I have recently read articles in several sources such as Time Magazine and Discovery about a current cultural conception that is catching on in communities: drum circles. To call it common or current, though, is inconsiderate. This “New Age trend” is more than a passing pastime – drum circles have relevant roots, a pivotal past, and tribal ties. This current craze has been carried on from countries that we need to give credit to.
We can’t be so conceited to claim a cause that has had communities consciously and conclusively cooperating long before we came along and called it cool. Drum circles are a society of single souls that establish a safe, social environment. The “me” mentality gladly gives way to the we – the whole group is greater than the sum of its particular persons. Although roles may be rewarded, no part is particularly prevalent – in a drum circle, though you may be beating different ballads, the song is a single one, the society singular. It not only engages the mind, body, and spirit, but it offers equality.
In tribes it was mandatory for each member to act for the advantage of all. The sound of a drum denoted danger – it was a call to come and defend. Drums bestowed borders – the boundary of the village did not go beyond the beat of the drum. Drum circles are a tradition, not a trend, although some new ramifications are beginning to be reported: according to the research of Dr. Bittman, CEO of the Meadville Medical Center and his research team, group drumming can significantly increase the disease fighting activity of white blood cells that seek out and destroy cancer and virally-infected cells.
Drum circles are inclusive, appealing, and healthy, and it didn’t take me long to find a fantastic tribe to feature. With a self-described sound of “anarchist thunder,” The Other Tribe is “roots music rhythm from the place of the skull, that old rumble from the jungle.” Tribe members Faith Hersey, Shon Higgs, Chris Karras, Keith Luzader, Ras Terry Logan, Jeremy Pasztor, Jeff Strada and Leann Vincenzo create community wherever they converge. I have seen them play at a planned event on First Friday and also casually collaborate with customers on a porch patio.
The Other Tribe got its start at the weekly drum circle at PJ’s bar in South Wheeling, WV in 2004. They perform at festivals, concerts, art fairs and markets throughout Ohio, West Virginia and Pennsylvania. In addition to live performances, The Other Tribe offers drumming workshops for players of all skill levels. The Other Tribe hosts a community drum circle every Wednesday night at the Unitarian Universalist church in Bellaire, Ohio. This circle is free and open to the public. Drummers and friends of all ages and experience levels are welcome!
Sara Fincham: Take me back to the inception – did you just decide to do what you were doing at the drum circle in other places, or was there a conversation about being engaging and including more people to play?
Faith Hersey: At the beginning we were just a weekly drum circle. After playing together every week for a year or so, Steve Oso (one of our founding members) got us a gig at a farmer’s market in Washington P.A.. I think that was when a bunch of us realized we had something going on that we could take to another level.
SF: There is something special about spontaneity, which is what happens every time you play. Is that why it’s so appealing to you – there is no sheet music, no wrong note – it’s a whatever you feel free for all?
FH: The spontaneous nature of what we play is definitely something that I feel makes us unique. We almost never discuss what particular rhythms we are going to play. Somehow our combined energies all meld together into an amorphous rhythmic unity… It’s almost like we have a telepathic spiritual bond. We all get into the flow and then just ride with it.
SF: How did you find each other – did you all play at the drum circle at PJs or was it more of an “I have a friend who has a friend who plays” kind of thing?
FH: I was invited by Grant Coleman, one of our core members who prefers not to play out with us. The Wednesday drum circle has been an ongoing weekly spiritual meet-up, open to anyone who’s interested. Those of us who are in the band all just came to our own realizations that we also wanted to do performances.
SF: Does the drum circle have a “core” – a group pf people who have been there from the beginning – how many people have come and gone and how many people are, although I don’t like to use this term because I know the point is that everyone is welcome, but “original” members?
FH: Me, Grant, Jeff Strada, Ras Terry Logan, Chris Karras, Jeremy Pastor and Shon Higgs have all been there from PJ’s. (Grant, as I said, isn’t interested in the performance angle.) Steve Oso from back then moved away. Leann Vincenzo I think started coming after we moved to the dome in about… 2003? Keith Luzader just joined us a year or so ago.
SF: When you play out at fairs and festivals are you usually on the musical line-up or do you just go as fans, take your drums, and play to anyone who wants to listen?
FH: We have been known to just show up somewhere and kick it! We do that a lot informally… but we have been booked at all the major events we have played at.
SF: When did the name The Other Tribe come about and why call yourselves that?
FH: We were playing in Washington, PA at the invitation of this African American elder, Yandel. I think that those of us white folks in the band were almost the only white people there! So when our turn came to play, Yandel’s wife says, “Oh, here comes that other tribe!” Jeff tells this story better than I do!
SF: I have seen you take the time to pay homage to your drum before you play – what does your drum mean to you, to history?
FH: I always do a version of “drum yoga” before I play. It has the double benefit of stretching out my back and arms, and allowing me to center myself and connect with a higher power. I usually dedicate my playing to the divine, although sometimes I will dedicate the energy to a specific cause like healing our oceans. When performing onstage, I include a blessing upon everyone who will hear the music that I play.
SF: I have been fortunate enough to befriend you and can personally paraphrase how really kind and inclusive and collaborative you all are. Is that what music is to you – entertaining, yes, but more so about kinship and community?
FH: Yeah! To me, music’s greatest gift is that it brings people together – my favorite music brings them together in joyful celebration. If I can lift someone’s spirit, make them dance – I’ve done my job!