Drummers of all ages and ethnicities typically gather at the park on the fourth Saturday of each month, but coronavirus concerns have caused the March 28 event to be canceled.
Soulshine organizer Suzy Turner, who, in certain circles, goes by Suzy Soulshine, came up with an alternative: host an online drum circle.
Soulshine Rhythm Experience, which is open to experienced and first-time drummers, will go live at 5 p.m. March 28 on Zoom. Residents may join by going to https://us04web.zoom.us/j/6981769513 just before the event starts, Turner said. The public is invited to join. No drum is needed, she said—just something to beat.
More information is also available at the Soulshine Rhythm Experience Facebook page.
For the uninitiated: Drum circles involve one drummer starting a rhythm, followed by other drummers joining in for improvisational music, she said.
Turner, an avid drummer who met her husband, Mateo, at a drum circle, answered some questions for Community Impact Newspaper about the group and about drum circles in general.
How many drummers do you average at the park?
"We've seen between 20-60 participants at our circles. [An] average month is about 25."
Are the circles held every month, even in the winter?
"Yes. [We've met] every month for nearly four years, rain or shine, as we meet under the pavilion, even in winter. Sometimes, we shift to afternoons in the winter so it’s a bit warmer."
How much do drums cost?
"A beginner djembe drum, which is the most commonly played type of drum at our events, average[s] about $80-$100. I provide a variety of drums for new folks to try out to get a sense of what they like, and [I] offer resources for drum purchase if they are interested in continuing to play."
How does a drum circle event typically start? Does one person start and then other join in?
"Yes. As a drum circle facilitator (DCF), I welcome everyone. We always have new folks in addition to the regulars, and it’s important to me that everyone feel[s] welcome. I explain a small bit about 'drum circle etiquette.' I then begin a simple rhythm and invite people to join in when they feel ready."
Does the circle ever perform covers that include prominent drumming, such as "Not Fade Away" by Buddy Holly or "Tusk" by Fleetwood Mac?
"Not covers, specifically, but yes. Some of the universal rhythms represented in those songs you mentioned, for example, often make their way into our circle. "Not Fade Away" utilizes the classic
'son clave' [beat], which originated in Latin music. We, of course, hear it all over rock and roll music, also: “Bom, bom, bom, bom-bom.” I also integrate lots of traditional West African rhythms—the birthplace of the djembe drum—as well as Afro-Cuban- and Middle Eastern-based rhythms. We often have belly dancers and [hula]-hoopers that join in the fun, and it’s always a blast to drum for people moving to the beats!"
Do other social activities stem from the drum circle? Potlucks? A drink after?
"Friendships, business connections and marriages have all been born through interactions created at our monthly drum circle. Some folks will gather for dinner and drinks afterward; others may invite folks over to their homes to continue the drumming. I also organize other drumming related events in Austin, Bastrop and surrounding areas. Many people from this group will also support those events. The group drumming community in the greater Austin area is quite connected and supportive."
What would you say to people considering joining a drum circle?
"Group drumming is about connection. It's about an inclusive space where anyone is free to express themselves creatively, to relax into the moment with a present mind and playful spirit. Soulshine Rhythm Experience has helped to create a place that people can count on. We are there every month, and when you want to join in the circle, you are always welcome. In addition to community events, Soulshine Rhythm also offers programs for schools, senior living communities, private events, workshops and corporate team-building."