Margery Hookings has a go at drumming and meets the founder of Organic Rhythm to find out her story
I’m in the parish hall at Ilminster where there’s a drumming session organised by Organic Rhythm. The sound of friendly chatter is soon replaced by the booming sound of about thirty djembe drums all being played in a circle. It’s a very primal noise and deeply satisfying.
For someone who finds it difficult to pat my head and rub my tummy at the same time, I’m finding it quite a challenge. The thing, Organic Rhythm founder Sharon Stone says, is not to think about it too much. So I don’t. And then the magic begins.
According to Wikipedia, the djembe is a rope-tuned, skin-covered goblet drum played with bare hands, originally from West Africa. And according to the Bambara people in Mali, the name of the djembe comes from the saying ‘Anke djé, anke bé’ which translates to ‘everyone gather together in peace’ and defines the drum’s purpose.
Sharon first came across drumming in a Cornish summer camp marquee many years ago. ‘I was immediately drawn to it,’ she tells me after my first hour-long session. ‘I was offered a drum, but declined, feeling a tad apprehensive, and that I wouldn’t know what to do.
‘Instead, I listened and enjoyed the sound of the drums way into the night, coming across the fields to soothe us to sleep in our tents.
‘A few weeks later I spotted an advert for a one-day African drumming course at a local college. I was hooked. The rest is history.’
I booked Organic Rhythm for my village fun day last year, thinking it was time for a change from the standard entertainment. The sound of the drums reverberated through the village street as people of all ages joined in and became one tribe.
Sharon has 150 drums and describes herself as lucky to be making a living the way she does, driving around in her distinctive van with all her drums inside and doing what she loves. ‘More than 20 years ago I realised that when participating in a drumming class I felt relaxed and came away energised and feeling good,’ Sharon says. ‘I started to explore why this could be and came across all sorts of exciting evidence and studies around this.
‘I followed courses with the Therapeutic Drumming Foundation, Health Rhythms, Drum Beat, Drum Circle facilitation training and my thirst for understanding around this took me on travels around the UK, USA, and to West Africa.’
Ten years ago she decided to take the plunge and gave up a steady job to run her fledgeling drumming business. ‘From a stable job in housing and homelessness to being self-employed was a leap of faith. The job became more stressful with increased caseloads and a decrease in resources and cuts in services. I’d started the business two years before on a very part-time basis, but I decided on my 40th birthday to take that leap.’
She says nothing pleases her more than sharing the joy of drumming, whether it be at a village fete like mine or as a corporate team building exercise.
“Gigs” have included drumming with Rick Stein’s management staff team meeting early one morning in Cornwall and the Cheshire International Jamboree last year, where they drummed with up to 600 young people per day during the week. One of the participants was adventurer Bear Grylls.
‘From small groups to over 100 people at a time, everyone gets a drum for a fully interactive participatory experience’ she explains. ‘Our workshops are accessible, inclusive and suitable for all, regardless of age, ability or experience.’
Several years ago, she discovered that a woman who came to her regular drumming class was her first teacher at Hindayes Infant School in Street. ‘So, then I was the teacher, and she was my student,’ Sharon says. ‘We went back to the school together and drummed with all the children there.’
One of her favourite quotes is by psychotherapist R.Freidman in The Healing Power of the Drum: “Drumming in a group has been shown to enhance the alpha brain waves- those associated with euphoria and feeling good.”
Sharon says: ‘We see this in many settings including, rehab facilities, day centres, schools, corporate events, prison, team-building, private parties and many summer events.
‘People report feeling better after drumming, more connected, included, happier, calmer, energised and relaxed. Teams tell us of increased morale, team-bonding, connection and increased productivity.
‘Schools tell us of improved behaviour, particularly when children have participated in several weeks of our drumming intervention, Drumbeat.
‘Teachers have also been surprised when children they’d expect to misbehave, leave the room or become disruptive, have participated and enjoyed the group drumming experience.
‘Drummers in our regular classes tell us that drumming turns a bad day into a good one, they leave the everyday stresses once they start drumming.
‘I love drumming because of all these results. It’s not really about the drumming; it’s about the outcomes. Drumming makes you feel good!’