Morwen, Baba & Jimi

Keeping Busy

by Jimi and Morwen

In the midst of all the reevaluation, other work, and raising a family, we've still been busy with events and networking, and, of course, drumming. So here's a report of what we've been up to since the last newsletter:

Way back in March 1996, there was a Magic Drum Circle at Woolman Hill. Working with animal guides, a small group of us (about 15 people) explored aspects of ourselves and expressed them in drumming, dance, and ritual. We were very well fed by Annie Hassett (good food is always such an important part of what we do!), and benefitted from the gentle wisdom of Karen Berggren (Kb) as co-facilitator of the weekend. Later that month, we enjoyed co-facilitating a community drum circle with Barry Bernstein, then with Rhythm for Life. (Barry has since left RFL and works with his own company, Healthy Sounds.)* Barry was presenting at a conference at Emerson College in Boston, and invited us to participate in the drum circle planned as part of that event. Together with Bob Bloom, we introduced about 40 people to the joys of the drum circle.

*Barry Bernstein passed away in 2009. See the Ancestors page for more.

In April, we shot a show for Winthrop Cable TV, Earth Rhythms, with Gary Snoonian. The show was hosted by our old friend Pat Camarena Rose, and we were joined by Drum and Dance regular Mary Johndrew, who lives in Winthrop, and Kb. We don't know how many people saw this program, but we thought it was pretty good. If you think your local cable access channel would be interested in airing this half hour program, give us a call and we'll put you in touch with Gary.

May was the beginning of our busy traveling season. It all started at Stones Rising festival at Four Quarters Farm in Pennsylvania. In addition to setting up the Rhythm Cafe and feeding 100 people two meals a day for three days (in a field kitchen with no electricity or running water!), we also facilitated the dedication of the drum circle area and were involved in drumming for the main stone-raising ritual. Special thanks are due to Arana, Carla, and Rodger, who went above and beyond supporting Jimi and the rest of the Rhythm Cafe staff (Alex, Jonathan, Nicole, Shara, and Bushra). Many thanks, too, to Owen White for all his help. In addition to all this, Morwen performed with Rhythm Alive! at Stones Rising and at Rites of Spring. Rites, also in May, was a lovely gathering, very relaxing even with the performance and the two workshops we offered. (Now, if only the van transmission hadn't blown up between Stones and Rites...!)

The annual Earth Drum Council Weekend last June was wonderful. As usual, the workshops were great. We were gifted with the presence of Randy Crafton, whose teaching is as good as his playing. He brought the tradition of the frame drum to EDC for the first time, and he contributed his energy in many other ways as well. (Randy will be returning in June '97.) Abdoulaye Sylla, Yamoussa Camara, and Aly Diabate outdid themselves, getting everyone cookin' on Kuku in their intensive workshop, giving an impromptu workshop at midnight one night, exhausting even the strong-hearted in dance class, and burning hotter than the fire at the drum circle. Bonnie Devlin had the whole camp rocking with the Yanvalou she had her class doing, and then in Tracy Vernon's dance class we got to witness the beautiful synergy between this rhythm and the dance. And, as always, Michael Wingfield made the congeros happy with his challenging workshop.

During the Weekend, the arrival of a powerful thunderstorm brought a prompt close to council. All of the energy raised by the heartfelt sharing was washed clean. About an hour later, a direct lightning hit to a transformer put the camp and all of the surrounding town into darkness for the next five hours. Another lightning strike indirectly hit Jimi, who was standing on wet concrete when a charge ran underneath him. (What is it with lightning and EDC, anyway; remember when lightning ran under the sweat lodge a few years ago?) After some momentary panic, and about a half hour of rest for Jimi, the situation was brought under something resembling control, as we prepared to go through the next day without electricity or running water (electric pumps) if necessary. Fortunately, the power came back on at around 1:00 am. Jimi lost his sense of taste for a couple of weeks; as far as we know, that was the only residual effect of this dramatic incident.

On to Starwood in July. Starwood, which usually has about 1,000 people attending, is notorious for having multiple groups of drummers with very different approaches and energies. Last year at Starwood the drummers got together in a deliberate attempt to create community. There were several discussions about this and an opening drum ritual designed to bring everyone together. It was good to see this intention and recognition of essential unity! EDC hosted a fire circle in our camp one night for about 200 folks. We also offered two workshops to the gathering, and Morwen had the opportunity to offer her workshop, "Motherhood as Shamanic Initiation".

In August we traveled down to Connecticut to serve as guest facilitators at the Drum Circle of Storrs. Then, just a few days later, we sponsored Arthur Hull's Rhythmical Alchemy Playshop in the Boston area. As usual, it was a trip being with Arthur. It's always good to be learning and having fun at the same time.

September saw the first EDC Advanced Hangin' Out Weekend, at Step By Step Farm in Western Massachusetts. Despite a few glitches and rain on Saturday night, the 20 or so people who were there had a great time hangin out and drumming. No workshops, no meal plan, no agenda or schedule, just hangin out!

In November, we chartered a bus from our friend Wolf and went with about 20 people down to DC for Drum, Dance and Pray for Peace. This rally, envisioned by Babatunde Olatunji, drew about 800 drummers to the Washington Mall. Drummers from all over the east were represented, and even some folks from Texas! The day-long program of performances, prayer, and play was rejuvenating to the soul. Baba himself gave an inspiring speech about the power of the drum to transform the world, and spoke a long-time vision of ours: A Drum In Every Home! We were honored to perform with Bonnie Devlin, and later had the opportunity to represent the communities of Earth Drum Council and Drum and Dance Saturday with about 25 of us on stage performing. Thanks to James and VDA, we had a great D&D banner to display alongside the EDC banner. It was wonderful to be a part of Baba's vision of drummers uniting in the cause of peace.

Drum & Dance for Peace 1996

 Drum & Dance for Peace 1996 #2

And Drum and Dance Saturday is going strong, happening twice a month with a turnout of 75 or more people and nearly 20 newcomers every time. Those of us who go regularly revel in the opportunity to play together, raise energy with dancers, watch the children groove to the beat, and weave the web of community. We've signed a lease with the church for all of 1997, so the oldest continuous drum circle in the country is still happening! Beginning this spring, Jimi will be facilitating beginner orientation workshops before Drum and Dance, where people will have the opportunity to learn some basic technique and rhythms, and discuss the dynamics of how D&D works. Drum and Dance meets at the First Church Congregational in Cambridge on the first and third Saturdays of the month, and we hope to see you there sometime soon.

We have other current and upcoming stuff happening, too. This semester, Morwen is teaching a course at the Experimental College at Tufts University called Universal Heartbeat: World Culture and Community Drumming. It combines a sociological look at the modern drumming movement with hands-on drumming instruction. There are 17 undergraduate students in the class, and it's going well! And this April she is teaching at the Women's Drumming Festival in Albany.

This coming summer, we are offering two workshops through Interface, a holistic education center here in the Boston area. We're also planning to return to Rites of Spring and Starwood. And of course, in June the 8th annual Earth Drum Council Weekend will happen at Camp Hi-Rock. We have some exciting new teachers joining us this June, including Sekou Sylla Mazo of Les Ballets Africain, Marilyn Middleton of Bamidele Drummers and Dancers, and Steve Bloom from Washington DC. Old friend Cornell Coley will return to offer Brazilian dance, and Randy Crafton will be coming back, too. And we welcome Abbi Spinner, back in town from her long sojourn south, to teach a beginner's workshop. We hope you can join us!