A Hot Drum Circle at Tamburi Mundi Festival
This account of a hot Drum Circle is part of my on-going process of certification with Arthur Hull and Village Music Circles. The style of this article is adapted from specific journal method required for this process. Tamburi Mundi is the best known frame drum festival in the world. It’s more than an incredible collection of talents. It is a community!
When was the warmest time you had fun celebrating something?
This was a hot Drum Circle at Tamburi Mundi festival. I don’t think it needs to be any warmer than it was on that Saturday. Someone told me it was 100 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s plenty for me! Good thing we had ample shade and something of a breeze. I’m also very grateful for the helpers and other support provided by the festival staff.
This circle is an annual event that kicks off Tamburi Mundi. It is combined with a frame drum parade through the city of Freiburg. The parade ends up at the Drum Circle, which has by then already started. That is a good combination that we have settled upon through experience.
Build it up Slowly
We built up the circle very slowly because of the heat. Actually, that was the only sensible option. We made an perimeter with flags, in a sort of open circle form. It gives a clear sense of structure and inclusion without being a barrier. This I find important when working with the public: Show them orderliness without a feeling of exclusion. I made an inner circle with ground level seating on carpets. A second and third row of seating was on long straight benches.
I had gone to the park the day before, to find the spot that would become the middle point of the circle. That assured that the entire circle would be in the shade at the appointed time. With such a hot Drum Circle, I could not take chances with misjudging where the shade would be. We set up the circle and had had plenty of time to relax and chill out. This was also very helpful to keep myself together.
At first it looked like nobody was around, that this would be a no-show drum circle. Usually this public lawn would be fairly well populated. Usually people are lining up for the drum circle before it starts. This year it seemed everyone was at the lake or something.
There were actually just five of us on plastic buckets when the drum parade arrived from the city center. They straggled in, somewhat dazed and sweaty.
I let the drum parade people set the tempo and the first round of rhythm. I could see they were excited, but also very hot and tired (~Duh!) Did a relaxed and mellow series of very small interventions that slowly built up to a group rhythm consciousness.
Frame Drums were predominant.
Nearly everybody in this hot drum circle came with a frame drum directly from the parade. Hardly anyone sat down at the plastic buckets in the inner row. It seemed everyone was content to sit on the benches further back. I was a little surprised and disappointed by this development, but it was what I had for a working situation. Perhaps if there had been more people in the park beforehand, like in years before, the buckets would have been already in play. But this year there were indeed fewer people than usual. I slowly passed out small percussion, but the takers were few.
Get some Air in There
The group had already been playing more or less together for the parade. So they already had a rhythm going and a sort of group identity. There was no point in doing the classic Drum Call facilitation. I think it would have not been so well received in any case. That is what my reading of the group, my “facilitator’s Radar” told me.
One intervention that worked well wasI adding a break in the group rhythm. This created a little breathing space for squeaks and sounds. Got in a crowd-pleasing clean stop-cut on the 1 after the break. That was uplifting for everyone. (including myself). So I knew they were aware and responsive, without having been primed by Drum Call.
Used this as a window of communication, for a short welcome. Invited everyone to go get a drink of water. Restarted with an ocean drum and non-rhythm. A pulse and then a rhythm slowly developed.
The group got back into full swing. Sculpted buckets for 1…2…3… wait for the 1 count- in rhythm.
This was a spacious accent dialog that left room for sounds. It was inspiring how everybody kept on the 1 with all that space in between. (Big Gestures helped!)
Eventually all the frame drums were on the same track. A dancer (festival staff person got up to dance. Invited her to the middle. She invited me to dance along too.
After a while, it was time for a change. Did a clean stop-cut on the 1 after the space, with a little rumble wave teeter-totter as a garnish.
The Refreshing Power of Song
Someone had asked for a song. So I set up the song I learned from Alo, I-Po… O-I-Po-e… E-Agina E-Agina -O. Voice ridiculously dry and cracked. Let myself sound like the Mojave Desert to just signal “It’s OK how we sound with our voices”. Someone thankfully brought a cup of water and so I could continue…
The song went on and on for a long time. They loved it. Pulse and rhythm went up and down within the song with just very small interventions. Tried to add Gata-Gata Para Son Gata over that on one half the circle, but it was too much. Full circle returned to I-Po-E. That was really beautiful. I was happily surprised at how long a group of participants kept the song going.
The circle ended with another song, the one requested, Give Peace A Chance. We sung the basic line over many times. Then I added a sort of ceremonial element, something I saw once from the Peace Prayer Society. I called out an intention before each round of “All we are saying…” It was very sweet and, and moving. Had not intended necessarily to do such a thing, it just happened because I worked with what was given.
It was a perfect mix of easy-going and spiritual that hit the spot on such a hot day. the circle as a whole was very well received by the participants. I had to really trust that the whole thing would come together and not melt down. Big gestures are an important and time keeper, especially through longer breaks in the rhythm. I also learned how a subtle intervention can go a long way. I also saw that the participants recognized that as well.
What do you think about Drum Circles in the heat? What’s the best way to proceed? Leave a comment below and let’s exchange ideas!