Drum Circles at Landis: A Transformative Experience

By Louise Polli

"We're going to build a little momentum...It is sort of a transformative experience, everything in our lives is so integrated . . . you have to let go and get into a zone,"

Zep and Denise explained. He noted that he had some recorded music.

"It gets us off the runway a little bit . . . for self-discovery, freedom."

With the help of a well-chosen instrumental playlist, everyone picked up and began playing, unchoreographed, a percussion instrument they brought or passed around the circle, congas, maracas, claves, even five-gallon buckets. Days of rain had subsided, the Arboretum's birds danced overhead, cedar waxwings and a scarlet tanager soared, and the drummers settled into the rhythm of the night.

We can thank Vijaya for the drum circles and much more. She is the vision behind the Shanti Vun Meditation Garden and its primary benefactor, aided by many hours of volunteer labor. A tribute to her parents, Vijaya's garden and pavilion are a special addition to the Arboretum's landscape. Perfect for a family picnic or a peaceful retreat from the stresses of everyday life, Shanti Vun was planned and executed with meticulous detail. And, yes, it's the ideal backdrop for a drum circle.

Just as Vijaya was determined to create the Meditation Garden, she also convinced Zep to bring his drum circles to Landis. "It was the chai, " he said, beaming, "Her chai led me in here." Vijaya's homemade chai, rich with the spices of her Indian homeland, charmed Zep and persuaded him to work with her to establish a series of drum circles at the Arboretum the first and third Thursday nights of each month, from 7 to 9 PM, through the summer and into September, weather permitting.

Participants new to drum circles were unsure what to expect, but any hesitation quickly dissipated with Zep's welcoming approach and encouragement. He immediately connected with the group, put everyone at ease, and solicited feedback between sets. By the end of the evening, the group was smiling knowingly, relaxed and confident enough to perform without accompaniment. Everyone instinctively continued to play, to find their own sound. "It might just be something the other person came to hear, " Zep told us.

We made our own music, our own peace, that memorable July evening. Come and find yours in the serenity of the Meditation Garden and Pavilion. You might want to bring some chai.

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Fall 2021

Volume 39 , Number 3

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