Back in 2007 I was at the end of one of the worst relationships and life experiences I’d ever had. I was really rather messy, raw and hurting.
Right in the middle of the mess, something amazing came to life – I rediscovered sisterhood through an all-women drum circle, The Djembabes.
I’d played in a mixed drum circle for a few years, learning how to play the Djembe – a West African hand drum – from some of the best teachers at festivals and workshops for a few years. Drumming is largely male dominated around the world, like so many things.
A local group were putting on an event for International Women’s Day and asked me to get together a band of women to drum on the evening. I called a few women from our group, assembled some younger members from the school where I was working, and we arranged to meet.
At one of my lowest points confidence-wise, with no experience of running a drum circle on my own, something made me say ‘yes’.
The idea was to do the one performance, just the one.
Seven years later, we just ran our own International Women’s Day cabaret, with some of the original members and many new ones too. A group of noisy women, very, very noisy indeed.
This group has been through performances, venue changes, and so many new members (I live in one of those cities where people are always moving through, a harbour city!).
We discovered a strange magic, drumming together as women. It’s hard to put a name to it. It’s not better than drumming in mixed circles, no exactly, but it’s very different.
We’ve sung songs, learnt a gumboot dance, adapted a poem by Maya Angelou into a drum pattern, had an adventure to an island. Members have got together romantically, made new friends, members have had babies (we had a sneaky male Djembabe for 9 months, who even appeared in a performance – in Utero!).
Last year we stood on a rainy day and watched as one of our beloved members, Nikki, was lowered to her final resting place after passing away very suddenly. We wore our signature colours of purple and pink to the funeral, making a bright splash of colour on that sad day.
Around the drum circle we have woven something I could never have predicted when I said ‘yes’ all those years ago.
It’s a gentle sort of circle, people come and go. Not everyone gets on and there are tensions sometimes. But it’s exactly what so many of us need.
Each time we meet, I make a circular altar in the middle, with images of Goddesses, female archetypes to inspire us. We start with a stretch, and some breathing, to remind us that we can leave everything else behind, just for a few hours.
There is always a break for cake. Of course.
Every time a new member comes, we start at the beginning, all of us. Going back to basics is powerful, even for seasoned drummers.
We never drum so fast that new people can’t keep up. We don’t care if people can’t keep time at first. We know that our audiences don’t care if we’re not perfect, they’re just happy to see a group of women enjoying themselves in a loud, colourful way.
Women playing together is the best, the best thing ever.
If you get a chance to gather women around an art form, or join an existing group, I recommend it as brilliant medicine. Knit, sing, drum, walk, play, the specifics don’t matter – it’s the gathering, the playing, the fun that matters.
This article was first published in Wild Sister Magazine in the ‘Soul Sister’ issue and also appears in ‘Wild and Precious – the best of Wild Sister Magazine‘
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