Last Sunday I was able to check out the Des Moines Drummers, hosted by Culture Inc. Having been raised in the heart of Iowa, the idea of drum circles always seemed so coastal to me, relegated to cities like Portland, Asheville, or San Francisco. However, the drum circle is alive and thriving in Des Moines, and it is definitely something you should check out.
I walked into Culture Inc promptly at 6:30p, greeted by Rachel – the director of Culture Inc – and Forey, one of the regulars. They were setting the mood with incense and some candles to keep the lighting low. During the warm seasons, the Drummers meet at Grey’s Lake, but Sundays in the winter you can hear the rhythmic beats emanating from 2332 Euclid Ave.
After a few minutes there were enough drums in place for the first of the group to get started. One drummer had set up a traditional set of African drums that would provide the low tones the entire night, which would set our pace and the tone of the circle. A set of congas with an additional pair of bongos were manned by one of the more advanced in the circle. During the night, many others would join: a trap set, some tambourines, washboard, percussion frog, some didgeridoos, and so much more. Though it seemed the drum of choice was the versatile African drum, the Djembe. I had never experienced something on this, excepting the myriad of youtube videos I had been addicted to during my research on drum circles, so I decided to sit out the first jam.
The first set was amazing. Every drummer seemed to mesh perfect with the next, as if they had practiced together for hours, but this was just an improvisation. I thought, “what the hey, I can do this,” so I joined in on the second set. By this point the crowd had doubled, they were drumming, dancing, and some just enjoying the beats and community of the group. We kept growing in size, but the drums never seemed to get out of step. Everyone was experimenting with what their drums could do, and all throughout each set we sped up together, slowed down, changed moods. Even with thirty or forty people dancing and drumming, we were all together – a community of rhythm.
Before I knew it, an hour and half had passed. It felt like I had barely finished my first jam, but it was time for me to head out. And while I had to go, the group kept playing on into the night. It’s not just about playing your drum and having a good time. It is truly about creating a community safe from hate and open to all people. That was my experience. There were children playing and retirees drumming away, an aging hippy dancing and a politician grooving on his djembe, but everyone was there together.
Des Moines Drummers will be meeting every Sunday at Culture Inc for the foreseeable future – no matter what Puxatony Phil says – at 6:30p, even this Super Bowl Sunday. It is a wonderful experience for the entire family, and there are even some extra instruments that the group shares with newcomers til you get the addiction and purchase your own.