The Asheville Drum Circle is both simple and spectacular. Every Friday night, April-October, people of all ages gather to drum, dance, or simply watch. Locals and visitors alike begin to gather around 6:00 p.m. at downtown’s Pritchard Park to become part of something bigger than themselves. What results is often a moving experience.
There’s something primitive about the sound of drums beating in the night air and people swaying to the rhythm. Everyone plays a different role, from drummer to spectator, but that’s just part of the fun.
The Drum Circle began in 2001 with 10 drummers. Since that time, it has grown into a community-wide event that includes all who want to join in. Look around and you’ll see drums of all kinds, including, congas, shekeres, djembes and dunduns. Folks also bring other percussion instruments. During your visit, you’ll likely see tambourines, triangles and bells. And then of course, there are those who simply sit and drum on their laps. It’s all about getting into the grove of what’s going on.
The Drum Circle has no specific leader, no rules to follow and everyone is encouraged to take part. It’s all about celebrating Asheville’s cultural diversity, reveling in what makes them different and the experiences that unite them.
Getting past some initial shyness may be the biggest hurdle. Once you are able to relax and appreciate the spirit of the group, you will begin to appreciate how rare it has become in this world to look for common ground.
Everyone is there to have fun, let off steam, and enjoy the shared experience. As some drummers stand in the brick courtyard, others find a place on the concrete steps behind them. On any given Friday night, there are hundreds of spectators, some of whom have arrived with their own instruments and are anxious to join in.
For us, it’s difficult to imagine how anyone could feel anything but joy at the sight of people of all ages, ethnicities, religions, and cultural backgrounds coming together as an impromptu percussion orchestra. Those who don’t play a drum or other instrument might hula-hoop, belly dance, or simply watch in awe as the evening unfolds.
Somewhere around 6:00 PM, a few drums start a rhythm. As more drums layer in, the air becomes electric.
It’s worth noting that Pritchard Park, where the Drum Circle is held, has long played a role in Asheville. It was once a hog wallow, but since that time has also been a bus hub, post office, and protest site.
We were told that on occasion, a flash mob joins the fun, performing a synchronized dance.
The Asheville Drum Circle has become such a downtown tradition that various businesses have begun to offer drum classes for anyone who would like to play but doesn’t know how, or simply needs a shot of confidence.
In the meantime, all that can stop the Drum Circle is a severe weather. Anything else will have to wait until they’re done.
– Opinion is currently divided as to whether dogs are permitted to attend the Drum Circle with their human families. At one time dogs were welcome. Recently, there have been reports of police asking dog owners to remove their fury friends. It is a practice that appears to, at the least, be under review.