When and why did the drum circle start at Lake Merritt? | KALW

When and why did the drum circle start at Lake Merritt?

Feb 20, 2019

 

Listener Lecoya Lejeune wanted to know, “When and why did the drum circle start in Lake Merritt?”

 

There’s no set start time. Drummers know to just show up at the Lake Merritt Pergola every Saturday and Sunday afternoon. The sound of one drummer can grow into a synchronized heartbeat of up to 50 drummers at its peak.

When I asked about the circle’s origin, no drummer knew for sure. Until I spoke with long-standing member Kerry Taylor.

 

“2012 was when it very first started,” he said.

The circle is an offshoot of the one at Ashby BART Station in Berkeley. That one is said to have originated at UC Berkeley more than 30 years ago.

 

“We kind of wanted to branch and have a, I would say, more open space and welcome more of the community,” said Taylor.

Drumming at the lake wasn’t always harmonious. In September 2015, a resident claimed the musicians were drumming illegally and called the cops. But an ordinance allows musicians to play during park hours, as long as they’re not miked.

“We were following the guidelines,” Taylor said.

So groups around the Bay united on the steps of Oakland’s City Hall to drum in protest and establish their right to be there. Kerry says this circle is about more than just drumming.

“I’m finding we’re there for each other. And that’s really cool,” Taylor said.

 

And he says anybody’s welcomed to join.

 

“We’ll do little things, like teach them how to place their hands on the drum. And now you’re on your own, you fly! Go head fly with it!” Taylor said.