World & Nation
AP The Wire
Comics & Games
Home & Garden
Advertise with the Times
© St. Petersburg Times,
It's 7:15 p.m. Sunday.
The drummers are rolling in.
They come from Sarasota, St. Petersburg, Plant City. They come carrying bongos and djembe drums, empty coffee cans and Culligan water cooler jugs, neon light sticks, finger cymbals, Chinese gongs and Latin claves. They come for the community, the rhythm, the release.
They've been coming to this Treasure Island beach since March. Each Sunday, the circle expands.
By 8:22, when the sun splashes down, 26 people are playing percussion. Lawyers and melon farmers, a young masseuse and a middle-aged parking attendant, a custodian, a computer programmer, a horticulturist. None of them know each other.
Except in spirit, and by sound.
Daaa-ta-dum-dum-daaa-ta-dum-dum, a man with a brown ponytail beats loudest, hammering two tall congas with green-headed mallets. The woman next to him is rapping counterrhythms on the doumbek between her knees. Someone is shaking a tambourine.
Not everyone on the circle knows how to drum. Lots don't own instruments. Many improvise, pummelling plastic pails, hollowed-out tree trunks, metal arms of their beach chairs.
The rhythms shift and swell, fade, rebuild, break down. Double time. Decrescendo. Layer upon layer weaving in and out, throbbing into a frenzy, spinning, colliding, subsiding, then returning to a familiar refrain.
"There's an intangible high, an almost meditative state you can get to," says Bill Keiser, a 49-year-old systems analyst from Tampa. "I leave here more ready to go back to work Monday morning."
What started as a college project has spiraled into something almost spiritual. Christine Jalbert, a 26-year-old modern dance student, began the circle with her belly-dancing friend Johanna Krynytzky. They invited six friends the first Sunday; the second week, they hung a few fliers.
"For my class, we were supposed to create something that would generate community and foster self-expression," says Jalbert, who had never drummed before. "I wanted to come up with an atmosphere where adults could let go without alcohol. It's really evolved into something much bigger."
At 9:10 p.m., 34 people are playing and at least that many more are listening. It's almost dark. A pregnant moon has parked overhead.
The faint light of a fishing boat slides along the horizon. A shooting star silently slips into the saltwater.
The drummers roll on, keeping time with the tide.
The earth's heartbeat echoes along the beach.
-- LANE DeGREGORY, Times staff writer
-- For information on this and other Tampa Bay drum circles, go to tidrums.tripod.com.
© St. Petersburg Times. All rights reserved.