Julie-Ann Odell is the founder and managing director of Dubai Drums. She will guide a group of drummers at the Full Moon Drumming event at Gulf Ventures Desert Camp on Friday.
Dubai Drums started six years ago and has been growing steadily ever since. It started with a few people drumming in my back garden to the hundreds that now drum with me at my full moon desert drumming events.
I mostly work with corporations using rhythm and drumming as a tool for team building. It's amazing what results can be achieved. My most popular community event is the Full Moon Desert Drumming and there is always a huge waiting list, but I also host regular rhythm nights and community drum circles in Dubai and Abu Dhabi and quite often take my group and my drums to charity events. We also do a lot of work in schools. We have a regular group drumming lesson at Dubai Community Theatre & Arts Centre. We have African djembe drumming group sessions on Wednesday evenings. Saturday morning, we have Dubai Drums Family Club for kids and their parents and we're about to start tabla lessons on Monday nights.
African hand drumming uses a drum called the djembe which originated in the Malinke kingdom of West Africa. It has been around since humans first formed tribes and as it worked then so it works now, to unify and to communicate. Hand drumming is different from your typical rock band drummer who uses modern equipment and sticks. The djembe drum can be used in group drumming or as a very effective solo instrument, as you can almost make it sing.
The djembe is not a primitive instrument on which one beats in just any way. There is a history behind it, a tradition that is transmitted from generation to generation and all the rhythms have names. It is played by very specific ethnic groups and individuals, on special occasions and has a specific importance within African Mande society, an immutable symbolism. But the djembe is not reserved only for tradition. It is a popular instrument that can harmonise with all other instruments. It is open to all. There are performances and then there is the tradition. They are completely different.
Full Moon Drumming is a great chilled out evening where people can come and get to know other people in a community environment and experience what it feels like to be a tribe. We organise a desert barbecue, sand skiing, camel rides and henna painting as part of the evening to keep everyone fed and entertained. In between the drumming sessions we have a DJ who plays Buddha Bar-style music (with a great down beat of course) and people get up and start tribal dancing. We also get people singing African songs, so I guess people should expect to arrive in what would be a typical kind of African village except of course we're not in Africa, but it has the same "feel". People that come say it's a totally different experience from anything they've been to before and many people have now started advising their overseas visitors to schedule their trips at the same time as the full moon event.
If you went to China to learn Chinese, the more you practised it, got comfortable with the sounds and confidence in your expression, the better you would end up speaking Chine2se. Its exactly the same with the drum, only much easier. It's the universal language of rhythm, the more you speak it, the more fluent you become.
Friday, 6.30 onwards, Gulf Ventures Desert Camp, tickets 050 640 2058. www.dubaidrums.com