A surprisingly large number of Lahoris got together on the night of January 31st, 2018 to watch the Super Blue Blood moon and play some drums.
The Super Blue Blood moon is a full moon that occurs for a second time within the same month. A blood moon is a lunar eclipse. This year, both events overlapped. The next time this happens will be in 2028.
The Drum circle was organized by Atif Saeed, founder of the Drum Clinic Lahore, and held at Outpost BYOB (Build Your Own Burger) in DHA, Phase 8. It started around 6:30 pm and was in full swing at 11pm. Men and women of all ages were in attendance; some brought their own drums as well as children!
A psychotherapist by profession, Saeed swears by the therapeutic power of drums.
A cancer survivor, Saeed confesses that drumming helped him survive a dark period in his life. For many years now, he has been one of the percussionists in the band Quadrum (the other members being Saad Sarfraz Sheikh, Daud Randle and Umer Saud). Saeed started the Drum Clinic much later, after his battle with cancer and after becoming a certified psycho-therapist.
The Drum Clinic in Lahore is where Saeed conducts his usual drum circles. He considers them a means of group therapy. According to the Gestalt school of therapy, each gesture is a blueprint of a person’s psyche and history. The way Saeed practices this is by observing how people engage in a drum circle and how they respond to group dynamics.
As Saeed says, “The drum circle becomes a microcosm that reflects the world outside.”
Saeed has worked with an addiction group at Therapy Works for two years and considers group therapy a specialty of his. In a drum circle, the group becomes a physical means for people to work through their issues. For example, a woman at one of his drum circles would stop playing whenever others started playing really loud and fast. He pointed it out, and she noticed it herself after a few sessions; the circle helped her acknowledge her defense mechanism of withdrawing whenever people got too aggressive for her.
Drumming as therapy is nothing new. Many studies have shown the positive effects of drumming therapy on people with various disorders. People in tribal cultures, specifically shamans, have used it for eons. While that sounds anthropologically ‘posh’, it applies locally too. Think of Pappu Saeen at the Shah Jamal shrine, for example, and the Sufi practice of Dhamal. Drumming has always had associations with healing and ‘ecstatic trance’.
Saeed did a course in therapeutic drumming after completing his study of psychotherapy. Before he was inspired to become a therapist, he went through a tough period. He had to face the death of a family member while battling cancer himself. He tells me he started taking medications at the time but realized quickly that they weren’t the solution.
Today, after becoming a certified therapist, he is even more adamant that medication is not a long term solution for depression, anxiety or behavioral issues (such as in children). Psychiatrists, he says, are medical doctors and partial to using medicine in most cases.
“Medication makes you feel better but your problem is still there. You’ve just gotten numb to it. Six months later, you’re hooked to antidepressants or anti-anxiety meds. They should only be used on an SOS basis so that the person can start therapy to resolve their issues” remarks Saeed.
“People like to run from anxiety and negative emotion. But there is no such thing as a negative emotion. Everything has a message,” he continues, “Many children these days are on the ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) medicine, Ritalin. Problems in the parents’ relationships reflect in the child’s behavior. It’s easier for parents to medicate a child than take responsibility for their own part in the problem. I’m not against medication, but it should never be the first resort.”
After watching people drum it out on the 31st of January, I’m convinced of the therapeutic power of drums. I saw young men and women really let themselves go. Expressing oneself loudly while staying connected to a larger group seems like an essential life skill.