I bet you didn’t know that a lion can roar with enough force to raise a cloud of dust. And I bet you didn’t know that you have a little barbarian inside of you, waiting patiently to be woken by the beat of a drum.
Having once received a Djembe drum from my godmother years ago (and having had to spit out a few roars myself to get rid of the dust layer it has gathered) I felt it was time to discover what I’ve been missing out on. The thought of banging on a Djembe drum has always scared me a little bit. Therein lurks not only the great potential to sound like an idiot, but the whole neighbourhood will know about it. So I tackled the second issue first and decided to cultivate my drumming skills in someone else’s neighbourhood instead.
The Palms, a large décor and lifestyle centre in the heart of Woodstock, is the new venue for Afrobeat Drumming, a weekly class led by David Keuning. While by day this warehouse is buzzing with sassy shoppers, by night its walls dance to the beat of dedicated drummers. Even the sound of my thin voice sounded majestic in the large, empty space, and the former warehouse was transformed into an acoustic haven as our small group of seven drummed into the sultry evening air.
David, a natural teacher, showed us the basic drumming patterns and quickly had us all drumming harmoniously with no stopping and starting. Instead, we were encouraged to unashamedly thump and thud as we followed our leader. Each of the overlapping rhythms had a different name, but as a group we excelled at djembe. The word means “everyone gather together in peace”… and that is how the drum got its name. Nice, hey?
The evening was split into two drum circle sessions. By the time the half time break came around my fingers were swollen and my brain too, but I was ready for more. Drumming requires keen participation and I was tired after two hours of drumming, but relaxed and even strangely elated too. I can now see why drumming is recommended as a form of meditation.
I enjoyed the drumming the most when my eyes were closed and I could envision fire dancers around me, waves crashing on the sea shore, and the stars lit up above me. Of course, this was easy to imagine since a welcome breeze was wafting through The Palms most of the evening, and the sound of the wind outside was loud and courageous and the warmth gave the illusion of a fire nearby. To be there on a rainy, stormy night would be amazing!
I slept remarkably well that night, but on giving my drum a courageous tap in the morning I decided to keep my inner barbarian alive only within the troupe. For now – led drumming is the way to go. Besides avoiding the fierce encouragements not to quit my day job, it’s more fun with friends anyway. Come curb your curiosity, and know that the noise won’t reach your neighbours… even if you live in Woodstock.
The AfroBeat Drum Circle takes place every Thursday night 7.30pm – 9.30pm at The Palms, 145 Sir Lowry Rd, Woodstock. R 80 to join in and an extra R 20 to hire a drum.