One peculiar fact about the Djembe, an African hand drum, is that it was only played by men at a point in time. The African women were bamboozled if a woman was ever seen thumping one. Now, it would be one heck of a sight if these women were brought to the Deer Park in Delhi where a number of Djembe beating ladies and men can be spotted.
Bizarre as it may sound, Delhi got its very own drum circle in 2009 which has briskly become a famous hidey-hole or more so. It has already been four years and the news didn’t quite reach your ears? Well the reaction was similar at my end. Having read Arthur Hulls’ “Drum Circle Spirit”, when the sound of hand drums were heard on a pleasant Sunday evening, I had no choice but to dig deep. It was indeed a Rhythmaculture brought to life.
The man behind it all is Mr. Rakesh Mathur who is a percussionist himself. He met Margot Bigg, an American author in a café one day and she inspired him with the idea. She inquired if Delhi had a drum circle, as the culture was quite famous in the United States. The only thing now left to do was to find a spot and the Deer Park next to Hauz Khas Village was finalised as a safe environment. Hence came live, the Delhi Drum Circle (DDC). Four years long gone and now it’s the chosen weekend hangout for our music aficionados. People from different backgrounds, varied professions and all age groups(yes, a lot of kids too!) come together to this closer-to-nature spot and let themselves loose completely.
The drum culture historically symbolised “Oneness”. Drums were believed to have such a power that they could transcend one to a state out of their consciousness. The rhythm became a language that could be communicated through the drum beats among the tribes. This is more or less the idea behind the Delhi Drum Circle. As Rakesh Mathur puts it, “A group of people from all walks of life get together and indulge in the music, dancing away and erasing boundaries. We’re like a family.” He says that there are no professional musicians in the circle but all normal passionate people with a common interest, who grab their instruments and join in. There is a lot of woman participation and the turn-out is about 40% of the crowd (where are you other girls hiding?). The primary instrument is the Djembe, while the Darbuka, Tablas and all other kinds of hand drums are brought in too. You may also find a lot of guitar strumming and flute melodies.
The whole experience is very cathartic and this is made apparent with the otherworldly dance that the people indulge into. To watch them is a vent in itself. “I was mesmerized by the infectious enthusiasm and musical energy of the Delhi drum circle” said Saakshi, an enthusiastic newcomer in the drum circle family.
Now what should you look forward to at these drum jams? We of course have the drummers, but you need rhythm for that unless you want to embarrass yourselves. We have people dancing and grooving to the beats, but fret not if you’re no Shakira. The circle is all about letting go, coming together as one through music and dancing like no one’s watching (quite literally). And if you’re the shy kinds like me, you could just stand in somewhere at the outer circle and clap to the beat and appreciate the vibe and energy.
Catch up with Delhi Drum Circle on their facebook page.
Photo Credit: Chandan Danny