What is it about drumming? No matter how you try to resist it, the rhythm – pounding, syncopated, insistent – always manages to get you.
Head to Festival City any Thursday evening from now until May next year and you’ll be able to see this for yourself. In the breezy open-air of the Creekside Marina Terrace, anything upwards of 200 people are joining in weekly community drumming sessions led by Lawrence Enderle of Dubai-based entertainment company Flying Elephant and the experience, quite simply, is electric: 40 people, gathered in a circle, beating the boogerboo (what we lay folk call a ‘bongo’), with up to four times as many watching, waiting for their turn to take part.
‘We get as few as 120 people playing on Thursday night during the three sessions [which take place on the hour from 8-10pm],’ says Enderle, ‘but if they rotate twice in a session, that’s over 200 people playing in a single evening.’
Already, four weeks into their residency, they’re beginning to see some of the same faces return week after week. Enderle has been joking that ‘once you get the rhythm bug’ you’re hooked, but what is it that inspires such fervour?
‘It’s about everybody coming together and playing together,’ he replies. The group is creative, insofar as there are no set rules about how or what to play, but it’s also
a collective – the beat being driven by the participants. Enderle is, he insists, merely a facilitator, overseeing ‘the direction that the group wants to go’. Typically, he says, they start slow, but once they get locked into a rhythm, a pattern (and he notes that this happens as people start to relax, when they ‘start looking around the circle rather than at their drums or at their hands’), he begins to the mark the time a little bit faster. ‘And once we’re all going a little bit faster and it all sounds really cool, that’s it, I’ll step out, my job is done,’ he notes.
He repeats this – bringing the group up and down in speed and rhythm as their play dictates – over the course of a half-hour drumming cycle, by the end of which ‘they’re not afraid of the drum any more because now the drum has become part of them and they can experiment a little bit, knowing that there’s the safety of the group bringing them back down to the down beat, the safe beat.’
Community drumming is all about that – building a sense of unity. ‘I’ve already seen the difference,’ Enderle enthuses. ‘When people come back, they want to listen to each other, they want to share, because when people listen and share the music is enhanced – we make really cool music, versus 30 or 40 individuals
just pounding on a drum.’
The group has plans to expand as their residency develops – there is talk of a full moon session featuring up to 100 drummers at a time – with ways to incorporate drumming’s natural companions, dancing and singing, into the mix.
But what it’s really about is the drumming, the primal, irresistible beat. ‘It goes back to when we’re incubating in the womb,’ Enderle explains. ‘We hear the heartbeat –
that boom-boom, boom-boom, boom-boom.’ Community drumming, he notes, ‘becomes this circle of energy,’ something we all recognise and respond to. Whether we try to resist it or not, the rhythm gets to us all.