The Drum Clinic: A Full Moon Meditation
When I first saw the Instagram page for The Drum Clinic, I instantly knew this was something I had to explore. I came across some short videos which showed the founder facilitating a group of drummers and creating a magical environment, this compelled me to contact them.
My editor arranged a meeting and I was extended an invite to The Drum Clinic teams workplace. On a sunny Saturday afternoon I parked outside the Liberty Plaza, I was to be escorted to the office by the co-founder of the The Drum Clinic – Amna. As I stepped outside my Terios Kid and looked around to recognize my host, I spotted a girl effortlessly carrying a floral skirt, a bold red lip color with a black dupatta draped over her head. I think I will always remember Amna, with this particular image in my mind.
The building was, for lack of better words, extremely shady. Amna led the way to her office, on the sixth floor, while I prayed I had not landed myself in trouble. Avoiding suspicious eyes and successfully managing to use a broken lift, we now stood outside the door of the Drum Clinic.
At the door, we were greeted by the founder of The Drum Clinic – Atif; a tall, curly haired guy, whose smile was rather welcoming. He enthusiastically extended his hand to shake mine. Although my usual response to situations like these is a ‘namaste’, I surprised myself this time and shook his hand with the same energy.
The ‘office’ was a cosy three room apartment- a conference room, a kitchen and main room for the drumming sessions. This sound proof room was not too decorated, yet it had a pleasant minimalist aesthetic. A few chairs were scattered around the room, with some technical instruments and drums lined against the walls. A huge window allowed ample daylight in, this made the room feel open and uplifting. Inside, I felt secure and welcome.
For the next hour, the three of us discussed the inception of The Drum Clinic, what it meant to them, how it healed others and how they wished to expand in the future. They introduced me to the variety of drums that they had collected, followed by a mini one-on-one session to acquaint me with the concept. What stood out, visibly so, were the dynamic personalities of these two founders. Both of them had stories to tell; enthralling life experiences that shaped them, past baggage that they still carry, motivations that keep them going and the harmonious bond that they share.
When they told me about their weekly jam session, schedule for that Sunday, I instantly signed up.
And so I found myself, with a group of 15 others, at X2 on a lazy Sunday afternoon. Atif introduced us to the concept and followed it up with an impressive demonstration on the drums. When it was my turn to try my hands at the drums, I felt momentarily overwhelmed. I did not know where to place my hands, where to tap, what sound to produce or which instructor to follow. I felt incredibly self-conscious; worried about embarrassing myself in front of expert drummers. At one point I wanted to immediately excel at the rhythm that I had picked up, and at another point I wanted to add something significant to the overall groove in hopes of standing out amongst the others.
Atif noticed my hesitation, and told me that this approach would not fulfill the real purpose of the drum circle; the key is to not overthink. There is no set rules or a drum pattern that you have to follow, there is no restriction on a specific rhythm to play and there is most certainly no pressure to follow someone. You must understand it as a process – a therapeutic process that varies for each individual. This process involved two stages; being comfortable with the self and merging with the larger whole.
Thus, at an individual level, I had to be able to let go and experiment with new moves. I needed to believe that this drumming session was learning and healing together. I had to channel my natural creativity through my hands, and let it resonate through the sound of the drum. And only when I would achieve that, will I be able to connect with the rest of the drummers. At a collective level, I made the effort to understand my surroundings. I interacted with other players through my music; listen to their rhythms and produce a complimentary tune myself.
I remember finding a partner during my first jam session. We had not introduced ourselves to each other. So while I played a Djembe (at least I know the name), and he played a cooler sounding drum (or maybe he was just good at it), we connected through music. I tried listening to his beat and then produced one of my own that would complement his. Gradually, with every beat of the drum, our tunes were woven together to create an expression that for me was so deep and personal that it was reflected through our eye contact, swaying bodies, and the alternate movement of our hands.
And that’s the beauty of the drum circle. It starts off with some slow, disoriented and directionless beats. But at one point, when the musical integration takes off and people pass the first stage of being comfortable with their own selves, the entire momentum comes into sync. It all begins to make sense and what is created in the end is an astounding musical force – a groove that reflects diverse individual entities forming the part of a larger whole.
When the jam session ended after everybody went crazy on the drums, I extracted a few lessons from the entire gathering. Firstly, I understood the essence of the drum therapy. As Atif said, “all the answers lie inside the drum”. Various people come to The Drum Clinic with all sorts of concerns and frustrations in themselves. They are looking for a way out; a quick solution or distraction. But as soon as they start playing the drums with their bare hands, it allows them to create an external manifestation of what is bottled up inside them. They are able to release their emotions and feel freer.
Secondly, I realized that when you agree to be a part of the circle, you agree to some unsaid, unwritten terms of agreement. As a member of this enclosed environment, you are firstly promising to leave your personal inhibitions, and prejudices outside the circle. You then agree to step inside without intruding another person’s space. In fact, you promise to compliment it and respect it. As you begin to sit down on the chair, you do so with a commitment to respect the sanctity of the circle and its purpose. You then hold the drum with a belief to let it help you. By using it as your punching bag but making sure you don’t hurt it in the process. You finally place your hands the drums and begin to play it, with an agreement to indulge yourself in the present moment and pass on the dynamic energy to produce something magical.
A drum circle is more than just a group of people, circled together to play drums. It is a powerful association of people that represents integration and wholeness. With no specific beginning or end, the circle allows for individuals to become a part of the larger whole without letting go of personal identity and space. It is a safe environment, a private space and at most times, a medium to vent out.
Led by a psychotherapist who in fact is a crazy drummer and a professional musician, and a videographer whose radiant smile and drumming skills go hand in hand, The Drum Clinic is a powerful platform to build community, empower participants, unshackle inner obstacles and eventually, create beautiful music.