Music and Reviews from Clare, Limerick, Waterford and sometimes further afield

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

A Walk on the Wild Side Tribal Drumming in Ennis

I am the proud owner of a set of hand drums purchased in Lidl a couple of years ago. It is my kind of shop where you go in for a pint of milk and cabbage and come out with a pair of congas and  I find  it quite therapeutic to bang them every now and then .  Happily a trip to Africa is not required  to take my ethnic drumming habit to a new level so this week I skipped choir practice  and headed out to the exotic location of  the Junior Infants classroom in the Gaelscoil on the Gort Road, Ennis  for the Monday night session of Tribal Spirit Drum Workshop with John Bowker billed as 'Ireland's leading drum circle facilitator by no less a publication than the  august Irish Times

I arrive early and John  is preparing his space and setting out his collection of drums .  The drums are all big decent looking wooden drums some with hairy skins and not a sythetic surface in sight. John begins  with some clapping and some simple drumming rhythms as more  people assemble and fill up the expanding circle . At the close more than two dozen people make up the ensemble.  John Bowker deftly leads the group through a sequence of rhythms adding vocal  call and response chants and adding some background colour detail about the equinox  and  reference to Christian calendar feast of Michaelmas and so on.  He is a sofly spoken English man but there are no rowdys sniggering down the back and he is quietly authoritative. .

 Having established the basic rhythms and chants the group break for ten minutes or so. On resuming the lights are dimmed and the circle divides into four groups based on the different rhythms with some auxilliary bells and shakers and the rhythms and chants explored to make a multilayered performance piece. I am surprised at how effortlessly the group pick up the leader's cues and John  is very skilful at keeping the momentum going. Over the two hour period the pace doesn't flag for a moment and that is quite a skill.

First choose your drum
Movers and shakers

It was a very interesting and enjoyable evening. For an instantly accessible musical experience , it would be hard to beat.  The emphasis is on physicaly beating out rhythm but there is a strong vocal element  and  a strong sense of a communal music making experience.  There is a  quasi ceremonial element to the procedings  with lighting of candles and some chanting  and the evening finishes with a ritual bequeathing of good wishes like a prayer .

Drumming sessions take place from 6.30 to 8.30 in Gaelscoil Mhichil Chiosog Gort Rd, Ennis  You are free to join on a per night basis, ideal if like me you are commitment phobic. The rate was €10  or € 6 for concessions. All  instruments are provided. Workshop leader  Bowker manages to leaven a sense of solemnity with a good dose of humour and while I am not ready to do it all again very soon and I look forward to returning to the circle  before the term ends. I recommend a visit especially for anyone involved in music education.

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