It's like feeling your body talking. Putting your insides out there without having to say anything.
That's why people flock to drum circles. Like the one in Meridian Hill Park -- AKA Malcolm X Park -- in Washington, D.C. where I took my djembe drum on Sunday and where you'll find me and dozens of other drummers on any given Sunday this summer. Along with folks who dance, flail, play other instruments, or simply watch and listen and groove.
It's tribal, for sure. You've got a head drummer, a master who sets the beat and who keeps everybody in line, including the show-offs who tend to overdo it and the wannabes who can't keep time. You've got a collective drive where we're all synchronized and yet we're each playing our own music. You've got society in action: leadership, cooperation, lots of noise, lots of mutual listening, and a sense of shared destination that brings up a cheer at the end of every 10- or 20-minute jam.
I heard about this drum circle from my friend Luis, and I headed down there last weekend for the first time with my djembe – a type of African drum that's now popular – despite the limitations of both my instrument, which can't compare to the tone of some of the hand-carved beauties that surrounded me, and my amateurish technique, which had my hands throbbing in pain within a half-hour. I had the time of my life for two hours. I didn't take any photos -- including the one I fervently wish I'd snapped of the tiny toddler playing bongos on her daddy's knee -- because I was too wrapped up in the rhythmic rush. (The photos you see here, taken at the same park at other times, are by others.) But I'll remedy that on a future Sunday.
See you there soon.