Once a week, neighborhood resident Happy Shel Weisman sits outdoors in a circle of about 50 people. They beat primitive rhythms on African drums. A few people dance in the circle, others sit meditatively, their eyes closed or transfixed on the scene before them.
It sounds primitive – and the participants will proudly tell you that it is. Most of them are white collar professionals – computer engineers, doctors, lawyers, teachers and nurses. They gather for their “drum circle” to lose themselves in the music they create, escaping the tensions of day-to-day urban living.
“When the rhythm takes over your soul, it doesn’t matter what you are or where you come from, you just get involved,” says Weisman, founder of this local “drum circle.”
The group meets for Wednesday night jam sessions in the outdoor patio of The Across the Street Bar on Yale. They have bi-monthly sessions at the Bath House Cultural Center’s outdoor amphitheater. Group members range in age from 19 to 53, with most members in the middle-age bracket, Weisman says.
Weisman was first drawn to the drum four years ago, while attending the first International Men’s Conference. The opening ceremony featured 800 men beating Native American drums.
“It stirred something up,” says Weisman, an employer benefits specialist. “It was connecting to the wild man within.”
A year later, he discovered African drums. After buying one and taking lessons, Weisman formed a Dallas drum circle to provide a forum for group drumming.
“It really connects us to our primal heartbeats,” Weisman says. “We all drum whether we know it or not.”
The group of drummers is predominantly men, but it recently attracted four women drummers who work at American Airlines, Weisman says. A number of other women often jump into the circle to dance.
“We’re looking for more women drummers and more male dancers to keep it balanced,” says Amy Martin, one of the group’s women drummers.
She says that Dallas has quite a few female drummers, and our neighborhood has a big block of drum enthusiasts.
“We find that the largest concentration of our drum community – drummers, dancers and spectators – come from the East Dallas and White Rock Lake area,” Martin says.
The group’s latest project is bringing drumming to inner city youth. Their program, “Drums, Not Guns,” is aimed at stemming violence among urban teens by offering a vehicle for channeling aggression.
“It will be a mentor program, similar to Big Brothers, where the kids can come and drum,” Weisman says. “These kids just want respect, and they get the respect when their peers say ‘you’re a good drummer.’”
For a schedule of “drum circle” events or for information about drums and lessons, call the Drum Hotline at 813-8484.