ONE, TWO, three. One, two, three. Percussionist Vikram Singh slowly moves in the circle of more than 20 people, patiently encouraging them to hit the djembe in a synchronised way, showing which part of the hand and fingers should be used to go from one to three. The sounds of the djembe, a rough and tough African instrument fill the lovely garden of Chavi Rajpal’s home in Sector 19.
Chavi hosted the Drum Circle, a new initiative in the city, with singer and guitarist Gurleen Grewal (27) and Vikram of the Chandigarh-based community music group, ‘Soul’s Diet’.
Rajpal supports many creative and holistic endeavours in the city, that get like-minded people on a common platform and encourages new artistic partnerships without any financial transactions. She describes the drum circle as an ideal form of non-verbal communication.
Starting July, the drum circle will be a bi-monthly event. Vikram said that the larger idea behind the circle is to create silence and stillness of mind with the meditative beats of the drum, which the participants create themselves, as they focus on the movements of their hands. “The djembe cannot be easily damaged and is comparatively easy to learn as compared to drums and tabla. So by hitting the djembe or playing the drum beats, people basically vent out their suppressed emotions, particularly anger, hatred, frustration, anxiety. and when the emotion is released, it leaves you with a feeling of emptiness, calmness and deep relaxation.
Not only do you learn to play an instrument, the process helps you move towards stillness,” shares Vikram, who encourages the group to play together and then individually, without feeling conscious. The energy is palpable, as people clap with the beats.
Gurleen, the lead vocalist of the group, provides an interlude with her soulful singing as Sahaya encourages people to dance to the beats of the djembe, focusing on the movement of the feet, with their eyes closed. The larger idea is to try and provide an ambience for people to meet, greet, learn, open up and meditate at the same time. “While classes can be given individually, a different energy level is created in a group. Twenty people playing drums in harmony is a completely different feeling. Even if one feels tired, hopeless or lost, seeing the others motivates one to play again,” adds Vikram, who practices varied forms of music.
Anurag, a banker, says he was motivated by the drum circle to buy a djembe and start learning. “This was an invigorating experience for me at many levels. The concept of 20 people unfamiliar with an instrument, yet learning impromptu and then performing for the group with the active encouragement of Vikram and Gurleen was essentially a learning experience. To understand the beauty of sharing, learning, creating instant bonds and feeling love all round was magical,” enthused Aditi Srivastava, who works in the corporate sector.
As the participants shared notes over tea, lemonade and boiled corn, they knew this circle will only widen with time. In Coveda, Sector 18, the Khula Manch is a monthly platform where musicians from across the country are invited to share their journey and forms of music with people from varied walks of life, who come together to be a part of the immersive experience.
In Sector 3, Chandigarh, Samant Sodhi is building a small group of people who can connect through music with the help of tabla. Sodhi, who plays the tabla, explains the technical and artistic aspects of the instrument and then encourages others to try their hands at it. As part of the circle, Sodhi plays recordings of famous tabla players, and also discusses their history, heritage of the tabla and lineage of musicians. He hopes to make this music get-together a monthly affair and get people to connect with each other.