Different Drummers Drum Circle of Santa Fe

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I have always been fascinated by the fact that people are drawn to group drumming for so many different reasons. Members of our drum circle community were recently asked what they enjoyed about group drumming. Here are their answers:

Why do I drum? Because I'm called to. When I drum, I feel a deep connection with something beyond myself. I connect to others through the rhythm, and what we create is something greater than ourselves -divine. It is tangible evidence to me that there is something greater out there, unknown, powerful and able to inspire amazing things. Bottom line is I drum for connection - on both the physical and spiritual planes...
I would say the primary reason I enjoy drumming circles (sometimes without realizing it) is the connection I feel with the group as we all join together to create one piece of music.
With a group of drummers that can keep a rhythm going for 15 minutes or more (and this group can do it so well), I can so get into a trance/semi-hypnotic state with repetition of the same body movement and the drumming sounds that penetrate my being. This is my primary joy in drumming-this spiritual connection. Different drummers is so fun; being with a group of people that enjoy making music together in dynamics that are always changing and open-and you are such an enthusiastic coordinator! So, secondary are all the reasons you state-to create music, relax, have fun, connection, and emotional well being.
I do find it very relaxing and love listening to the percussion in music. A drumming circle often reminds me of a universal prayer session.
I love the group drumming because it raises positive energy and puts it out there. Yup, that's a spiritual thing, for sure. Maybe the best kind.
Community. :Drumming creates an amazing non-verbal vehicle for group communication, interaction and collaboration. It’s about as intimate as one can be with a group and still have clothes on.

Release: Stress, anger, frustration – it all seems to disappear during the act of drumming.

Magic: Those moments that happen, that can’t be planned, when there is the sound of singing that is not being made by any one person….the spirit is in the room.

Friendship: Drummers are wonderful people who I love hanging with.

Music: Playing music is like breathing, I must have it or die. A drum circle is like breathing pure O2.

Fun: There are moments when all one can do is laugh. I like that.

Low Calorie: It’s difficult to eat ice cream when I’m drumming. And I certainly don’t need to eat ice cream.

Newsletter: Rick writes a clever newsletter that makes me chuckle.
Why do I enjoy drumming? The drum is like my heart beat, like my breath, like the wind and thunder and rain. I feel a connection to myself and to others. Magic happens. I smile as I enjoy the rhythms, the challenge of learning, connecting and creating and being in tune. I sense a healing element and a love that reaches into me and out into the greater universe. And sometimes it’s just wicked fun!
I drum because I can! For me, drumming is an expression of who I am. When I drum, no one tells me to be quiet, to be ladylike, or be anything other than what I am.

I've always admired women who were "out there" with their personality and identity. Believe it or not, I used to be shy in public! I was brought up in a culture where women are basically second class citizens who should "know their place." Children seen and not heard. It took years away from that environment to find my voice, but I still felt something was missing. I was still afraid to be fearless.

Once, about 10 years ago, I saw a woman at some event, drumming with all her heart. She looked to be about 60 years old and her long gray hair swung with the beat. I'd never seen anything like it.

I can't remember the occasion, but I do remember being in awe of her seemingly uninhibited joy at playing that simple instrument. And she was GOOD!

I knew nothing about drumming at the time, and had never wanted to play one before that moment. But, suddenly, I realized I wanted to be just like her. She epitomized the kind of woman I wanted to be; a free spirit, smiling and radiating peace and joy at the same time; at one with her inner rhythm that connected her to the Universe. A conduit of the Mystery.

For me, drumming is spiritual.

I felt that beat within me so strongly that I started to move, to sway, jump and dance . . . in public! I looked around and couldn't believe people were standing still. How could they not move?

It was exhilarating! It was mesmerizing! It was like sky diving into rhythmic sound waves!

It was so primal it touched my core in such a way that I was taken back in thought to centuries of old; where drumming was an integral part of almost every culture, their primary source of music, ritual and long distance communication. For me, drumming connects with history.

That experience was so compelling for me, I think I bought my first drum within a week. A djembe.

Now, I have three djembes, several other drums and many smaller percussive instruments.

Drumming is full of endorphins; relaxing and invigorating at the same time. It is literally my soul food. I can definitely get into a zone when I'm drumming with other people.

For me, drumming is a form of zen meditation.

I love doing drum circles because:

1. It was the first place I learned to drum; experimenting and watching, gaining confidence in a safe and friendly environment.
2. I can experiment while the beat is held down by others, and not have too many people actually hear my mistakes!
3. It gives me an excuse to have fun, and to exercise my drum - she is such a drama queen - loves to be slapped.
4. I get better at drumming the more I do it. But when my arms or hands tire, I get up and dance (like no one is watching).
5. And best of all, I meet other kindred spirits!

Although I never saw that gray haired woman again. Perhaps she was a figment of my imagination (no wonder no one else was moving!) or maybe she has moved on to that Great Drum Circle in the Sky, or maybe Tibet. I don't know.

I do know that when we drum we are all examples of what it's like to wear your personality on your sleeve. "Joy personified", I like to call it. Blossoming like a hothouse flower in the rhythm. Shamelessly, fearlessly, calling out our names in the beat. Connecting to each other - and all that is - through movement and sound and the light in our eyes.

I don't consciously think about whether I'm inspiring someone else to be more "out there" when I drum or dance at drum circles. That's the beauty of it. I do it without being self-conscious at all . . . because I have to; because I want to; because I can.
I'd have to say the main reasons for me are the completely fascinating potential of making music spontaneously in a community of like-minded souls--maybe that fits under creative music making and social/community connection. When it all comes together, when we are all "in the groove", as Arthur Hull says, it's an emotional high and a spiritual lift, a blending of minds and hearts.
I do it for spiritual reasons, and connecting with community.
For me I drum as an outlet from work. I can get my frustrations out. I joined our tambourine group for the spirituality and I get some of that with Djembe drumming also.
I was originally drawn to drumming because of the sounds that come from drumming, the resonant reverberation that stays in the air, and also the way it felt in my body. I come to drumming as therapy, because of the way it feels in my body; when I drum, or simply when I close my eyes and allow the drumming of others to wash over me. It's a vibrational massage that aligns and tunes me. In the work I do, witnessing the stories and pain and growth of others; I feel it's important not to get too caught up in that, not to have it stick or stay with me, and the drumming does this for me, it's a beautiful release. I had "two left hands" so to speak and stuck to the heartbeat drumming at first, but I am slowly learning to stretch and feel the beat deeper and answer back with more creativity. I also love the creativity of the group, and the community, and I use it to mark things like the quarter and cross-quarter days.
I drum because it gets me in touch with my heart, and something so deep I haven't even fully touched it yet. I keep on drumming to reach that place. Who knows what will happen when I get there, if I ever do.

And, on a more physical level - I release energy through drumming. I continually find myself getting physically stronger. My eye-hand-mind coordination is at a place it has never been before. I listen to music in ways I never thought possible (as in I begin to understand how some of it fits together).

I love how drumming has brought me in touch with other great people, like you!

Finally, I just plain love drumming. I have always drummed (with my fingers, mind, etc) since I've been a child, and so in many ways feel like I was a "born drummer" ...and I hazard to guess that many in our group and all drumming circles feel the same way!
Drumming connects me to my primal roots, physically, emotionally, spiritually. Every circle, I relive the primal connection that millions have done before me, sitting around a fire celebrating life, love and connecting to spirit. It's all one energy with no ending and no beginning. Whenever we put hand to drum we connect once again with that all encompassing ancient beat which never dies.
... The drum drew me to it. I continued because of the joy of making music with other people who enjoyed doing the same. Drumming is expressive and personal and physical. It is instinctive on some basic human level to drum - look at toddlers who bang kitchen pots and pans together. So drumming fulfills a need on many levels, and it depends which need is biggest on any given night - making music, being with kindred souls, or just hitting something.
...primarily because of the social interaction...experiencing a spontaneous creation process by a group of people is fascinating to me.
I drum because Drumming in a group is a real primal human experince. People from a tribe or community getting together around a fire or in a circle, can be both bonding and give a sense of inclusion.

I am drawn to the many positive aspects of drumming. It can be a celebration of movement and dance or of meditation and contemplation. I love that it is interactive in the true sense of the word, where in each person can join in on a beat or find the gap in between that they can add their bit to and compliment what the others are doing. It involves listening as much as playing to follow and lead the progression of the beat. Listening for the rise and fall of speed and volume. Till it comes to some conclusion, either from exhaustion or an ending that feels right. It is very therapeutic and I love it is open to anyone of any age or social status to do.
I drum because it feels so good and is so much fun. I love the feel of rhythm and I love to dance, and for me it's more about my hands dancing with the drum, and amazing rhythms happening from who knows where, than it is about learning or following a certain sequence of tone, slap, bass, which incidentally I find really difficult to do. When I drum alone I feel powerful, happy, free, creative, alive - my stresses, thoughts and pressures seem to ease for a time, like when I meditate, cook, garden, or create art. It's getting lost in something else, something spiritual, yes, I'd say. When I drum with others I feel connected, tribal, part of something that is whole and healthy and peaceful, I feel jazzed and loved and supported by the efforts and energy of the people and the drums. I love the sound and the feel of the drum beats/air waves coursing through me and the harmony of beautiful sounds when mixed with other instruments or human voice. I love knowing people in so many cultures over time have found ways to drum, how humanly universal it is and that drummers now carry drumming into communities for everyone to participate in and enjoy. I love my drum: the feel of the wood, wondering about the animal who lived in this skin, and the human craft that have come together to create such a beautiful piece of art. Drumming is movement. Drumming transforms, it's like fire you can't see and water you can't touch.
- it provides a feeling of connection with my ancestral roots and my true nature
- it is a form of meditation and stimulation at the same time
- it is a wonderful way to meet other people having similiar spirit
I come for the social piece and to have a feeling of being able to create music, as I do not know how to play any other instrument.
Rhythm, getting in the groove, improvisational creation, listening within and to the whole, good inner vibes, good outer vibes, occasionally will get some clarity/lesson riding on the music, feels good, good people, diversity of people joining together, less talk--more communicating thru being there in the process of making the music and the community...
For me its a combination of emotional, spiritual, physical. When I first heard Inanna, those drums were like a calling, to come closer and join with others in the community/family/village; and, by gathering together, all would be well. I, also, like the way the drums feel, the visceral experience of all those heartbeats.
I enjoy the social / community connection.

I find it relaxing - in some of the more "captivating" rhythms, I find myself slipping into (what I can only describe as) a meditative state. In these instances, my hands seem to move by themselves - It's as though I just sit back, relax & let me hands move. - This is what I'd describe as the spiritual aspect of drumming.

I like the creative aspect of drumming too - drumming gives me a medium I can express what's going on in my life.
I drum to soothe my soul.
I come to the circle to become one with the circle. To lend my voice to the collective voice and have it transformed from the simple sound of one to the complex sound of the many. It is spiritual for me as I am a student of Thich Nhat Hanh and a believer in the quality of all beings that he calls “interbeing”, or the interdependence and interconnectivity of all beings throughout space and time. The drum circle makes me keenly aware of this connection in a visceral way – one rhythm connects to another and another and another until there is something else created. Without the one voice, the next would not be the same. Without other voice, my voice would be different and what that voice proclaims would also not be the same. I am connected to my ancestors and my descendants by music that is both primal and advanced. Those before me made music, those that follow will make music. My father used to drum on drums and on table tops and on the dashboard of the car and though we never drummed together, when I come to circle I am connected to all drummers. We all share the fact that we have a heartbeat. And the Different Drummers Drum Circle has an especially wonderful quality of non-judgment that allows all voices to be what they are without criticism or fear. Those who are new remind me of my beginners mind, those that are masters show me possible paths to follow.

I also come because it makes me a better musician. When I play my harp in the circle, the supporting rhythms encourage me to explore within a structure and framework. My capacity for improvisation has grown tenfold in just a few, short months. The beat has moved from my fingers and hands to my heart, and though I practice playing my harp less, when I do play it sounds much better. And I am learning to drum.

I come to drum because it teaches me humility and courage at the same time. For years, I have been a soloist. Now I am one voice among many. We take turns and I am reminded to be patient and let others lead. At those times when I start, I summon the courage to play in the presence of other master musicians (the ones who had previously frightened me more than a tax audit) and to take risks with my playing.

Drumming makes me happy, even when I am moved to tears. I get a good workout, especially when I get up and dance. The long drive home is not very long because my mind is awake in a wonderful way. And as time passes, I am beginning to make amazing new friends.
I have to say it just makes me feel good. The first time I tried drumming was after a yoga class at Jai Yoga in Brunswick where Chris Geiger was giving lessons. I had some extra time before I picked up my son from work so decided to give it a try. One of the greatest decisions of my life I must say...... I was so amazed at how fun and easy it was and I truly felt so at home with drumming... like I had done it before.....HHHMMMMMMMM. I believe now that this was just what I needed since I believe drumming helps to balance your Chakra system and removes blockages just by the vibration it creates. Sometimes we are drawn to what is healthy and down right good for us.
What attracts me to drumming...the primal beat. I am clearly a novice with a deep draw of wishing I could REALLY beat a drum. Instead, I have discovered that I am more about keeping the beat than breaking out in whatever. The theory of entrainment suggests to me there is a healing aspect to this drumming. THAT is why I drum. I think it promotes health at a cellular level. (I also experienced this last January) so I am hooked. I think I am connected to God by this beat. (heart beat) (I have used a V-ery simple beat to begin prayer when leading worship) There are my thoughts on WHY I drum.
I am speaking as a real senior (citizen) and even though I don’t drum often, I really do love it. I find that when I start drumming ..age just slips away and I am in my own little relaxed world with a room full of others whose age I am not aware of either....It is like we are "ALL ONE" doing something we love, caught up in the rhythm of the beat...making it for me somewhat of a spiritual experience.. Enjoy every moment of drumming..It gets in your blood.
(Written by an 85 year old DDDC member)
Yes, there is most definitely a spiritual element for me. I love the tribal sense of belonging and communicating amongst us. The shared experience.

I also find the people are all an interesting group, an eclectic potpourri of very earthy and diverse type, all with a commonality. I feel most at home with my tribal mates.

I also very much like and need the rhythmic movements that drumming allows...the body moving in the making of the drum music, but also moving to and with the drum music. Drumming is the first form of "music" from way back in the caveman days or on the African Plain.
I guess I'm one of the people that comes to make music, but making music also means having fun and relaxing and feeling good emotionally and...I think it's all one long piece of string. The word spiritual doesn't have a great deal of meaning to me, although maybe others would describe the things that attract me that way. One of the aspects of the experience that I find most amazing is how I start off with my own little ego intact, only to find it absorbed into a larger musical mind, like a drop of water rolling into a pool. The whole is definitely larger (or other) than the sum of the parts.
#1 I drum because you made a place for me to do it without judgment or fear!! (A HUGE THANK YOU)

#2 I drum because, like dancing, it’s so damn much fun (you can delete the expletive).

#3 I drum because good fun and being in a place of no judgment is spiritual. Aren’t the Gods/Godesses the most playful Holy Fools in the universe? (And aren’t we made of the same stuff?) Isn’t creativity, after all, divine inspiration?

#4 I drum because it’s the only place so many holy fools gather together in one place at least 3 times a month, month after month.

#5 I drum because being a holy fool, among other holy fools, makes me remember who I am (and forget who I am). (A Different Drummers Zen Koan)
Drumming touches my creative spirit like other musics haven't and has allowed me to retouch those other musics with new creative spirit.
I think its "in" me to drum.. my mom was a drummer... the music is in me and drums speak to my soul... growing up we were told to be quiet, as my father didn't like noise, so as an adult being able to bang on a drum as hard as I want has a lot of value. Its not chaotic noise, its rhythmic and its energy, its on a simple basic level, sort of primal but true and within us, and it vibrates thru your body. To me its like something running in me all of the time, like my heartbeat, that I don't always notice, but its there, constant, rhythmic.. and drumming connects with that simple basic life sustaining heartbeat. I do not see myself going for the social piece, to meet people or to chat, I do that all the time everywhere else. I enjoy people, but that is not my reason. There is an element of playing with others that is amazing and how we can feed off of each others energy and follow a vibe where things may get faster and louder or just fade softly. I do it because its in me and needs to come out, I do it because it connects my heartbeat and my energy with the energy of the universe, (similar to chanting "Omm") it connects me to others, we can work collectively to make amazing sounds, I feel refreshed at the close of a session.
It's definitely a spiritual thing for me. I find it very meditative, calming, safe, cleansing, not to mention a hell of a lot of fun!
I drum because it is for me a release of a primal emotion that bonds the body to the soul in a way that could be felt & heard
Why do I like to drum? It's great to be part of a group, of course. But even better to be part of a group that lets you be yourself, as well as part of a really varied group who feel free to throw themselves into a group effort with no strings attached!
Channeling the cosmos - truly becoming a conduit for something larger than myself. Group mind? I certainly feel a group energy field. Things occur in a group that cannot happen alone - there is a unified force of "just for the heck of it" that I don't find anywhere else. Adults "Playing" Just For Fun. Not for a paycheck, not for a goal such as personal growth. Yes, it is a byproduct. Growth happens. People take chances. They grow. I grow. I find it healing. I find that in a drum circle run by people of good hearts and open souls, there is a spirit of community and acceptance and discovery and creativity arises for the occasion that I find nowhere else. Leaders like yourself are precious. I don't take you for granted. You are a gift.
I like to drum because it makes me feel good, it's relaxing and fun. Being with really neat people and playing music for the fun of it. It is also a kind of meditation on my part when the beat goes on for a while. It's a way to connect with people... the energy is great.
For me, drumming with the group gives me the same feeling that transcendental meditation does.... ( or did, when I practiced it regularly) With the hypnotic emanations coming from a cocoon of sound - throbbing, insistent, penetrating, the brain waves are altered, and a feeling of lightness and and peace, and oneness with "it" takes over and transports me to a sublime evenness and calmness that last far beyond the last beat played.
Whatever my original reason for attending a drum circle may have been, the reason I continued was for the extraordinary sense of connection I felt. It's a very rare night when that electric sense of group connection, all of us united by rhythm and by our shared intention, doesn't happen.

The music is important, but that music doesn't exist separate and apart from the joy of creating that music together. It isn't a form of performance so much as a form of communion.

Some night, early on, I began to experience this connection as a spiritual phenomenon, and that spiritual dimension and the joy has only deepened with time. Most nights it is all lightness and play; on some special occasions I have been moved to the edge of the known and felt the presence of a wider reality.

See, I even write about the why of drum circles for one paragraph and I go off all mystical about it. It can't be helped.I do feel a great sense of relaxation on a good drumming night, right alongside a sense of exhilaration deep peace, connection with the other drummers, joy in my heart and a throbbing in my hands.(That last one is probably arthritis and may not count) For so long as I can manage to lift my arms, I will seek out drum circles, drawn by the spirit and connection called forth by the sound of the drum.
Why do I drum? There are many reasons why I drum: 1) It is probably the easiest way to have a meaningful musical experience without extensive training or practice.
2) Of all the musical instruments, drums are able to contact the primal part of human nature more directly and immediately.
3) Drumming can match a wide dynamic range of human emotions, from delicate to nearly-brutal, so whatever you are feeling, you can express it through drumming.
4) It's just a heck of a lot of fun!

What attracts me to group drumming?

Gathering circles and drums are a natural combination. When in a circle, drummers are able to do many things that might not be possible when playing alone. Group entrainment is amazingly powerful as a stimulant or sedative, depending on the intention. An enormous amount of non-verbal communication can take place that allows for levels of individual expression, multi-way dialog and communal expression, sometimes all simultaneously. Group drumming is a wonderful stepping stone towards building community because it joins people in a safe and supportive way, thus paving the way for further social connections.

Is there a spiritual element for me?

Definitely. Not every drum circle is necessarily spiritual in nature, but when the group's intentions are aligned and the vibe is right, then the opportunity for a spiritual experience opens up. Group drumming can bring altered states of consciousness, expanded awareness, out-of-body sensations, visions and all the other effects that are commonly recognized in Shamanic healing practices. Group drumming can be a form of shared meditation that can be very centering and grounding or it can be a means of exploring beyond our perceptions of what is "normal".
It's hard to put into words what attracts me to group drumming--getting lost in the sounds and the feelings is what comes to mind most easily however. Like other kinds of right brain creative experiences that I enjoy, drumming brings a flow and a joy to me and I like the wonderful diversity of people who broadly share this experience.


This project was initiated per request of the First Universalist Church of Yarmouth, Maine's Religious Exploration program. Teens from their 'Coming Of Age' group joined us on Sunday, 1/6/08 as part of their study of different ways that people experience, celebrate or express 'Spirituality'. My thanks to my friends and members of Different Drummers Drum Circle who generously shared their thoughts.