Deer Park has become a hub for music lovers in Delhi on the weekends
Away from the hustle and bustle of the Capital, the biologically diverse Deer Park, nestled next to the bohemian and artsy Hauz Khas Village, is known to be a morning walker’s delight. In a seamless blend with the calm surroundings, the Park of late, has been resonating with the sounds of hand drums. It is being a host to a community gathering, who call themselves the ‘drum circle’, every alternate Saturday.
The surroundings come alive as a steady beat from the African djembe mingles with sound of an Iranian daf. Didgeridoo, an indigenous Australian wind instrument adds to the cadence. Soon the area becomes music- infested and the gathering turns into a jamming session as the onlookers join-in, dancing to the beat.
“We generally do not play soft instruments like ‘tabla’ as it doesn’t go with the high decibel sound produced by hand- drums,” says Sayan Dey, a software professional and a regular at the drum circle.
People from all walks of life come together to play the hand drums. No musical knowledge is needed, and no instruction is offered. Each person contributes their own beat to the group, and participants freely stop to change to a new instrument as the mood strikes.
“Music is the best way to vent out a week long frustration,” says Vivek Vaid, marketing professional who never misses a single meet. A couple of hours of intense drumming kill all worries. It also helps synchronise the body and the mind, he adds.
The members describe themselves as a "casual'' and "non-commercial'' group on Facebook. The social networking site has been the group's only mode of communication among members since inception. They currently boast of over 8,000 online members. Currently the drum circle has around 30 regular or core drummers. It has a diverse range of members- poets, students, lawyers, doctors, engineers, photographers. A majority are Indian but there's a healthy mix of foreigners - German, American, British and Africans. Mahinder Singh, an octogenarian is the oldest drummer.
Drum circle in Delhi was formed around three years ago. An idea of open air drumming, which began merely with five people has now evolved into a musical treat. “It all began when I was learning to play djembe. I came to know about the drum circles abroad and instantly made my mind to have one in Delhi,” says Rakesh Mathur who founded Delhi drum circle with his US-based writer friend Margot Bigg.
“Hundreds of people watch us play every time, many of them join us. Music is a great binding force. No social agenda, it’s the love for music which brings us together,” says Vaid.
The concept of drum circles exists around the world, and the streets and parks of London, New York and Kuala Lumpur are major hubs. Drum circle found its spring in the United States during the 1960s and early 1970s. It all started in the US where countercultural groups used to informally gather and play music. The terms “drum jam” or “jam session” are also used to describe such gatherings.
The idea of jamming in a park is so captivating that you cannot resist joining them. “It was only their first jamming session where I watched them play from a distance. The music had a hypnotic effect; I started making my own music in my mind,” says Yogesh, a founding member.
At the beginning, when the music is fast, the drummers are animated, throwing in war cries and yips as they tap their feet and sway in their seats. Later, during slower songs, the group becomes more introspective and they seem to gaze inwards.
What makes hand drumming so enticing is that it’s quite easy for inexperienced players to pick up without the frustration of learning the techniques. “Everyone is a born drummer. Haven’t you seen people drumming on the tables?” smirks Vaid.
The journey of the group has not been a cakewalk though. Vivek recollects how they were threatened by security guards and the policemen to vacate the venue. “Once an animal rights group accused us of terrorizing the animals around the Hauz Khas lake through our earthshaking drumming. We then occupied another corner of the park,” adds Yogesh.