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And the Beat Goes On

Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call
Drum circle enthusiasts are often frustrated by the hippie stereotype.

“Right now, [drum circles] are getting a bad rap with all the Occupy DC stuff, and it’s just ignorance,” she said. “It’s not just hippies banging drums in the street.” She says the politically oriented drum circles she has observed at Occupy DC are not facilitated or structured, but something she calls “thunder drumming.”

“If you’re down on Wall Street, and you’ve got go to work, and you hear this, you’re probably like, ‘What is this?’” she said. “It’s chaos and noise.”

Others say the drum circles they’ve seen at the protests simply aren’t very good.

Mark Nickens, a D.C. street performer, visits and plays music on the corner of 15th and K streets Northwest, at the heart of the Occupy DC protests. He says their drum circles lack organization and musicality. 

“I can’t be a part of anything like that,” he said. “I tap them on the shoulder and tell them to stop.”

When Nickens receives resistance from drummers he reacts like an angry banker.

“I will stop playing and leave,” he said, animatedly. “If they are gonna do what they do, then fine, hippie, go do what you want!”

Still, not every drum enthusiast gets that worked up about it.

In a cozy music studio in Northwest, Goldfarb sits with his eyes calmly shut. His legs cradle a large West African djembe drum, while his hands fluidly strike its surface to the rhythmic groove of “Badabada-tock-tock. Badabada-tock-tock.” 

With their teacher away, his fellow drum students chime in together, joining in unison, “Badabada-tock-tock. Badabada-tock-tock.” 

They smile happily through each four-count measure. Then, after Goldfarb mistakenly loses count, a sly grin washes over his face. 

“If I’m called a hippie, then I don’t really care,” he said. “It’s fun just being part of a big rhythm and making music.”

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