Religion & Beliefs

Drum Circles: Yeah, they suck. But…

A few years ago I was invited to head up to Camp Ramah Darom and have an “experience”. The “experience” involved participating in a drum circle with a group of other Jewish people I’d just started working alongside. Because there … Read More

By / December 11, 2006

A few years ago I was invited to head up to Camp Ramah Darom and have an “experience”. The “experience” involved participating in a drum circle with a group of other Jewish people I’d just started working alongside.

Because there are few things I find more obnoxious than a drum circle, I thought the whole adventure sounded super irritating. But it was a free night in the North Georgia Mountains, and I’d heard there would be wine, so I went.

It turned out (because I’m almost always wrong) to be amazing. Now, don’t get me wrong, I still HATE drum circles, and will walk blocks out of my way to avoid one. But there really was something magical about drumming, something meaningful about the non-verbal way the circle connected those of us drumming. And as the minutes turned into hours, a bond grew between the virtually strangers involved (making the free wine way more fun, later on). But beyond that, there was an undeniable sense of creation, of energy. Something as close as I’ve come to a “spiritual moment”. When we all finally fell into a groove briefly (we’d been taught some rhythms that took awhile to master) and got lost.

I bring this up now because it occurs to me that this seemingly new-agey experience is (duh!) not new for Jews. We didn’t need bongos to teach us about the importance of wordless communal prayer, because we have Nigunim, wordless songs we’ve sung for a lot longer than white people have been drumming. But in today’s world, it bears mention that a drum circle and the singing of a Nigun are a lot alike. So I thought I’d mention it, in case any of you happen to be passing by a drum circle in the near future. Go ahead… I won’t judge you…

And in the meantime I’m wondering if anyone else has had any experiences with music as spiritual/religious vehicle?