1.What effect do drum circles have on people and the space?

Just like the movie ‘The Matrix’; one can (but cannot) be told about the effects of a drum circle you have to experience it. The proof of the pudding is in the eating and we truly believe that in an opinion-driven world where information is so freely available, experiential  learning is the way forward. Drum Circles and rhythm based events help  us achieve this. 

Group drumming helps bring people from all walks of life together regardless of their background, gender, musical ability, status and age. This is the true power of group drumming. 

The best drum circles have holistic physiological, psychological and social benefits. From helping cope with stress to community building, the effects of the drum circle activity is verily understood by being a part of a Taal Inc. drum circle… 

Taal Inc. conducts monthly community drum circle at Pune Handmade Papers (usually) on the 4th Sunday of every month. These sessions are based on the gift economy principle. We take on the cost of setting the event up. All people have to do is come and drum. They contribute anything they feel like and pay it forward for the next session. 

2. How does the drum circle activity help people?

Being a drum circle facilitator or a music therapist is a very inspiring, beautiful and humbling process. It seems far more glamorous that it actually is. It involves years of study and constant practice. In fact to be in this field entails being in the process of therapy oneself. This way one is able to ensure that one is walking the talk at all times. This is to say that working with groups requires one to work with oneself, first. This is a gift and it is a responsibility. I have personally learned something new from each and every one of my drumming workshops or drum circle sessions. This helps me be open to the wonderful mysteries of life at every moment. 

As a participant, drumming with others can help build a strong connection to one’s own inner rhythm and with the participants one is drumming with. This kind of non verbal and non judgemental relating through music gives the participants an opportunity to understand themselves better. In this way one is able to feel more confident, more grounded and rooted to Earth and each other. 

3. Do you produce music? What is the process like?

Since I have a strong music performance background, making music is of great interest to me. I enjoy the process of working with fellow musicians and creating music together. With Taal Inc. Rhythm Ensemble, we play traditional West African folk percussion music. This is very earthy and high energy drumming music. My forte is in coming up with musical ideas and arranging parts. This process of working together with an inspired bunch of people really stimulates my creativity. 

My most recent musical project is called Taal Inc. & Friends. This is a collection of some of my favourite musicians and we play West African folk music orchestrated in a western format. We’ve released 4 singles so far which you can listen to on your favourite music streaming platform and are working on the 5th one as we speak! Watch this space for more… 

4. How receptive are people and especially kids to drumming?

If there is one thing I have learned through more than 20 years of working with people through rhythm and drum circles is that, ‘EVERYBODY CAN DRUM!’ This is the premise with which I enter any of my group drumming events or community drum circles. In fact I am willing to accept a challenge: Give me any group of people and I will make them drum! 

Over the years of working with varied groups, we have formulated programs that are population specific. 

  • Kids In Rhythm: Kids drum circles: A rhythm based activity for kids between the ages 3 and 8 years to teach them life skills, group skills and music! 
  • Art Talks: An arts based intervention for special needs and underprivileged groups that is usually funded by corporates through their CSR funds. 
  • Traditional West African Djembe Classes: Learn djembe, the traditional way. A hobby class where kids 9 years and upwards can learn a new instrument as a hobby and eventually as a profession. 
  • Drum Talks: Training drum circles: Our custom designed Corporate Training Program for behavioural skills
  • Find Your Inner Rhythm: A workshop to explore the therapeutic benefits of rhythm and music. The second part of this is our Drum Circle Facilitator course. This is a Train the Trainer or  Intensive Course which teaches the student how to lead groups using rhythm and become a drum circle facilitator. 

5. You’ve played/ practiced/ taught a lot of famous and prominent people. Having Michele Obama in the drum circle would have been quite a big deal. What was the feeling like?

There are moments in life when you get a very clear message from the universe that helps you continue on the path you are on. This is a reassuring and confidence-boosting moment. The Drum Circle with Michelle Obama was one of those moments; by far one of my best drum circle memories… It came at a time when I needed that push to really propel my career and the name of Taal Inc.  It was an absolute privilege to drum with the elegant (now ex) first lady of the USA. I remember her gentle yet strong presence and unflinching sense of rhythm. Her few words of, ‘Keep up the good work…’ will always be things I keep close to my heart. 
In addition to this I have had the pleasure of drumming for the prime minister of India Shri Narendra Modi when he hosted the prime minister of Japan Mr. Shinzo Abe in Varanasi. Taal Inc. has also drummed with the (then) Chief Minister of Gujarat Smt. Anandiben Patel

Similarly my journey as a percussionist has led me to share the stage with some beautiful souls and artists such as Sivamani, Gino Banks, Louiz Banks, Sanjay Divecha, Vidhvan Vikku Vinayakram, Ustad Taufiq Quereshi, Agnee, Raghu Dixit and many more… All I wish for is to hone my passion to the best of my ability to be able to honour these great virtuosos. 

6. What does the future hold for you and taal inc.?

The future for me is to make a comeback in the music performance arena once again. I am excited about some developments that are around the corner in this regard. 

As for Taal Inc. I am so excited to see more and more people gravitate toward various recreational drumming events, educational drumming workshops, healing drum circles and really take up rhythm and health as a passion. I cannot wait to see the young and motivated team of trained drum circle facilitators spread this mission far and wide. 

The future is a drum in every house to remind people of their connection to group drumming sessions and pledge towards being healthy and therefore truly happy
Come. Drum. Be One. 
Varun Venkit