We at Taal Inc. have had the good fortune of being able to work in the space of rhythm based activities or Drum Circles since 2006. Since the start I remember having to focus on awareness building and explaining what this activity is to people around me, friends, family and potential clients. It was fun since I could talk about Taal Inc. Drum Circles till the cows came home… And I still can. We’ve all heard the words Drum Circle, Team Building Activity, Drumming Workshops, Group Drumming Sessions, Drumming Jams being used very interchangeably. My hope is that this blog will help clarify what’s what…

Drum Circles
I started off my last blog explaining what a drum circle is. It is a situation where people from different heritages and backgrounds come together and play drums or percussion instruments together. Depending on the kind of audience gathering to drum, there could be a jam where there is no leader as such or it could have a person keeping this music-making activity together, coherent and relevant. This role is that of a drum circle facilitator. Some drum circles have no goal apart from fun and recreation. Some sessions can have deeper goals or objectives such as team bonding, leadership training, motivation and inspiration, stress reduction, team building, understanding group cohesion, building attention span and concentration levels, healing, impulse control, catharsis, community building and so on… For these sessions it’s imperative that there be drums or percussion instruments of various kinds. In addition to this there needs to be a seating format that is a circle, a closed shape (Depending on the space available) or concentric circles. On fulfilling these two simple yet major criteria, the activity then takes on the name, ‘Drum Circle’. Drumming in this format has the highest effect since it is such a powerful format to sit in. There is no hierarchy, it facilitates equality, enables maximum interaction and creates the highest impact.

Group Drumming Sessions
In this case, as the name suggests, there is a group and there are drums (or percussion instruments). Notice how there isn’t a specification of the format of a circle that needs to be adhered to. So this means that the shape can vary. Many a time, in corporate events the seating style is either theater style (where chairs are laid out in rows, one behind the other. This kind of seating usually doesn’t have tables), or cluster style (where round tables are spread across the hall and each table has anything between 6-10 tables each) or amphitheater style seating (which is similar to theater style but for the sake of better visibility, the rows at the back are at a higher level than the ones in the front). Drumming in such formats is a lot of fun but it puts a lot more pressure and places a lot more importance on the facilitator(s) leading the session. This person is usually on a stage. This is needed to ensure visibility and adds to that extra distance between facilitator and audience. These kinds of sessions can most easily accommodate larger audiences than circles. Most indoor banquet halls are equipped well in this direction. It is best to start such an event with the group drumming followed by the welcome address etc. Instruments are placed on the seats or to make for a pleasant surprise, drums are placed under the seats or tables. These sessions are also called Drumming Jams, Interactive Drumming Sessions, Interactive Group drumming Activities or my favourite – Group Drumming Sessions.

Drumming Workshops
A drum workshop or a Drumming Workshops is usually a session where the participant learns how to play a percussion instrument or depending on the inclusion criterion, further their skill on a percussion instrument. These workshops for drumming can be short 2-hour sessions or residential weekend workshops where the participants dive deep and study particular techniques associated with the instrument. The topics of study are usually clearly stated and the students know exactly what they will take away from the session. Many intermediate to advanced level drummers develop their skill further through intensive Drumming Workshops or masterclasses (another commonly used work for intensive one-on-one or group sessions with a master teacher). This is a skill-building session where the skill in question is the drum or a particular percussion instrument which is being advertised through the workshop. For example Taal Inc. conducts many traditional West African djembe workshops in Pune, Mumbai, Goa, Delhi and Bangalore.

I hope this has helped clarify and build more awareness with respect to what a drum circle is, what an interactive group drumming session is and lastly, what a drumming workshop is…

Come. Drum. Be One.
Varun Venkit
Taal Inc.