Maybe this is a biased opinion, but very few things are universal equalizers… Being a part of this human race, what makes us unique is our tiny cultural differences and individuality. Having said this, a few simple things bring us all together… Nature, food, health and music (or if I may be even more precise…, rhythm!)
My love for rhythm is one of my earliest memories and due to healthy nurturing of this at home, I started exploring this at a very early stage. Whether I was learning the drum kit or performing on stage, one thing was clear that this would be what I would pursue in my life. A major part of living a musician’s life, is teaching. This is a way to spread the gift of bringing people together in music or rhythm. In my journey of teaching individuals and groups rhythm, I learned that not everyone shares the same passion for rhythm, as I do and hence I had to meet the students at their representation of the world. That’s when (also along with my bachelors and masters degree in psychology) I started playing with the concept of teaching and the concept of students and this is when the concept of a ’drum circle’ and ‘drum circle participants’ arose. There is a strong need for people from the community (regardless of race, age, background or musical ability) to come together and unplug from daily life by being a part of something larger than themselves. This is achieved in a drum circle which is a gathering of people, sitting in a circle and playing on various percussion instruments. This situation could be a free flow musical jam or it could be a facilitated experience by a (you guessed it) drum circle facilitator.
Depending on the group that is participating, the theme – the core objective of the session changes. This is what makes the medium of group drumming a strong intervention tool for groups of all kinds. It serves as a community building activity, a stress buster, a corporate training tool, a therapeutic intervention and also as therapy.
I’d like to take time to point out the difference between therapeutic and therapy. Many activities can be therapeutic; watching an emotional sitcom, running a marathon, attending a support group meeting, drumming, indulging in art and so on. In all these mentioned activities, the effects of therapy are a byproduct of the activity. The epiphany or realization was the result of an activity that was open-ended and serving many purposes for many people. Whereas, when you are in therapy, there is a code and a set structure for the achievement of this pre-decided, mutually agreed upon goal. There is a global debate about calling this activity drum therapy or therapeutic drumming. Group drumming can serve as both depending on the group that is being worked with and the objectives.
Today, music therapy and expressive art therapy are two major fields that have greatly developed and are recognizing the use of participative music as a strong tool for self expression and self development. This has led to the rise in use of experiential arts in hospital settings, for pain management, to aid physiotherapy, for self-help groups, for at-risk groups to aid life skills training, to aid children learning according to their developmental milestones and also for open communities. In India, many enthusiastic community leaders work hard to start rhythm communities in their vicinity but the true effect of this metaphor will come to the fore when there is an expressive arts therapist in every school, medical institution and corporate enterprise to address the mental health of the our most important asset today – our workforce. This will help develop an everlasting behavioral software.