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Drum Circles South

November 7, 2013; Renee A. Kathleen (kathmoonarts@yahoo.com)

I have been drumming in one form or another, since I was a child. I became quite serious about it, though, at age 14. I was working with a practice snare, when I saw the movie Tommy and first discovered The Who drummer Keith Moon. The connection was immediate and intense, the madness all- consuming.
Live at Leeds was the album of choice, on a beat up junior kit with a trash can lid as a cymbal. That every day practice ritual was more then my salvation. I truly believed I would one day, actually meet Keith Moon. Together we would drum along on our stroll into a sunset that could never be brighter or ever-ending. While I did see Keith, at a Who concert in 1976, he would overdose, two years later, on a drug used to treat alcoholism. I was devastated, as were so many other fans of his unique brilliance. The impact he had on generations of drummers was far-reaching.


A deeper study over the years, of his unique approach to the drums, would reveal a more complex originality. His technique far surpassed the hi-jinx of his brief, mercurial and maniacal life. Quadrophenia, particularly the track ‘The Rock’, has an orchestral, melodic, nearly heart-wrenching passion that is unmistakably all Moonie. I would continue to drum through the years, believing that Keith would have approved.


My first, legitimate drum kit, after months of saving at a minimum wage job, was a moment I can still recall. The details are more vivid and meaningful, then the day I got married. While my marriage was brief, my love of all things drumming would last a lifetime. That drum kit would see me through several auditions, countess moves, several bands, broken relationships, car-less-ness, and depression. I hocked it to help a friend, and in another life tragedy of homelessness, lost it to a pawnbroker.


After the suicidal death of my father, I wandered into the drum circle community. The energy caught my attention, and the call to drum was too loud to ignore. I bought my first d’jembe at, an African hand drum, at Sam Ash on October 31, 2006. Around this time, I’d picked up a book by Grateful Dead drummer Mickey Hart, entitled ‘Drumming on the Edge of Magic.’ A compelling read, that initially documented Hart’s quest to discover the origin of a gifted drum, a Dameru — A shaman’s drum, often made from a skull and of considerable power. Hart takes the reader on an incredible journey of the history of the drum. In its ancient form, across the globe, it was an instrument of communication, power, and healing. From the slit gongs lining watersides in Africa, to the Sumerian temple drums played only by women of spiritual standing, the drum connects us, at the heart source, regardless of race, religion or gender.


There are many drum circles in the Tampa Bay area. Some are in beautifully, serene yoga centers and places of sacred healing. Some are along the water, on the beach, in the woods, and some are in bars. Some are facilitated, while others are free-form. My first experience at a facilitated drum circle was lead by a man of vast knowledge. He was a terrific drummer and a patient, excellent guide. There were times when the energy was so intense, and the rhythms so layered, drummer-to-drummer, the trance-state was incredible and with off-the-planet elevation. Bliss and healing occurred simultaneously, and it was a mutual shared phenomenon within the circle.


Hart referred to this state of being as “Entraining” and the documentation of raised beta states and the correlation to healing is extensive. Reading that what myself and others were experiencing was a documented occurrence was all the more empowering. It has always been my personal belief that music and drumming are a life force and a salvation for many. There are myriad problems people battle in life, from alcoholism to mental illness, divorce, loneliness and loss. I have heard many stories and, witnessed some incredible transformations within the community over the years. All of them at the heart of the drum circle. The therapeutic benefits are undeniable. But, of all the accounts I have heard, of people in transition and crisis, or striving to overcome tragedy and find a healing place in music, one case stand out, above so many. Hal Wolfe.
The first thing you noticed about Hal was his smile! He was such a force of bright energy and genuine light. He’d been a surfer in his youth, and still carried the tanned face and lithe body of an athlete. He was a Marine, and a world travelled engineer, when a semi ran over him, while on base in Tampa Bay. The accident left him completely paralyzed, with the proclamation he would never walk again. Seven months in suspended traction and personal tragedy could not break this mans spirit. Initially, on 60 different medications, Hal found the strength to walk again, and swam 6 miles a day, to drop those medications down to a mere 2. It was the drumming, he claimed, that brought him to his feet, and to find his strength and his Faith again. Something he generously shared with so many fortunate enough to have known him.


He was affectionately known as ‘Doc’ in the community, because he was the go-to guy, when African drums needed new skins, or tuning. While it was sometimes painful to watch him walk, you felt no sympathy for Doc, only love. A misdiagnosis from years previously would suddenly end his life, while he was finishing a project to build a woman’s shelter in 2012, but the lives he touched and the drum- joy he spread, lives on. There are flaws in the community now. Facilitators with no real experience, only ego, taking money and using the platform for their personal gain- favoring some, while shunning others. Certain circles have lost their purity, and forgot that is about the heartbeat and the drum. I have since bought a drum kit, and returned to refuge and joy of my youth-my drum kit.


One thing remains constant: Male or female, race aside, we all share a heartbeat, hear a rhythm and walk to the sound of our own drumbeat. Unity is achieved when we let the drums talk and we actually LISTEN to what they say and where they can take us. We truly can be one-When we Drum.
 
www.kathmoonarts.com  


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