Drumming For Peace

Our “Peace Day” Program on September 21st
will be Preceded by a Community Drum Circle

Here’s Why.

Every year since 2007, our OKC celebration of the International Day of Peace has featured a community drum circle. It’s enjoyable, rhythmic, percussive, informal, and leaderless. Anyone can participate. Just bring a drum and join the circle.

Why drums? For our purpose, the drum circle is organized as a means of building community. We also recognize that drum circles are often used as a form of music therapy, personal enjoyment, and team building. They’re just a fun group activity.

Mickey Hart

Grateful Dead drummer Mickey Hart, who has received a “Living Legend Award” from the American Folklife Center, described why drum circles are so popular:

“Typically, people gather to drum in drum ‘circles’ with others from the surrounding community. The drum circle offers equality because there is no head or tail. It includes people of all ages. The main objective is to share rhythm and get in tune with each other and themselves. To form a group consciousness. To entrain and resonate. By entrainment, I mean that a new voice, a collective voice, emerges from the group as they drum together.”

We say, “Just bring a drum and join the circle.” In fact, though, as explained by Wikipedia, “Practically anything that can be banged on to make noise can be used as a percussion instrument such as cans, buckets, pipes, etc. One need not possess or purchase a drum to participate.”

Christine Stevens has been thinking about drum circles a lot. She has a master’s degree in social work and music therapy. She also leads drum circles at corporate retreats, team-building exercises, and hospitals. In 2007, she accepted an invitation to visit a Kurdish area of northern Iraq and teach drumming to the locals.

Here is how Ms. Stevens explains the connection between drum circles and peace-building:

“When you think about it, the drum is probably the oldest form of community building known to humankind. It’s one of the oldest instruments we’ve ever played.

Christine Stevens

“Music is rhythm, melody and harmony. Drumming and rhythm are the most contagious element of music, probably because we are biologically wired for rhythm. We have a heartbeat, we breathe to a beat, we really are rhythm. Our bodies, our physiology respond.

“It works for team building and as a therapeutic tool because it binds people like glue. People can’t really resist that temptation to join in. It’s an automatic recruiter. That’s why people love it at the Grateful Dead shows. That’s why you work out better with a soundtrack. The beat is really the heartbeat of life.

“The power of entrainment helps people fall into beat together. When we synchronize musically, that transfers into our human life; when we drum together, it changes our relationships.

“Besides the corporate team-building experience, or even in a medical center with cancer patients in America, we took that to a Third World country, where we were able to see that that same principle could still operate. Human beings are human beings, and music is music. We took it to a place with even greater need, and created a great result.

“I’ve been thinking a lot about why drum circles create peace. The first reason is that it’s accessible and everyone can do it, so we had 100 percent participation. The second is that it’s a common language spoken between all human beings, and that communication is key. We told them, ‘This is being taught in three languages, English, Arabic and Kurdish, but we’re going to introduce a fourth language, music.’

“Instrumentation centers around drums and percussion, 
but may include other instruments, such as flutes, 
didgeridoos, and other non-percussion instruments.”

“The third reason is that the drum circle creates a mode for self-expression. We think that’s so crucial, at a time of recovering from war, that people have a tool to express themselves nonverbally when they’re going through things that words cannot express.

“The fourth thing, I think, is the motivation. Many people wrote on their applications that their goal was to create a sense of hope again. I think drumming together creates an energy that’s motivational and renews hope.

“The last thing that made this work was the creativity. Kurdish people are born to drum. This culture is so rich in musicality and dance, and I think that when you restore creativity in a place of war, and it’s co-created creativity, that creates a sense of shared accomplishment.”

On Monday, September 21st, our OKC celebration of the International Day of Peace will commence with drumming at 6pm.

Our program will take place in the Tom & Brenda McDaniel University Center at Oklahoma City University, 2501 N. Blackwelder Ave., Oklahoma City, OK 73106.
(See the map, here … Parking on one of the lots on Florida Ave. is recommended).

At 6:30, a moderated discussion will take place on the important topic of police / community relations — particularly with respect to law enforcement within Black and minority communities. You can read more about the program here:

Healing the Breach

As always, thanks to the generous support of our co-sponsors, this event is free and open to the public.

We hope to see you there!

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