The Beat Goes On
Something magical happens on the first Saturday of each month in Eureka Springs. For almost two years a growing band of locals and tourists have been converging – drums, pans, rattles in hand – in Basin Park to make some noise in a good old-fashioned drum circle, something humans have been doing since the first fallen limb was struck against a log or rock. The circle – man’s earliest symbol, and drumming – one of the oldest art forms.
At the helm of the circle is Angelo Yao, a traffic cop by day who is better known as Angelo the African drummer, founder of Africa in the Ozarks. Angelo innocently started the drumming in the park, and strictly by word of mouth (no CAPC advertising dollars involved) it quickly became a big event, attracting locals and tourists from Kansas City, Tulsa and Austin.
It’s hard to describe the magic that happens because it’s not about words (the head) – it’s about the beat (the heart), something Angelo has plenty of.
He also has the energy of 10 ordinary men – his hands to skin, exploding out of the blocks like Usain Bolt.
Angelo is a brilliant performer but he’s also our conductor who sets the rhythm and pace, picks out nervous beginners or seasoned drummers for short drum solos, and keeps it all going for 20 minute stretches.
There is always a point in the evening where Angelo stops drumming and confidently walks around the park listening to us, nodding his approval, pointing to a particular rhythm he likes, encouraging a beginner with words, or shaking hands with a tourist, always with that infectious grin.
So what does one do in a drum circle? There are many options. One can obviously bring a drum – I personally bring large metal milk cans to bang on – or one can show up and simply clap hands or tap feet. Others dance, bring hoops or instruments; others watch in silence. There are no judgments and little ego involved in the circle.
The point, at least for me, is to be present, to connect with others, to bring one’s own individual gifts to the table, but be part of the whole – to listen, follow one’s creative instincts, and tap literally and figuratively into the collective unconscious. There are not many opportunities left where one can safely unleash their inner hippie.
I have never brought my camera to a drumming for fear of not being fully present with the drum and of becoming a witness rather than a participant, so I thank good friend, photographer and drummer Richard Quick for providing this week’s photo.
Everyone – the hip and the not-so-hip and the too-hip-to-be-hip-because-it’s-unhip-to-be-hip – is invited to just come on out and bang on something, shake your booty and experience the magic of the circle.
And wouldn’t it be great if McClung and Friends showed up with kids, grandkids and instruments in tow, fusing a little bluegrass into the mix. (Take this as a personal invite, Joe).
An Afro-hillbilly jam – now that would be awesome.
Drumming in Basin Park – Saturday, Sept. 1 from 6 – 8 p.m.
Photo by Richard Quick