Bang it! Bang it again!

Nope, not another post about sex. This one is about drumming at BTW.

You will see this information on the main Between the Worlds website and also in the guidebook for the festival. It bears repeating.

The evening drum circles around the fire are an opportunity for spontaneous community magic. It brings together individuals who work together to create a sacred space though drumming, dancing, chanting, spoken word and storytelling. In doing so, we can connect to the fire, the land, the stars, each other, our guides, our gods or ourselves. It’s also a time to have fun, frolic and socialize.

Because we are trying to create an unrehearsed group experience, there are some guidelines that we would like people to follow when participating in the evening fireside activities.

  • Listen and observe: When you first approach the drum circle, simply listen and observe what is taking place. Ease into participation so that you can get a feel for the group and bring your unique contribution gently into the mix. It’s less disruptive to the water’s surface if you wade in rather than cannonball.
  • Lead: Anyone can lead the group. It could be a drummer, dancer, chanter or storyteller. The activities around the fire are broken into performance pieces. They have a beginning, middle and an end. Since these are not rehearsed pieces, they may be long or brief. By listening and feeling, the group instinctively follows the arc of a piece until it’s end.. Some will end softly like a sigh while other may speed up into frenzy and end with a howl.
  • Let others lead: If you have led the group in a piece, give others the opportunity to lead the next few pieces. If someone starts a piece, it is important that everyone respect that leader by participating in the spirit with which the piece is presented. If you don’t like a particular rhythm, chant or story, please gracefully step away from the activity to socialize or watch around the outside of the fire until you feel moved to rejoin.Personal meditation, observation and socializing around the fireside activities are perfectly welcome forms of participation. If you are socializing we ask that you do so quietly in an area near the fire not occupied by drummers, dancers or chanters.
  • Bring some water if you are dancing or drumming: The fire is quite hot and extended periods of dancing or drumming can be draining. If you are drinking alcohol, you will still need water to stay well hydrated. If you see someone who looks like they need some water, please remind them to stay hydrated.
  • Please do not smoke near the drummers, dancers and chanters: If you need a cigarette, please take a brief walk away from the fire.

If you have any questions, ask!

Drummers and Instrumentalists:

  • Respect the drums: They are not to be used as end tables, footstools or chairs. Don’t place anything on the head of a drum except a protective cover. Don’t lean your elbows on the head of the drum when you are not playing.
    • Rubbing the skin in circles with the palm of your hand will generate some heat, warming the drumhead for playing. If you wish to remove moisture from the drumhead, you can do so by holding it near the fire, but not too close!
    • Do not play a drum while wearing hand or wrist jewelry.
    • Place instruments you wish to share in a designated area.
    • Drums that are covered, on their side or not in the area designated for shared instruments are not to be played without the owner’s permission.  These are traditional signs that the owner does not want them played by others.
    • Hand drums, rattles, shakers and other percussive instruments are the backbone of a drum circle. The didgeridoo, flute and recorder are welcome additions. If you would like to play an instrument not listed, please discuss that with the drum circle prior to playing it.
  • Follow the leader: One drummer will set the time and rhythm for a given piece. Follow that drummer’s lead and do not try to speed it up or slow it down. The rhythm will naturally speed up or slow down based on the energy of the circle, the chants and the dancing.
  • Try to keep time: This is music. The easiest thing to do if you are a beginner is strike your drum on the quarter note beats. You can also just strike your drum on the even or odd beats to accent them. If you need one of the more experienced drummers to count the quarter note beats for you, just ask. They will get you started. As you become more comfortable with timing you will find polyrhythm and solos possible while maintaining the established time signature.
  • Solo wisely: If you’re comfortable throwing in a solo, please do. Only one drummer should solo at a time. Solos can be short or run the length of a piece, just make sure what you are doing is in the spirit of the piece.
  • Blend: If your drum is the only drum you hear or you can’t hear the drummers beside you, then you are probably playing too loud. Adjust to blend.

If you are unsure of what or where to play, watch the reactions of the more experienced players.

The most important thing to remember, though, is the easiest to do. If you have any questions, or if you’d like to play a drum that someone isn’t playing, ask. It’s as simple as that.

163 days, Brothers. It will be here before any of us know it!