Ever wandered through a park or city square and heard the rhythmic, hypnotic sound of a drum circle? If it was in Kitchener-Waterloo, odds are Kat van Lammeren was behind that sound.
Kat is the leader of a five-person, professional drumming performance group, Organic Groove; the leader of Tala, a 14-person, women’s drumming group; the leader of Organic Groove Summer Drum Jam; and the host of weekly drumming classes. This girl likes her drums.
“The first time I heard the call of the drum was 12 years ago,” says Kat. “I stumbled across a community drum circle in Victoria Park, facilitated by the late Dale Marcel, who later became my instructor, friend and mentor.” She took all the workshops and lessons she could, buying drums, joining drum circles and performing in Dale’s group, the Fletcher Valve Drummers. “Everything I do today started the day I found his circle,” she says.
For Kat, community and drumming go hand-in-hand. Her groups mainly play the West African djembe, which is meant to be played with others. “Everything in nature wants to be the same, to find synchronicity, union or harmony, and the rhythm found in drumming is the same thing,” says Kat. “Drumming with others creates vibrations – a sense of harmony – which helps people connect with each other. Sharing space, laughter and vibrations from the drums builds a powerful sense of connection and community,” she says.
Not sure if you have ever seen Kat perform? She is the one with the huge smile on her face the entire time she is playing. “Drumming feels so good that a smile erupts on my face and I’m not even aware of it,” she says. And she wants to share that joy of drumming with others, so offers regular drumming classes.
She notes that people often start drumming at a time of transition in their lives: divorce, death of a loved one, returning to work. Learning a new instrument in a community setting is often a perfect way for people to make that change they have been craving. “Despite what initially looks like a mixed group of people of different ages, backgrounds, incomes and professions, they quickly come to recognize a sameness in each other and are happy to find themselves in a group of like-minded people.”
Jenny Lorette joined one of Kat’s drumming classes several years ago and now is one of the five members in Organic Groove and co-facilitates the Thursday night drum circle. “Drumming helped connect me to my community,” says Jenny. “It has led me to performing, meeting many other drummers and artists and it has helped me become aware of all the interesting arts and culture KW has to offer.”
Organic Groove, Tala and the drumming groups play traditional cultural rhythms from West Africa, as well as Afro-Cuban and Middle Eastern music. “I try to teach cultural rhythms with respect to the indigenous groups and give as much cultural information as I can,” Ka tsays. “These rhythms are so beautiful and complex and fit together in amazing ways– they are too beautiful not to play.”
If you want to take drumming lessons, you can reach Kat through her Facebook group or wander through Victoria Park any Thursday night this summer around 7pm to join (or just watch) in the summer drum jam.
P.S. Kat’s favourite topic of conversation: the brain.