The Primal Freedom of Banging a Drum

One recent evening, my wife, Susan, and I were out for dinner. As we left the restaurant we noticed a sign that said Drumz. Intrigued, we followed a curving garden path back to a small house. Upon entering, we were delighted by all kinds of percussion instruments on the floor, on shelves and decorating the walls.

We found out that the owner, Sherry Gingras, teaches African drumming, and we signed up for a beginner class without hesitation. Somehow it just seemed the right thing to do.

The class involves two types of drums—the djembe, played with the hands, and the djun dun, played with sticks by more advanced students. There are three basic tones you can play on a djembe, and you are taught various key patterns. The group, which averages about ten, splits up and plays combinations of patterns together. The result is an amazing amount of intricate rhythm going on; but more importantly, you get to feel a part of it.

When you are keeping the beat and playing your part and feeling it through your hands, a transformation takes place. You transcend the everyday world and connect with the visceral flow of the rhythm.

There’s certainly something primal about banging the drum in time with others, but it goes beyond that. Our brains are very fast, yet they can still only manage one discrete thought at a time. If you’re concentrating and hearing your part, that becomes your only thought. In an increasingly complex world, this in itself can be liberating. But there’s even more to it. The name djembe comes from a West African saying which, in translation, means “everyone gather together in peace.” I think that’s what really elevates the experience beyond personal accomplishment. Playing in the drum circle with others is a connection. It’s a celebration. We’ve never left a session without feeling uplifted.

The takeaway? It’s the experience itself. Why overthink it?

I’d like to know what you think.


Want to give drumming a try? Check out drum circles in your area with this link that has information circles in all 50 states.