Celebrating their eighth birthday, Vancouver’s drum circles are home to hundreds of people every sunny Tuesday and Sunday at Stanley Park’s Third Beach and Spanish Banks. Seeing hundreds of people gathered together in one place to laugh, dance, and play music serves as a reminder that Vancouver has its own unique fun-loving culture. The drum circles have played an important role in influencing Vancouverite culture to the extent that arguably they can be viewed as a small-scale cultural group, one that is formed to bring communities together and to promote the active production of music as opposed to the continuous passive consumption of it.
A unique feature of these drum circles is the sense of community and connectedness that they have created. The drum circles are good examples of how we can respect and celebrate inclusiveness, cooperation, and equality. Everyone is welcome to participate in these gatherings. Some choose to play the drums or other instruments, some dance in and around the circle, while others opt to watch the event from the side and to witness the fun. The drum circles welcome people of various ages and cultural backgrounds. You can hear different languages being spoken at each event, and you see different cultural instruments being played.
Todd Moore has been a regular at the gatherings for the past four years. “If you are part of the circle, then you are part of the family and part of a community,” Moore says over the phone. I noticed this when I saw the closeness between the drummers, and the overall pleasant atmosphere of the circles. It is of common occurrence to see kids of varied ages play the drums or dance along to the beat next to the adults.
No one in particular controls or facilitates a circle. As people play to the beat of the drums, the rhythm of the music is born organically through the collaboration and collectivity of the group. “Everyone is important and equal. It’s not only the drummers who make the circle, but the dancers are just as important,” Moore says.
And how are these groups changing the music scene of Vancouver? The drum circles are encouraging everyone to become active producers of music instead of passive consumers of it. It seems that in today’s world, music for the most part is treated as an economic good, which is expected to sell and generate financial profit. When you listen to the radio, the Top 40 songs almost all sound the same. They either share the same types of lyrics or the same genre of music. Beyond this, it is almost impossible not to listen to these sorts of music in our everyday lives. From grocery stores to hair salons to coffee shops, it is evident that everywhere we go, we are involuntarily exposed to these types of music and are consuming them.
Needless to say, these drum circles promote the active production of music by allowing everyone the autonomy to produce their own sound and music. “Anyone with any instrument that makes a noise, can come and join the circle,” Moore says. He also mentions that in the past few years, the circles have seen a mixture of different instruments. While traditionally people have brought drums, some have chosen to bring alternative instruments to experiment with new sounds and rhymes. “This year, accordions are the new cool.”
This year’s drum circles are currently in full effect and are expected to run as long as the sunny season lasts in Vancouver. “Unless it downpours, we won’t miss a session,” Moore says. Those who are interested can join the fun on Tuesdays at Third Beach and Sundays at Spanish Banks.