I’ve already gotten in touch with my musical side as a hipster in Singapore and Vietnam, so to switch things up in the Northwest Territories, I decided to loose the “-ster” and replace it with a “-pie”, some circular drums and friends standing in more circles. Yup, I went to a drum circle – it was awesome.
Although I’d played the drums in middle school band class (yeah, I was a cool kid), I was kind of nervous because I had no idea what to expect with the addition of this whole “circle” thing to drumming. All my friend had told me was that there’d be singing in addition to the drumming and that I fail out of songs on easy when I attempt vocals on guitar hero.
Lucky for me, this “circle” thing was centred on inclusivity and making everyone feels welcome (the session was taking place at a friendship centre after all, so I should have expected as much). In the local native Dene culture, drums have always been an important aspect of healing and finding internal balance (when they’re not being used to distract opposing teams during the über-competitive Dene Hand Games).
With that, they’re a big part of the local culture and to respect tradition, we started the session by burning some sage and letting the smell absorb into our bodies and drums.
Then, the rhythm for the first song, the Eagle was explained: beat, rest, beat, rest – something I knew I could do! The lyrics had also been provided on a print out, but although they were supposed to tell the story of an eagle journeying through a storm, they weren’t actually written in any type of language and looking at them proved to be a mess of “ah”s, “ha”s, “hi”s, “ho”s, “ye”s and “lo”s. Basically, they just seemed like a dyslexic jumble on the page, about as far as you could get from rhythmic lyrics. Before I had even finished struggling to read the first verse, the first drumbeat had sounded and we were into the song.
I drummed in silence the first couple of bars, desperately trying to find my place on the page while continuing to drum in rhythm. Try as I might, I could not make sense of all the crazy non-words and eventually conceded and just focused on the drumming.
Then at a magical moment partway through the song, the “lyrics” developed a natural order! I stopped overthinking and just … sang along. To my surprise, I “happen” to be singing the same thing as everyone else – it was a hippie miracle!
At the song’s end, we all sat down and talked about what we felt from the song. I explained my experience with stopping myself from over-complicating the task and how letting go made it so much easier. The circle leader beamed at my response and I felt as though I passed some type of subtle hippie-test.
I applied this “chill out and just sing” thing to the rest of the songs and made it through no problem – I wasn’t even (atrociously) off-key most of the time! By the end of the session, I was charged with hippie-life-lesson-learning energy and re-sparked with a drumming love.
PS. I feel like it sounds as if I’m using “sage” as a euphemism for some type of hard-core drug, but it was actually just sage, okay!?