I went with Dugard and Dugard, Jr. to a drum circle at a local beach Sunday evening. I have only been once before, but enjoyed it enough to go again, after about four or five months.
Now, before you jump to conclusions, I am not some new age geezer looking for a spiritual connection through drumming, nor am I a drummer going to practice my craft. I went because it's fun and I needed to hit something.
A drum circle is like a microorganism, only larger and louder. Each one has many parts that function within this organism, its actions creating reactions that result in a movement or activity that causes change to the structure.
Each drum circle seem to have a nerve center, where the rhythm originates. The rhythm changes every ten to fifteen minutes, at the whim of whomever is at the nerve center. Sometimes, it can be one drummer, usually with a big set of drums from which he dictates the tempo. Other times, it can be a group of drummers who are attuned to the same rhythm and work together, perhaps taking turns changing the rhythm.
Some drum circles have more than one nerve center, which fight for control. Sunday was one such night. A tall Asian man with bleached hair and goggle-eyed glasses beat an African-type rhythm his three drums at one end, while a group of Latin drummers challenged his leadership. They shifted back and forth all night.
There are other drummers who dance around the circle as they drum, usually following one of the ladies in the circle, trying to keep the beat.
The dancers are like the circulatory system of our microorganism. Usually the dancing is lead by the ladies in the group, who flow from drummer to drummer, or pair up with a male dancer who actually dances. Most male dancers act as woman repellent, however. They invite women to dance, or horn in on a couple, easing their loins up against some lady's ass as she dances with her friends, causing her to move away. These are disturbing individuals, but they keep the ladies circulating.
People who have drums, but not much rhythm usually line the outskirts of the drum circle. They beat away simple rhythm, but do not distract from the real drummers. These are the folk who also give the drum circle its distinct aroma, usually a blend of pungent smokes that rise to thinly above the circle. They act as a membrane of sorts. Anyone who wants in the drum circle has to push through them.
Often, people with other instruments show up, often joining the membrane group. Last night, there was a guy with an electric guitar, playing something gawd-awful. There was also a saxophone. And one ukulele.
I took my street ukulele (one that is cheap, that I would not miss so much if it got smashed). I played my bodrahn for a short time, then gave that to Dugard, Jr., who had not brought a drum. I whipped out my uke and started shredding away, heard by no one. None of the rhythms was an easy match for the songs a know, so I adapted each to a new beat. Sometimes it may have worked. I don't know for sure, because I couldn't hear a thing that I was playing.
But I played for hours. At the end of the night, my strumming fingers were black.