Once a month, on every full moon, a diverse group of people gather to drum. Dubbed ‘The Drum Circle,’ the activity sees people of all ages and from all walks of life coming together to enjoy an hour or two of percussion. It’s an activity that actually takes place all over the world.
In Lahore, The Drum Clinic, which conducts these sessions once a month for the general public and a few times a week privately in a studio, is run by Atif Saaed.
You may just be part of the audience, or like to give any of the available African and Middle Eastern drums a try. As time progresses, the conductor changes the rhythm, and the whole group — of more than 100 people — follow. The beat changes, and so do the hand movements of the drummers, many of whom are attempting it for the very first time.
Gradually, more players begin to understand the instrument and how they are supposed to manipulate the beats in order to match with the rest of the crowd. The generally three-hour long session finishes quickly, as you merge yourself with the energy of the space, playing till you can no longer feel your own hands. But somehow that doesn’t seem to matter.
Saeed goes around in the circle of the seated audience, full of energy and positive spirits. His own life story is no less inspiring. After he lost his younger brother in a car crash, Saeed was diagnosed with cancer. He struggled to find a solution that would help him out of the emotional state he was in. Having completed a certified course on becoming a therapist, he began to be more aware about how drumming had made a positive impact on his life, and had kept him afloat during the rough times. “I think drums saved my life,” he says.
Soon, he started experimenting on the therapeutic aspects of drumming with his friends. He looked for drum circles to join in Pakistan. Finding out that none existed and wanting to create a safe space where people could feel empowered, grounded and make mistakes without being judged, Saeed based his drum circles on Karl Rogers’s person-centred therapy. It’s about creating a space where the client is given empathy, positive regard and unconditional presence, thus allowing inner healing to take place, is what The Drum Clinic is based on.
The therapy that The Drum Clinic offers is unique. Saeed knows everyone’s personal stories, and is able to connect with the individual through drumming. It becomes a microcosm of society and the world outside are reflected in the circle. Thus, he is able to exactly point out various behaviors of an individual.
At the sessions, amidst the chaos of the drums he notices how many people are not willing to let go. This is seen as a sign of how we are not ready to face our hardships.
Initially, there is random beating at a session — none of the beats are synchronised, and there is utter chaos — but the situation does not upset Saeed who believes that chaos is followed by a new form of life.
While the sessions held at Atif Saeed’s studio are of personal nature and therapeutic, the monthly drum circles have a different objective where the people come in with the intention to enjoy themselves. Many participants at these sessions are not even aware of his work in therapy.
In a way, the three hours are a ‘journey’ that you take: you go in a bit anxious, but by the end of the circle, you are no longer the same person; you are decidedly more confident and stronger. You also find a certain sense of accomplishment.
In Saeed’s words, “On a regular day, we’re not in touch with our feelings. Everyone says that they are fine but no one expresses the emotions they truly feel. That’s why, The Drum Circle is so crucial.”