Attendees play together during a drum circle at Zuanich Point Park July 21. // Photo by Nick Baca
By Nick Baca
Along with the sounds of children playing and waves splashing against docked boats are the rhythmic beats from a drum circle in Zuanich Point Park. Western alumnus, Jordan Rain, also known by his stage name Yogoman, leads these drum circles every Sunday from 3 – 4 p.m., May through September.
People of all ages come to this drum circle to participate in what Rain calls, “non-verbal communication.”.The first drum circle of the summer led by Yogoman had 35 to 40 participants.
“The total response has been awesome,” Rain said.
Rain formed a Bellingham-based band in 2005 called “Yogoman’s Burning Band.” They have toured the states, sharing the stage with Jamaican reggae and ska legends like Winston Jarrett and “The Skatalites,” Rain said. Rain was introduced to these types of music genres when he moved to Bellingham a couple years after high school.
“It changed my life, I fell in love instantly,” Rain said. “Since then, reggae, ska and rocksteady genres have all shaped the type of music I make today.”
Growing up, Rain’s parents were in a rock ‘n’ roll band in Seattle in the 70’s, so he was always surrounded by music, especially the drums, according to Rain.
“I picked up some bongos in a music store one day and realized just how fun hand drumming is,”he said. “It is an interactive group activity.”
Rain started his first drum circle in Linden, Texas in 2018 due to the amount of requests he received. Because of its success, he knew the drum circle would thrive up in Bellingham, Rain said.
Jordan’s wife, Jacqueline Rain, also facilitates the drum circle and uses drumming for rehabilitation due to a previous brain injury.
“It’s a very meditative, relaxing and a positive experience,” Jacqueline said. “We have had multiple generations come up and tell us how awesome it is that we are doing what we are doing.”
From bongos and djembes to cajóns, the drum circle encourages those of all skill levels to come out and add to the collective rhythm made from the beat of the drums, according to Jordan.
“It’s the closest thing to flying,” Rain said. “When someone starts one rhythm and everyone joins in, it creates syncopation and polyrhythms, multiple rhythms at the same time, and it becomes something quite cohesive.”
This is where non-verbal communication can be achieved. According to Rain, when you are trying to add a new beat to the whole thing, communication happens whether you realize it or not. It’s awesome to watch and it’s awesome to hear.
“It’s a lot more than just the music, It’s like a natural high, once you feel the beat going through you, you can almost do anything,” Mike Rodriguez, a drum circle attendee, said.
Rodriguez set the beat many times during the circle and has drumming skills which he shared with those wanting to participate.
“This drum circle is good for the soul and I can feel myself create a spiritual connection, just like the Lummi did during their drum circles on Orcas Island,” Kale Seagull, a long time Bellingham citizen, said.
These circles are more than just something to do every Sunday, it’s a purposeful get together, Seagull said.
For Rain, hand drumming as a part of these circles has been useful and fulfilling, he said.
“It has helped me improve my music skills and rhythms,” Rain said. “Also I want people to feel liberated, the joy factor is what I want people to take away.”
Rain also feels as though drum circles are a great way to spread the traditions of music, past and present.
“All of the artists that I look up to are starting to die off or stop making music,” Rain said. “I use this drum circle as an opportunity to carry on the legacy left behind.”
The positive, good-vibes music that Rain describes as his own helps with his overall spiritual goal.
“We want people to leave the drum circle feeling better than when we came, if we did that then we accomplished our goal,” Rain said.
The sunday drum circles are free and Rain brings extra bongos and handrums for anyone who happens to stumble across the circle. To find out more information about Yogoman, his band or other things drum circle related, visit his website.