, the exhibit looks at modern street styles to show how the city’s population uses fashion to establish their place in society. (Who knew fashion was so psychological) It was a multi media exhibition using film, photography and clothes as exhibits and was curated by young people to show how fashion reflects personality.

It also showed how historically- the exploration of the globe and the movement of people, objects and ideas have all helped to shape fashion, for example tattooists, nail bars and piercing shops are all a visible, everyday part our cityscape but originated overseas.

Now logically, I know that tattooing has come from pacific islands and other cultures – in fact, one of my tattoos was done using bamboo in Thailand (to fulfill the cliché I was also quite intoxicated, sssh don’t tell my mother) but seeing centuries old tattooing equipment brought home to me how much our culture is made up of borrowed ideas which we incorporate into our own.

The exhibition also featured a film installation by The Light Surgeons looking at the judgments people make on clothing and appearance, and a photography exhibit which had asked ‘is there a London look?’ Each photo was so different that it made me appreciate the diversity of the population. There is no single ‘London look’ and that is the brilliance of living here.

 I feel so fortunate that I am not confined to dress myself according to my sex, cultural or religious customs.  I love my tattoo’s – which I also feel are an expression of myself.  And despite my Mum crying every time – I have total freedom to look exactly how I want to look. I could walk down the street in a crocodile onesie or shave my head and rock a ballet tutu if I wanted. 

I am not making a huge political statement about other cultures and dress, only that grateful that I’m not made to conform to anything… now where did I put that onesie?

Ladies and gentlemen – be thankful for your freedom of expression.

More soon.

Peace

xxx

 

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The Perfect (Skinny) Hangover Cupcakes

After an unexpectedly merry affair last night I’ve been feeling a little bit fragile today and decided that I needed something to cheer me up (and try to blot out the blurry memory of those sambuca shots.)

What I didn’t want to do was feel guilty about eating cake so I found this skinny recipe by The Hairy Bikers. What’s brilliant is there’s hardly any fat in them so you can indulge yourself without worrying about anything so boring as calories. They’re also full of blueberries and lemons which are full of vitamin C which is an antioxidant (bring on the body repair)

They’re also really easy to make, use mostly store cupboard ingredients and are sweet enough to make them feel like a treat. With these, you can literally have your cake and eat it.

I’ve just eaten one (ok I confess I ate two… damn you cider) and although my hangover hasn’t completely gone – it made me very happy.

Enjoy!

xxx

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Ingredients

  • 200g/7oz self-raising flour
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 75g/3oz golden caster sugar
  • 100g/3½oz blueberries
  • 1 unwaxed lemon, zest finely grated
  • 2 free-range eggs
  • 150ml/¼ pint low-fat natural yoghurt
  • 2 tbsp semi-skimmed milk
  • 50ml/2fl oz sunflower oil

For the lemon icing

  • 100g/3½oz icing sugar
  • 4 tsp fresh lemon juice

Preparation method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4. Line a 12-hole deep muffin tin with some non-stick paper cases or folded squares of baking parchment.
  2. Sift the flour and bicarbonate of soda into a large bowl and stir in the sugar, blueberries and lemon zest. Make a well in the centre. Beat the eggs with a large whisk until smooth, then beat in the yoghurt, milk and oil until well combined. Stir into the flour mixture with a large metal spoon until very lightly mixed.
  3. Working quickly, divide the batter between the paper cases. Bake in the centre of the oven for 16–18 minutes or until the cupcakes are well risen and golden brown. Transfer them to a wire rack and leave to cool.
  4. To make the lemon icing, mix the icing sugar and lemon juice in a small bowl until smooth and runny. Using a spoon, drizzle the icing over the cupcakes and leave to set for at least 30 minutes before serving.