I grew up in the 50s & 60s thinking "drums" meant a “5 piece Ludwig set," (Buddy Rich, Gene Krupa, Ringo Starr, Charlie Watts, etc.). Then, in college, I happened to take a course in African History and was exposed to Burundi music. Wow! One day I decided to take the plunge and spent my textbook money on a small cheap conga. I sounded terrible! My dorm mates threatened to burn it if I played it when they were present. I couldn't blame them.
Determined to find my African Groove, I went out and purchased a Nonesuch LP on Burundi music. Great record! I played "Warriors of the Drum" about one million times until I "felt it". One day I happened to meet some Latin drummers on the beach after dark and discovered what drumming in a group is all about. Everyone helps each other out by leading others and helping you to discover where you fit in. All this was done with forgiving temperance and fun.
Other times we would go "full tilt" (my favorite part) and not stop till it all fell apart in laughter and exhaustion. Together we all learned all sorts of things. Not just how to drum, but how to give and take with respect for each other; a good "life lesson".
Today, drumming holds a central place in my life. Drumming is my axis. At 60 years old, my hands never stop tapping or banging on whatever I'm near. It serves as a release of tension and acts as a cadence for the creative flow in my art (sculpture). I tend to be drawn to heartbeat rhythms and deep ultra-bass.
Unfortunately I cannot afford "big" drums so I make do with my latest djembe. Someday I will get a REAL Burundi Amashako Drum covered in ox skin. One can dream! I think drum circles help people find the flow of life in the fellowship of others. We need to start somewhere learning to trust one another, even if it's only drumming.
I presently play a small 7"hand carved, goat skin djembe purchased from an African street vendor. It's just enough to keep my hands and soul content. I also play around with a tunable tom tom I found in a thrift shop, similar to a rototom.
I have in the past made by hand quite a wide variety of percussion instruments. Nothing very elaborate, some rattles, an afuche', cymbals and some bastardized guitars that I played with timbale sticks or mallets in the style of Fred Frith. I do wish everyone can at some time in their lives have a chance to join in a drum circle and experience the joy of rhythm with other souls.
You have such a great perspective on drumming, Joe Crow! Thank you for sharing your story with us! Drummers, tell us why YOU love drumming and drum circles! We'd love to share your story, too!