Stuff I Do

Experiences and Encounters in Pune

Community Drum Circles

Posted by Sanskriti on July 31, 2009

Varun leads a beat

Varun leads a beat

Varun Venkit has percussionitis, and he wants to infect others.

Varun is a drummer, plays with Agnee (among others, I think), and also teaches drums to a devoted bunch.  He is also a clinical psychologist.

The Community Drum Circles that Varun organizes provide – in varying degrees – stress therapy, community building and fun. The Drum Circle is just what it sounds like — people land up, sit in a circle and play the drums (or a shaker – a coke can filled with  pebbles or seeds). You don’t have to know how to play … Varun says percussionitis is in our blood, we all (or most anyway) just naturally respond to the rhythm.

We sit in a circle, Varun explains how to position the djembe slightly tilted away from your body, and how to strike the drum with your palms. Someone starts off a simple beat, and others join in. The tempo and the beat change – one of us might bring in a variation. Or Varun might direct us to slow down or speed up, to pause a few seconds and start up again, to divide up into two groups and play a jugalbandi of sorts, or sing along with him ki lay lay, ki lay lay, aabo aabo ki lay lay  …

ze joy of drumming

ze joy of drumming

I’ve attended three thus far (and complain complain, only rarely got a djembe, mostly only a shaker). The energy and the synergy the group generates for two hours is something amazing.

Drum Circles happen at the Urban Ashram near Swargate and at One Life Club, Panchvati, Pashan. If I can find a Facebook link, I’ll post it here.


3 Responses to “Community Drum Circles”

  1. Civicus said

    Sounds like a lot of fun, but what about the outer circles of neighbours around Urban Ashram, One Life Club etc.? (Just a passing thought, since you also talk about community building).

    By calling it ‘percussionitis’ you make it sound like a disease. Actually, as Varun rightly says, it is “in our blood”. Through most of our lives (at least the healthy part of them) we pulse along at 72 beats per minute, give or take a few — as long as they are not arrhythmic. Remember the opening (instrumental) bars of the Pink Floyd song that goes “The lunatic is …”?

    BTW, pardon my ignorance, but what is a djembe? I know I can look it up, but that will take longer.

    • Civicus said


      Well, I did look it up on, and found a wealth of information in the main entry, apart from links to much more. It talks about the different designs in different parts of Africa, the variety of materials used, and the hand techniques used for producing different kinds of sounds.

      Seems to me there are a few similar drums in India, though constructed and played differently. The most common one is the dagga, dhama or baayaan — the bowl-shaped, bass half of a tabla pair. This is now usually made of chromium-plated copper or brass, but in the past it was often hollowed out of a wooden block, or made of terracotta.

      The main difference is that the leather membrane of the dagga has an off-centre circular patch of tuning paste, called syahi.

      And the playing technique includes using pressure from the heel of the hand for some of the sound effects. Wonder if this is done on the djeme.

  2. ramjee said

    Wow! I remember those years of 1980s when everyone would have swayed for the beats of Ossibissa… Mummbi papa ki lay lay… auo auo kilay lay… :~) How I wish I was there in Pune these days…?

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