Crown Heights/ Flatbush , New York, New York

The Drummer's Grove

Steve Bauder September 18, 2017

It's been a healthy 3-4 years since I moved into the area from Hazleton, Pa.  I found Flatbush seeking affordable housing as I followed my passion for acting.  Though I first lived on Nostrand, I have since moved onto Flatbush avenue and am fortunate to be a five minute walk to Prospect park.  

I don't remember how I first learned about the drum circle, but being there to witness and participate has been a deeply rewarding experience for me.  Ever since I was 7 years old I can remember making some kind of noise- banging on my desk at school, tinkering on my Dad's drum set, and eventually developing a love of percussion.  

As I researched the history behind the drum circle I learned that it was started decades ago in 1968.  The circle is a rich tapestry of folk whose heritage varies from West Africa to the West Indies.  Vendors flourish around the grove and families sit and enjoy the deep rhythms.  I feel lucky to be exposed to such a communal appreciation for music.  As a drummer I feel like my participation is analogous to my presence in Flatbush as an outsider.  In my experience the drum circle has taught me how to contribute without taking up too much space.  If my drumming goes against the pulse of the circle, then I am taking away from the conversation.  But if I listen and am able to add to what is already being said, then the circle grows and the music becomes fuller.  

In recent days since more and more white folk from outside have been settling in the area, the drum circle has come under fire for being "too noisy."  It would be a severe loss to the community if it is shut down for being seen as a nuisance.  It bothers me because it shows a lack of respect for the people who have called this neighborhood home for so many years.  There is a callousness that refuses to see the harmony of spiritual and physical exuberance.  It makes me want to ask a new resident, "Where did you think you were moving?"  

I drink in the drum circle as often as I can make it out.  I have made friends by attending.  And it now feels like home whether I'm pounding the skins or just taking in the joy of this special place.  

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