Connecting through drumming
Creemore’s Barb Halsall was first exposed to the djembe drum years ago when she attended a drumming circle at a music festival. She was amazed at how deeply it resonated with her, and became an instant fan. The instrument, pronounced jem-bay is a mainstay of West African culture. The goblet shaped drum is typically carved from a single piece of African hardwood with an animal hide stretched over the top and is played with the bare hands. The name djembe is thought to originate from words meaning unity and harmony.
Halsall had sung in choirs most of her life so when the pandemic forced a halt to choir meetings, she found herself looking for a creative outlet. Last July she heard about an informal Thursday night drum circle at Mad River Park and couldn’t wait to join in.
Djembe drumming requires no particular musical talent, just a willingness to have fun. There were more people interested in joining, but not everyone had a drum. Organizers put the word out on social media to measure interest and then made arrangements with an Owen Sound music store to offer drum rentals. Lesley Joosten, a member of the Georgian Bay Music Teachers Association who hosts a drum circle at the Wasaga Beach Library was tapped to lead a workshop in Creemore and in September, the first four-week workshop was held at Station on the Green.
All 11 participants from the first workshop plus some newcomers signed up for the next session, starting in mid October and if there is sufficient interest, a third session will begin Nov. 17, Wednesday afternoons from 1:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. Participants practise social distancing and wear masks in the drum circle. Halsall says it’s a safe way to connect and have fun.
Sessions are led by Joosten. Sometimes everyone plays the same rhythm; sometimes people are encouraged to improvise; occasionally Joosten accompanies on the flute or throws in other percussion instruments. The effect is not unlike the layering of voices in a choir.
The cost of the four week workshop is $25, plus drum rentals starting at $10 per month. To sign up for the third session contact firstname.lastname@example.org before Nov.3.