Have I mentioned how jam-packed crazy this past weekend has been? Friday I accompanied Glynda to Prosperity where we closed on the sale of the second home in my parents’ estate, then celebrated with dinner downtown. Saturday I spend the day exploring York County with Alan, and early Sunday morning I attended SC Comicon with Chip and his family. Yet, Sunday wasn’t over. I left straight from Comicon and headed downtown for the Our World Festival.
I really knew nothing about this event other than that they would would have a drumming workshop followed by a drum circle. That was enough for me, so I’d loaded up my djembe before heading out this morning.
The event was held at The Artistry, an old mechanics shop and service station across from St. Francis Hospital. The building has been converted into a gallery with space for classes and performances.
I arrived just a little after 3:00 pm. I had to laugh as I walked past a car with bumper stickers exactly like the ones I’d expect to see in a setting like this. I think I’d be disappointed if I hadn’t.
When I walked in there were greeters and a place to make a donation for the event, which I did. I walked past the gallery to the back, where the event would take place. Down a short set of steps tables were set up with food, wine, and beer, and a stage was set with all sorts of percussion. There were stools for observers and participants, and a garage door that was later opened for ventilation.
According to the posted schedule the workshop would last from 3:00 until 5:00. As it turns out, the first hour was a meet and greet. They had set up a “percussion petting zoo” with a few small djembes, guiros, maracas, and other small percussion.
The first person I met was Jeff Holland, one of the organizers of the event. We chatted about how I’d gotten into drumming, and that I’d only had my drum for a few weeks. Others arrived, and these were from all over the region. Ashley Tisdale is a certified music therapist from Asheville. That seemed to be an occupation for several.
Dick Moons introduced himself and I immediately thought his name was familiar, not because it’s unusual, but because I was sure I’d heard it before. Dick said he was from Columbia and used to work with Bellsouth/AT&T. That’s when it dawned on me. Dick had been one of my contacts when I was upgrading the data connections between schools in Spart 5. We probably exchanged multiple phone calls and emails, but had never met in person.
Dick also retired in his 50s back in 2010. He said that it got to the point where the only time anyone contacted him was when something was wrong and someone was mad. I could certainly empathize. He now spends his days taking percussion to nursing homes and schools, when he’s not off kayaking. I’ll have to consider that strategy when I get back from Washington.
I met a couple of others, Wes from Atlanta, and a family whose name I didn’t remember. As much as the bumper stickers on the car fit right in with what I expected, the father’s ball cap did not. It was a black cap with something about the Second Amendment a picture of an AR15 assault rifle. He wouldn’t be playing drums, but his wife and kids would be. I kind of felt like he was there reluctantly.
Many of these brought their own drums. I had left mine in the car until I’d scoped out the playing field. At the African Drumming Class at Greenville UU they only had large hand-carved wooden drums, and I got the impression they would look down on anything less. The djembes provided as loaners were smaller than the one I brought, and some of the ones folks were bringing out were about the same size. I decided to go get mine. When I did bring it in I got all kinds of compliments on the colorful design and beautiful rich tone of the drum. It made me feel better about my purchase. We took found seats and started warming up.
4:00 rolled around and things got started. Jeff got up and made a few announcements, then introduced Dave Holland.
Dave’s workshop was more of a world overview rather than delving too deeply into any one particular rhythm. He selected one example from the following cultures, taught it to us, then let us play: Middle Eastern, West African, Caribbean, Brazilian, and American. I could swear one was a Bo Diddly beat. Dave also demonstrated several different types of drums.
Here’s a short video of Dave in action:
There was a short break after the workshop and we began to get set for the drum circle itself. Others had come in during the course of the workshop, so the ranks had grown. I stayed on the outer circle so that I could take photos (and have an escape route.) I also found a box of ear plugs graciously provided by the host.
A couple who had never drummed before sat to my left, and Dick Moons was to my right. As Dick pulled out the bag holding his percussion gear I had to laugh. It was an EdTech Conference bag from 2005. I’m sure I was at that conference and gave a talk.
The drumming got underway with Jeff leading. Soon we fell into a steady rhythm. Here’s a clip from early on in the session:
My first thought was that this was going to get real old real fast. Fortunately, having a facilitator in the middle kept the interest going, as he changed rhythms and dynamics regularly. David stepped in at one point and changed us over to one of the patterns he had introduced in his workshop. Ashley stepped in at one point, as did another guy I hadn’t met.
As a drum circle newbie I have no idea if this is typical – if all of them have facilitators or if it’s more organic. As far as this experience was concerned, I drew parallels between this and shape note singing, where a different person gets up to lead each song.
Even with the facilitators, it seemed that we kept slipping back into the same rhythm. It was weird. It was almost as if the first few minutes of the circle set the heartbeat, and heaven forbid if you tried to stray from it. Here are several sound clips, each taken a bit further along in the circle.
I have to admit, it was a bit hypnotic. I also have to admit that my hands were starting to get very sore. I was also happy that the words “holistic”, “metaphysical”, and “shamanistic” were never uttered.
The circle broke up after about an hour. That would give them time to get set for the GloboDrums concert that would start at 7:00. Sadly, I wouldn’t be able to stay for it. I’d already been away from home for two days straight and needed to get back home.
It was a good experience with nice folks, and was a lot of fun. I felt good about my drumming, my instrument, and about the event in general. I told Laura that she would have to come with me to the next one.