Conscious Jamming (aka Late Night Drumming)
Hawaii, 2002. Drum Circle Facilitator training with Arthur Hull. It is 1am in the morning and the late-night drumming has been in full swing for hours. A transition point has been reached and there is some movement of bodies away from the circle. This is the nature of late night. Come and go as you please but whatever you do, do not facilitate. That part of the training is behind us for the day. Now we get to just play. Late night goes through many transition points and this is a subtle continuation of our radar training. What do we notice through our ears, our eyes and our felt perception as the transitions occur?
The remaining nine drummers adjust their positions to close the gaps left by those who have been called elsewhere in this enchanted space. Called to the beach. The ocean. To a deep conversation. To dance by the fire. To drink a beer.
For just a moment there is a silence. Relatively. The ocean and the fire are not in silent mode nor are those in conversation or in the sea. The fire breathes out spark beings dancing into the sky as the ocean sends the gentle sound of lapping waves and laughter across our small circle. It is a perfect moment.
I have a Kpanlogo drum in front of me and a stick in one hand. I begin to play a simple motif using bass, tone, and the sound of my stick on the drum shell. One by one and in a totally fluid and organic manner, the rest of the drummers’ layer in patterns to add something to what is already present in the music. The sense of deep listening here is profound. No one is attempting to push the river here. Here was a collection of 9 simple patterns at play, woven together into a complex narrative which was elevating each of the players. You can tell this because of the outbreak of drummers’ grins. Something sublime is unfolding. The circle contained a mix of bass, mid and high drum tones, shakers, and cow bells, along with the sounds of sticks hitting wood. It was a small perfectly formed rhythm and percussion orchestra.
In such a precious moment you breathe deeply, drink in the beauty and hold the groove as if it were the most fragile and delicate thing in the universe. You take care of it. Together. Every player was operating in service of the others. Every player feeding the groove just what it needed to grow in each moment. Everyone trusting that we had synced in such a way that magic was happening. Right here, right now. Stay present. Breathe.
Each pattern in the circle evolved and shifted in relation to the others. Multiple dialogues creating moveable platforms for improvisation. Thus was a rolling groove that never lost its way and whose collective energy grew like the smiles of the players. Solos appeared as brief ornamental illuminations, leaping like salmon from the groove before landing back with a gentle splash in the river of rhythm. Not a beat out of place. This was something else. Invisible threads linked each of us to the others and somewhere in that process we moved from being the strands to becoming the web. There were no longer nine drummers. There was only one. Like a cosmic octopus playing the groove of his life. Time stopped and we flowed until slowly, gradually, and as organically as it had all begun, it came to a close, landing gracefully like a butterfly on a flower.
A deeper silence than that from whence we had come had landed upon the group and the rhythmical vibrational massage we had created continued internally for some moments. Silence, like stillness, when perceived as something outside of ourselves is always a relative phenomenon. However, the silence of such collective presence, the silence of that ultimate reality that binds us all, the silence of the self, residing in this ‘ocean of it all’ is profoundly deep and full. It makes you smile a smile of knowing. A look around at my fellow players and a silent nod between us that says, “We were there, man. We were there.” That place where you are no longer the drummer playing the drum but where now, the drum is playing you.