Sunday, January 9, 2011

The Shiviti Jewish Drum Circle

While I was in Chicago I was always open to new experiences. I attended concerts, trainings, and cultural events. I felt like a kid in a candy store. It was amazing. One day I came across an invitation to a Jewish Drum Circle. This was too much. It was religious, cultural, musical and it was affordable. I immediately called to get information.

I began to find out about the Shiviti Jewish Drum Circle. There are drum circles all over Chicago. When I went to see the Fire Dancers a drum circle was a huge part of the experience. Chicago has all different kinds of drum circles.There are ethnic drum circles, drum circles predominately for musicians, drum circles for youth and drum circles for the elderly. When I went to see the fire dancers at the lakefront it was the drummers that night that kept the group dancing long after the fire dancers left. I loved watching those drummers and I was excited to find out what made this drum circle Jewish.

Drummers at the Fire Dance II

The drum circle was based on teachings of Kabbalah. These teachings served as the guide or blueprint for each meeting. It was a multimodal approach. There was the drumming, there was chanting and there were icons.

Three principles guided the meetings. “Nefesh” refers to the spirit or soul. One becomes in touch with this through gazing at the Shivitis or icon. The next concept is “Olam” which refers to space. We become aware of Olam by being part of the circle. Being part of the circle means not just being individuals who make up the circle but letting go of self and becoming the circle, the ‘us.” Finally there is”Shanah” which refers to time. When we are in the drumming circle we keep time. When we enter the drum circle it is for a set period of time. However, we also give ourselves up to the time of the drum. How long a song or chant will be will depends on the time, the spirit of the song. We become part of time and not-time; we are ‘in the zone.”

The drum circle become a time of letting go of dualities. As we drum we are “I” and “us.” We are “on the clock” and we are timeless. We come in contact with the Infinite G-d and are part of the G-d within us. This is not just beating some drums!

The group met at Mitzuit Jewish Community Center. The particular day I met with them we were at the North Lakeside Cultural Center at Sheridan Road and Granville. It looks out at Lake Michigan. The building is a large, empty residential home. Every variety of drum is available to the members. We meet and greeted one another. The icons and chants were explained. We were told the group fluctuates in size from a small group of perhaps 4 members to a much larger group of over 70 participants. The day I was there there were seven us of us. Sometimes it sounds like all of the drummers are musicians and other times it sounds like happy noise. This was not a concert and our performance was not important. What was important was that we recognized that we were participating in a group prayer.

Participants could be of any denomination of Judaism. They could be secular Jews. They could be first-timers or gifted musicians. They could be members of other faiths or no faith. This was a welcoming drum circle

So we began the chant and to drum. I tried a variety of drums. I did not expect to fully participant, I went wanting to be an observer. What I found was that the icons pulled me to them. The chanting grounded me and once I closed my eyes I could drum. It was a wonderful experience. I felt connected to this diverse group of strangers. I did lose track of time and self. I hope to one day return. I like drum circles, I love the Shivti Jewish Drum Circle.

Shiviti Jewish Drum Circle


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Eliezer Kaplan said...

Very cool finding this- especially since i'm in the video. :) Anyways I'm forwarding this link to drum circle co-leaders Ken and Al... as they will LOVE this. Thanks!

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