|Unpacking the drums|
Of all the experiences I might have expected to encounter in Sydney, African Drumming was not high on the list. In fact, it wasn’t even ON the list. However, one rainy night in inner city Balmain I learnt to enjoy the unexpected. There, in the back room of a church hall (far away from the neighbours) a drumming circle (aka class) meets once a week to, well, drum. About 16 assorted aficionados, most with their very own African drums, carried on their backs or slung over their shoulders in special carrying cases, met to celebrate the rhythms of Africa.
|Balmain Drumming Circle convenes|
The drumming comes mostly from West Africa; Zimbabwe and Botswana were also mentioned. The drumming circle was encouraged into the mood by candles, African masks, a little incense, and a very passionate teach named Saul, who teaches circles all over Sydney. Every few months all Saul’s class groups come together to drum in unison, and I’m reliably informed that the sight and sound of hundreds of drummers drumming is an unforgettable experience. I believe it, because even the 15 or 16 in the church hall in Balmain was pretty spectacular.
Saul says (in his brochure) that African Drumming is great for ‘team building’, ‘entertainment and events’, ‘schools and youth’ and - more surprisingly - ‘weddings’:
“Everyone can benefit from the power of drumming and music. Soul Drummer has a unique passion for exploring the many healing benefits of drumming and is committed to sharing that with the wider community, Drumming is a great activity for celebration, releasing stress, having fun and connecting your body, mind and spirit.”
Wikipedia has this interesting background:
“In many parts of Africa the use of music is not limited to entertainment: it serves a purpose to the local community and helps in the conduct of daily routines. Traditional African music supplies appropriate music and dance for work and for religious ceremonies of birth, naming, rites of passage, marriage and funerals. The beats and sounds of the drum are used in communication, as well as cultural expression. To share rhythm is to form a group consciousness, to entrain with one another, to be part of the collective rhythm of life to which all are invited to contribute.
Many sub-Saharan languages do not have a word for rhythm, or even music. Rhythms represent the very fabric of life and embody the people's interdependence in human relationships. Cross-beats can symbolize challenging moments or emotional stress: playing them while fully grounded in the main beats prepares one for maintaining life-purpose while dealing with life’s challenges. The sounding of three beats against two is experienced in everyday life and helps develop "a two-dimensional attitude to rhythm". Throughout western and central Africa child's play includes games that develop a feeling for multiple rhythms.”
Sounds exotic, doesn’t it? But you too can be part of this, if you make your way to Balmain. Perhaps you should give Saul a call....happy drumming!
Images from Sauls' website