The Rhythms of Presence: Part 5

The year is 2002 and I have travelled to Hawaii, courtesy of the Arts Council of England, to attend my first Mentor Training and complete my funded 2 part study with Arthur Hull at Village Music Circles. My first taste of this drum circle facilitation training had been one year prior in the same beautiful location on the North shore of Oahu, Hawaii and it had been a profoundly challenging one for me. Given that I had told the funders that I would set up and run a ‘free to all’ community drum circle in my home town after the training was complete, I was back for more, despite the challenges.

Second time around, having spent the best part of the year between facilitating over 200 drum circles in schools, I was more receptive. The many many hours of learning moments with the kids had wired-up my facilitator circuitry and now the teachings were landing in a different body. Literally. The Mentor training was in its infancy in those days but it still had the effect of drawing the best version of me out to play as I was genuinely interested in my mentees having a great experience. I was still very much a beginning beginner in this world but I now knew how much I did not know, and so enjoyed the ride much more.

Back in those days there was a selection process for the facilitation of the final graduation circle and I was delighted to make the cut. The chosen facilitator’s would get a 10 minute window to show off their new chops. In a pre graduation circle meeting, we were given an ‘order of facilitation’ by Arthur and told that after each facilitator had left the circle, a period of time would be left to allow the groove to cook and then the next facilitator would be signalled. I was later on in the selection and so got to watch the graduates of this training do their thing. It was hugely inspiring and required me to stay in the moment with the music rather than plan what I was going to do. That was much easier with the first wave of facilitators to jump in but as the time approached for my slot, I began to turn my attention away from the circle and towards my turn. As that moment approached, and the facilitator before me completed their time, I had a cowbell ready in one hand, a stick in the other and, I thought, a bomb-proof plan!

The previous facilitator left the circle and the groove was allowed to cook for a while. I readied myself to enter, running over the beginnings of my cunning plan in my head. Taking a moment off from being in my head reviewing my plan, I looked up to see if the cooking was done, only to see Cameron Tummel, one of Arthur’s two training assistants, walk into the circle, start a rumble (Everyone basically making as much noise at high speed as they could) and walk out again, leaving the rumble active. As he passed me on his way out, standing there as I was by Arthur;s chair in the aise-way, with my lovely plan, he gave me a sneaky wink. The bastard! I dropped the cowbell, the stick and my guts by Arthur’s chair and walked into the circle. No more plan. It had become dust.

Only the moment.

As I approached the centre, I raised my hands perpendicular to my body, wiggling my fingers, indicating with commonly known facilitator’s body language, that the circle should continue. It felt like I had ‘caught’ the rumble. I raised my arms and wiggling fingers slowly and the volume increased. I lowered them slowly and the volume decreased. I then began to raise and lower my hands in time with a pulse that lived in the middle of this moment. Not only had I caught the rumble, I was now playing with it. Four beats up and then four beats down created the effect of a rumble-groove. This modulation sequence took hold and as I sensed that the circle had grasped the idea, I upped the tempo and listened as a new groove emerged from the chaos of the rumble.

I gave them a continue to play signal and walked out of the circle. This had all taken 2 minutes. As I left, Arthur stepped out of his chair, grinned at me and then got down on his knees and bowed. I think he enjoyed the moment too.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Blog at

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: