Savannah Drum Circle

While I was earning my Masters Degree in architecture from Savannah College of Art & Design (SCAD), in Georgia, I lived on Forsyth Park during the 3 years. Forsyth Park was the largest park in the City of Savannah, and I was very lucky to have such a luxurious ‘yard’. I enjoyed walking and biking through it to classes, running around it and practicing martial arts in it for exercise, and wondering at the beauty of the spanish-moss in the live-oak trees, flowers, and green grass every day. Sometimes I would hear the drums calling to me, from across the fields of the Park, and I would find the free and open Forsyth Park Drum Circle. For a few months it was every Sunday at the Park for hours, but it would also happen randomly.

There were usually at least 2 or 3 drummers that would bring djembes and start drumming. Once they started the call to mass, others like myself would seek them out and join them. There was a tall blonde dreadlock guy named ‘Lion’, and some other hippy-type guys. My best friend in the circle was a hippy vegan girl, who kept a dog. I do not remember her name, but she always smiled a lot and lived a free and alternative life. I think many of the drummers were homeless to various degrees. I did not have a large drum, so I played my native american flute from Alabama (Llama Reed).

Sometimes other SCAD students came to play with us, and that is how some of us formed a ‘pan-ethnic music band’ called ‘The Lance Simmons Quintet’. Our college band was formed by a film student who played drums and chanted vocals. We also had a guitarist, a didgeridooer, and another percussionist. Our Quintet played at college events like ‘Battle of the Bands’ and ‘Pool Parties’, besides playing randomly outside in parks or at the beach. We recorded music in a SCAD sound studio, and made the soundtrack for a short film.

After I graduated in 2000, I was not able to find a similar drum circle in my home area, nor in all my travels; until 13 years later in Frederick Maryland. I would not even have found them probably, if not for Facebook and the ability for networking to find out about other locals. If not for Facebook it may have been a few more years before chance-fate allowed me to have a random encounter again outside in the Park. Drum Circle has changed my life.

Now that I am back with a drum circle on a regular basis, I feel a renewed sense of self-expression and common new-age communal values that have been so rare in Commercial American culture. Many of the mutual behaviors in drum circles, I have tried to express in my own life works (such as SCOD). Perhaps my spiritual belief in drum circle is deeply rooted in past tribal lives and my alternative Montesorri schooling; as my need for the ritual of drum circle is similar to the way many others must feel about attending a church or a more ‘professional band’ practice. Yet there is an alternative difference to drum circle that is very lacking in conventional traditions, and for that I am eternally grateful.

Some of the general ethics of drum circle groups include: freedom to join and play, bring your own instrument or respectfully play someone else’s, bring instruments to share if you want, and the desire to bliss out and allow others to do their thing.

Walton Drum

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