As the sound grew louder, it took me a while to realise that my footsteps matched the rhythm of the beats. I could feel the adrenaline course through my body as I was drawn closer to the source. And then, turning a corner, I saw them— a neat semicircle of red chairs, with twinkling lights in the background, and 12 djembes vibrating to the collective beat of the Djembe Circle.
Just a few hours ago, I was reluctant to leave home. The fish kalia I had polished off my plate (and off my fingers) had convinced me I needed an afternoon siesta. It was Sunday, after all. But thankfully, love for music triumphed over love for sleep, and I managed to reach Appu Ghar Express Entertainment City, Noida, on time to meet the Djembe Circle.
Now, standing in the light of the setting sun, the thud thud of the djembes calling out to me, I was glad I hadn’t stayed at home. Groups gathered, groups diffused, children ran around giggling; the cool evening breeze ruffled my hair as the smell of fresh buttered corn teased my appetite.
But to the djembe players, nothing else mattered. Their faces reflected an almost childish glee as they thumped on their djembes, occasionally breaking the drumming with a passionate yell or a broad grin to a fellow drummer. So well knit was the group that I almost felt like an outsider trying to crash the party. Till I was offered a seat — and a djembe.
Imagine having a heart-to-heart with 12 people you have never met before. And that too without uttering a single word.
Just when I thought it couldn’t get any better, Kshitiz, the bassist, kicked in with a deep, sonorous tune. Head lowered, eyes closed, he seemed completely at ease weaving in and out of the dozen reverberating djembes. Three women traded djembe tricks without missing a beat, as a guy stood with a cowbell at the centre of the group, urging them on to the next crescendo.
The Djembe Circle is a curious mix. Go to their Facebook page and you’ll see more than 500 members — some IT professionals, some students, some journalists and some even doctors and engineers. They are flautists, keyboard players, guitarists and even gong artistes!
"The group has no agenda, no hidden ambitions for fame and no hierarchy — just a near-obsessive need to have fun," said Vaibhav Chaturvedi, a CA student from Noida who is one of the best players around. "My Sundays evenings are booked for Djembe Circle."
As we were playing, a child toddled towards a djembe and thumped its podgy fists on it. It was greeted with a round of cheers, even as the mother ran forward. “Why don’t you join us too? This group is open to all,” said Debu Mishra, encouragingly, one of the founding members of the group. A warm affable person, Mishra's love for connecting with people is only surpassed by his love for the djembe. His high-energy and infectious spirit play a major role in how the group has shaped up.
And that’s what I liked most about them. Djembe Circle is not just a jam group. It is a community of warm, open folks who get together every other fortnight just to have a great time.
"We'll see you again next time. Hope you had a great time," said Mishra, as I left for home.
Oh, yes, I did!