From Drums to Dedication, What Makes a Great Drummer?

With all of the different styles of drumming and drums available, the world of rhythm is open to anyone who has the desire to be the “heartbeat” of a song or a part of a community drumming event or drum circle. Drumming is one of the most natural, creative vehicles of expression, and once the fire takes hold of a person and his or her drum (or drum set), the groove can be unstoppable. So, what takes a drummer from rocking out into drumming stardom (even among friends and family)? What makes a great drummer?

X8 Community Drummer Spotlight: Darren H.

After growing tired of several years playing in guitar bands I spent quite a while looking for a new musical project to involve myself with. I needed something different to what I had previously done, something which would keep me interested, be fun, sociable and also fun for all involved. On a family shopping trip in the UK last summer, I came across a group of street musicians playing many different types of hand drums/percussion. They caught my attention right away, and I spent the next couple of hours watching them perform while the family went off shopping.

The vibe given off by these musicians was amazing, and you could see how much they, too, were enjoying playing to an appreciative crowd of people. Eventually I plucked up courage to ask one of the drummers about the group, and that was my first knowledge of what a Drum Circle was. I searched the web for a drum circle closer to my home town, but could not find anything at that time, but I did discover a samba band not far from home so I joined them in August 2013.

Through meeting and playing with people in the samba band I recently discovered a new drum circle had been recently set up in the area, so I also joined them just last month. After just three sessions, the group is playing well together. The facilitator teaches us three different rhythms and then splits us into three groups, each group playing a different rhythm, then we change around so eventually all the groups have played all three rhythms. Most of the group play Djembe drums of varying sizes, ranging from very small to extra large! But, we all make an equal contribution to the overall sound of the circle.

I also play a small drum which I purchased from a second hand shop which I believe is of Ugandan origin. I feel that since I became involved in hand drumming, I am more relaxed about life, I look forward to my sessions every week, always come away feeling happy, and also I have met some really nice people in the process.

I would recommend drum circles to anyone who wishes to unwind after a day’s work, or just wishes to meet people and make new friends while doing something fun and enjoyable at the same time. Also, do not be afraid to get involved if you have no drumming experience as most drum circles have a facilitator who can show you the basics needed to get you started in very little time.

X8 Community Drummer Spotlight: Philip W.

I'm seventy years old and I just discovered drumming two years ago. I saw a local group perform and thought, they're having so much fun, I want some of that. I got in touch and joined their beginner's group. It's been a joyride ever since.

When class day arrives, I wake up smiling! The greatest part about drum circles is the inclusivity. Drummers of all levels are welcome and regulars are eager to help beginners. When the rhythm gets rolling, everybody in the groove, the heartbeat of drums syncs with your own. For this older drummer, it's rejuvenating. I can only imagine how the younger folks feel. Why didn't I know about this sooner?

We're very fortunate to have a Djembefola, Bolokada Conde, living in our town, Greenville SC. I found my first drum on Craigslist, but now I own a terrific instrument made…and signed…by Bolokada himself. Look for him near you…he tours internationally. Look around, find a group near you and begin a journey that will inspire and delight as long as you'd like it to…and that will be a long time!

Philip, we wake up smiling on drumming days, too! Thank you for sharing your story with us! Drummers, tell us why YOU love drumming and drum circles! We'd love to share your story, too! 

X8 Community Drummer Spotlight: Russ M.

“Why we drum”
We drum to belong to the past, our earth, our people, and the animals who we share the earth.
We have been drumming since the Stone Age.
Drumming ties us to our ancestors who have drummed before us.
Every culture has drums. By drumming, we recognize we belong to one earth.
When we come together and drum, we belong to the people in our circle.
Drumming is so fundamental to us that our very heart beats.
We drum to connect to our own heart beat.
We drum to belong.
(by Russ Mead)

We lived in a remote high desert area 30 miles from Zion National Park for many years. We would rescue abused and neglected animals and often found ourselves in a dark place after witnessing this cruelty. We discovered that having a simple ceremony to honor the animals eased some of the burden of this emotionally heavy work. Drums and flutes became part of these ceremonies. After pondering why drums fit so naturally into this healing process I wrote “Why we drum”. At least for me, I do feel connected to those around me, the animals, the earth and do center myself when I am in a drum circle.

For years I carved Native American Style Flutes. I added to this knowledge by learning how to make cedar elk hide drums. We invited friends over for weekend drum making sessions where we built cedar frame drums on an old cable spool under a mesquite tree. When the drums were tight we would say a few words over the drums to honor the Elk, then have a drum circle around a fire in the front yard. Those were tremendous times with incredible friends.

We moved to Seattle where the drum culture is strong. I discovered the Turtle Spirit Jam which in Seattle which draws a unique mix of musicians, Shamans, Wiccans and some folks who just like to drum. When the weather is nice we meet under huge trees, next to moving rivers, and on the beaches of the Salish Sea. I now prefer non-animal skin heads on my drums. For Christmas my wife ordered me an X8 Cajon which has become my favorite drum which I take to drum circles with a flute I carved long ago.

Drums owned:
X8 Cajon
8-sided cedar frame Elk head drum
Toca Freestyle II Djembe
I also play a red heart Native American style flute at drum circles.

Russ, you are an inspiration to us all, thank you for sharing your story with us!  Drummers, tell us why YOU love drumming and drum circles! We'd love to share your story, too! 

Talu Green Continues to Bring Rhythm to the Stage after Fela!

Talu Green was the percussionist and Djembe drummer for the
Broadway musical Fela!. Photo from
If you had a chance to see Fela! during its one-month stint Off-Broadway, two-year Broadway run, or two-year U.S. tour, you know that the rhythmic production of the revolutionary life of civil rights activist Fela Kuti is filled with music, dance, and contagious energy. Fela! was beloved and supported by theatergoers and received high praises from rappers and hip-hop musicians, including Jay-Z, Busta Rhymes, and Questlove.

But Fela! wouldn’t quite be the hit that it was without one of its principal performers: Djembe drummer and percussionist Rasaan-Elijah “Talu” Green. Though Fela! directors weren’t looking for a Djembe drummer specifically when they brought Talu Green on as the musical’s percussionist, his African hand drumming experience brought a unique rhythm to the show. “With the musical director, it was kinda like trying to mesh the style that I play - which is a traditional West African style or Djembe - with this ‘Afro-Beat’ style that was created by Fela Kuti,” he told in 2012.

Talu Green’s performance in Fela! not only made the musical a hit, particularly among the hip-hop community, but gave Talu Green a chance to meet some of the biggest names in hip-hop music. He even received an invitation to record with Busta Rhymes.

Since Fela! closed, Talu Green has continued to perform through Talu Green Lion Falcon Ent. and taught Djembe and Doundoun drumming during the Art Saves Lives Foundation’s 2013 Summer Workshop. In fact, Talu Green was one of the teaching artists featured in the foundation’s Art heals, Art transforms and Art Saves Lives documentary, released in February 2014. Currently, Talu Green is playing percussion on Ms. Lauryn Hill’s Homecoming tour, which has included a performance on Late Show With David Letterman during the show’s Beatles Tribute Week and at Amnesty International 2014.