Family Drum Talk

By Lyle Povah

Drum Talk for Families, for people zero to a hundred years old and beyond, running on Easter weekend March 29–31, 2013, is a fun, interactive, inter-generational workshop for first-time-beginners and people with past musical experience. Come and join us for a joy-filled and enriching experience!
In the great diversity of this work, my most heartfelt moments are being witness to families, in some cases four generations, sharing musical moments amongst themselves and with others within the Drum Circle. An immensely creative mini community comes together, cemented through the powerful bond of rhythm and music. A multi-faceted and deep learning occurs that extends far beyond the collective sounds we make together. Parents will be amazed at how long your child’s attention will be sustained when you participate fully and immerse with them in rhythm. The sound of the drum will sooth, calm and focus even the most boisterous of children.
For me as a ‘rhythmical guide’, the Drum Circle can function on multiple, seemingly invisible levels… as a container, a sacred space, a silo within which we can express all that it means to be human. It’s a place where, as one person described after a week long drumming retreat, I get to be “adept at thinking about the whole while paying attention to all the parts.” 
I invite you to read two different and touching viewpoints about the inter-generational aspects of a Drum Circle. Firstly, a Mom’s deep connection with her daughter and her Dad through drumming. And secondly, a heartwarming account of a healthy interaction between two ‘strangers’, in this case a young boy and a senior. To quote the man in his story: “I had the tremendous sense of how young people follow old people when the old people do the right thing.”

My 19-year old daughter Zofia and I have been a part of Lyle Povah’s drum circle at Lynn Valley United Church for more than a year now.  We initially came to drumming out of a need to work through some difficult issues; when oral communication between parent and teen was not productive.  Sometimes it is impossible to talk to each other, but drumming gave us a very meaningful mode to connect. The communication came easy with the rhythms, along with our desire to drum, and Lyle’s sensitive, humorous and loving guidance.

Last week, my 85 year old Dad, Edwin, agreed to give the circle a try. It was so light and easy to sit next to my Dad and my daughter and connect with them in our common purpose of simply enjoying the rhythms together. Led by Lyle, there was not much of a need to talk, our interaction simply resonated through our drums.

Occasionally, a 6 and 8 year old sister and brother come to our drum circle with their uncle. The kids and their uncle were noticeably connected and engaged with the group for the whole two hours. I am always amazed at how people of different generations can simply sit down in front of drums and share something so powerful but so basic as rhythm. Participating together in a drum circle is a rare opportunity for all ages, generations and drumming ability to experience and enjoy a mutual respect for each other.

Perhaps my most intimate experience with the power of the drum circle came when my daughter was unable to attend a Saturday morning drum circle. The circumstances were difficult and emotional, but I felt a strong need to be in the circle, for myself and for my daughter. During the circle, Lyle took a moment to recognize Zofia’s absence as well as some difficult times that several others in the group were going through. That moment of shared pain was felt very deeply by all. When I retold the experience to my daughter, she was thankful, encouraged and buoyed by the shared sentiment of the group.

The depth of meaning, friendship and community that we all experience every drum circle, is largely due to Lyle’s ability to meaningfully include everyone.

I am writing about the Drum Circle on Sunday afternoons at the Jericho Hill Centre. I was introduced to the circle by two friends, and have been attending for almost two years. I cannot speak highly enough of it or of Lyle.

I am nearly 70 years old and I find myself invigorated by the Drum Circle. I love the drumming, which I find musically satisfying and emotionally calming. I also enjoy being in Lyle’s presence. He has a manner that is encouraging, inclusive and spiritual. In the Drum Circle there have often been people with severe disabilities in wheel chairs. His treatment of them is exemplary.

I can’t recall anyone as old as I am playing in the circle, but I can recall plenty of kids. Last week – Sunday, February 24, 2013, there was a boy at the Drum Circle named Jacob. He was there with his brother and three adults. The brother was about 10 or 11, Jacob was maybe 4-6.

In the centre of the circle, there is a large “Mother Drum”. It is played with big mallets. I saw that Jacob wanted to play that drum so I got four mallets, moved my seat up to the Mother Drum and held two of the mallets up to him as an invitation to join me. Jacob moved his seat up. I gave him the two mallets and we played together while the other people in the circle played around us.

The “set” lasted 15 or 20 minutes and I really got into it. I started moving my body rhythmically as I drummed, swaying and waving my arms. I was amazed when I opened my eyes – I mostly drum with my eyes closed – and saw Jacob swaying and weaving his arms the way I was. I had a tremendous sense of how young people follow old people when the old people do the right thing. I was very moved by this experience. I know Jacob had a good time. I could see it in the smiles we exchanged. – Steve Wexler, UBC Professor Emeritus, Faculty of Law,  February 2013.

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