In this blog you will understand key points about what a drum circle or a group drumming activity actually is and most importantly, what it is not… It is very encouraging and heartwarming to see group drumming happening so much more  often now than in 2005 which is when I started my journey with Taal Inc. drum circles. Now, you see drum circle, drum circles in Mumbai, drum circles in Bangalore, drum circles in Hyderabad, drum circles in Goa, drum circles in Noida, drum circles in Ahmedabad, drum circles in Kolkata, drum circles in Lonavala, drum circles in Mahabaleshwar and pretty much in every major city of the country.  

One gets to witness group drumming in various formats, in circles, concentric circles, theatre style seating, cluster style seating, semi circles, concentric semi circles and even various amoeba-shaped closed formats. 

Now, at the core of the activity, it would usually be a group of people just drumming together, jamming together with no leader. Everyone would be present, keenly listening and hence know when to play, when not to play, when to speak (with one’s drum) loudly and when to speak softly etc… Needless to say, this is a rare occurrence. It requires a mature group of musically aware and talented participants. I have had the good fortune of having participated in a few of these drum circles. It has been a truly magical and life-changing experience. The closest I have come to having a spiritual experience. 

On the other hand I have seen a lot of sessions where the emphasis is more on the ‘performance’ of the so-called ‘facilitator’ who may or may not be accompanied by their team of co-facilitators or musicians. This format seems to have the most apparent ‘wow-appeal’ to it. This is true at the surface level. The participants are wowed by the performance of the leader of the session and have ‘had a go’ at the drums themselves. After a few selfies and photos with their drum, they move on to the next activity on their agenda. This is better than not having drummed at all but yet it’s not the most representative of what a group drumming activity can truly do.

We live in a ‘DIY’ day and age. This means that there are always means to learn and teach yourself a skill. The problem is that there is an ocean of knowledge out there which may or may not have been through a stringent quality check. This is almost as bad as ‘fake news’. As facilitators, we have the best of intentions and we are all trying very hard to replicate an experience that we’ve seen, heard about or have had sometime in our past. We may know what we want but not how to get there… That’s where the importance of a ‘Guru’ usually comes in. Especially with the art of leading or facilitating group drumming sessions, it is of utmost importance to find a good teacher or source of your knowledge. This is when the session you lead will not only look and sound like a drum circle but also feel like a drum circle.

Kalani, drum circle facilitator extraordinaire and educator says that merely giving out parts to a group and playing is not facilitation it’s dictating. This could not be more true. As a facilitator it is your job to build trust, create space, encourage participation, equip your group with the tools and then listen for the in-the-moment expressions of your participants. This way, more often than not, you will bring out different group rhythms from different sessions. You will share the spotlight with the group. You will let the group fall, equip them with the tools to get back up so that they know what to do the next time that happens. That’s the job of a trained and expert drum circle facilitator. 

If you are interested in learning the art of drum circle facilitation and in leading groups using rhythm to work with your group(s) of interest, we have an annual course called the ‘Taal Inc. Find Your Inner Rhythm: Intensive Course’. This week-long intensive course will equip you with the skill to start your drum circle facilitation journey where, with every guided step you take, you will move from beginner to pro. 

Whether it’s a drum circle in Delhi, a drum circle in Kerala, a drum circle in Kolkata, a drum circle in Visakhapatnam, think drum circles, think Taal Inc. 

Come. Drum. Be One. 

Varun Venkit