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Drum circle offers West African rhythms in library setting

Published 6:42pm Sunday, August 24, 2014

By Claire Sachse
Rhythmic, deep, tribal drumbeats are the last thing you would expect to hear at an otherwise quiet library nestled in the trees. As the beats reverberate around the building, the music’s pulse pulls the curious from the parking lot and from the book stacks inside the Columbus library to the upstairs Community Room.
Held the second and fourth Thursdays of the month from 5:30 – 7 p.m., the drum circle is a family-friendly gathering of drum enthusiasts and novices. Drums are provided or drummers can bring their own instruments. The public is welcome to watch, listen, or participate. The next circle will be held Aug. 28.
The idea for the circle came from Kitty Edwards at the Polk County Public Library. She said that many find the drumming to be centering, like a form of prayer.
Chris Blalock, a therapeutic drumming instructor at CooperRiis, has been facilitating the drumming for the past year.
“The rhythms I play and teach are all from West Africa.  Most of them are from Guinea specifically,” Blalock said.
“I use djembe and ashiko hand drums, and dunun drums which are played with a mallet/stick. The ashikos and dununs are made entirely in the CooperRiis woodshop. The djembes are carved in West Africa, specifically Guinea, Mali, and Ivory Coast,” said Blalock.
“I’ve been drawn to hand drums and percussion since I was very young,” said Blalock, “and I always had a desire to have it in my life.  More than anything, the vibrant, jubilant and engaging energy of the traditional West African rhythms speaks to me in a deep way.  The power this music has to draw me in and free me from any and all garbage life may throw at me is, simply put, irresistible.  It is alive, and always evolving and growing.  Even the simplest of rhythms and melodies flow with a life their own and will always, when treated respectfully, show you something you needed to see.”  
Blalock said there are many benefits to the drumming including a significant decrease in stress hormone levels in the blood, neurological benefits such as improved connectivity between left and right hemispheres of the brain and improved cohesiveness among the whole brain, strengthened immune system, and the well-known benefits of an aerobic work-out.

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