On a warm summer night in the pine-covered hills of Ain Saade, amid the chatter of crickets and frogs come to life under the moonlight, a hypnotic, almost shamanic collection of beats reverberates from a secluded home in the woods with the kind of magical fervor reserved for mythical tales of fairies and forest gods.

It's not some New Age collective of hippies smoking pot and performing tediously long improvisational jams. This is Walkabout Drum Circle, a multi-faceted endeavor combining a band, a school for musical instruction, and a studio workshop for making unique, handcrafted instruments.

“New Age [groups] are inspired by the past, and do it clumsily most of the time. We, on the other hand, try to abide by the old rules as best we can. We live together, we eat together. This is not just a band; it’s a community. We are not New Age. We are the Old Age," says Jade, the leader of Walkabout.

Jade, along with Youmna, Nathalie, Jad, Marie-Lise, Tofy, Rita and Hanan range in age from 17 to their late 30’s. Some were assiduous music conservatoire students, others started playing music very late in their lives. One has a 9-5 job; another is an actress; and yet another is a Metalhead. At first glance, you might wonder what all these people have in common. But within a few minutes of meeting the tight-knit group, it's clear the love of musical expression brings them together.

Jade describes his band as a community, a throwback to the old days when every village had a band that it called up for traditional events like marriages, funerals, initiation rites and the like. But rather than playing traditional Arabic tunes, Walkabout Drum Circle draws its sound from a very specific genre of West African polyrhythmic music called Malinke or Sousou.

The band takes the authenticity of the music so seriously that Jade has been in contact with a master of African percussion, and wants Walkabout to go through an extensive course that will allow them to gain certification in the art of Malinke. It's not that certification would have any practical use in Lebanon per se, but Jade believes that becoming an expert in whatever you choose to do has its own intrinsic value. And while the continuously rhythmic music may sound unrehearsed, Walkabout Drum Circle seeks percussive perfection in everything they do, reviewing what they played amongst themselves and striving to achieve the best quality sound.

“I don’t think you should’ve done Dom Ta2 Dom Teta2 in the third part," one of the members remakrs during a late-night rehearsal session.

“You think I should’ve done Dom Teta2 Dom Teta2 [instead]?” another responds.

They make food for one another, they playfully fight and flirt like siblings, and during late night-jam sessions, they'll unfold mattresses and sleep at the house that's become the center of their creative universe.

Aside from the band's regular activities, Jade offers percussion lessons to anyone interested. Students who are serious about their new musical adventure - and talented enough - get to be a part of the band. While the instruction generates some revenue, most of the money to help fund the collective comes from selling instruments. They are beautifully decorated wooden drums with leather casings, produced with the help of skilled carpenters, tailors and carvers.

At the end of the day, it seems the band is just a way for these like-minded individuals to return to a more traditional way of life, one that has all but vanished from our contemporary iPhone and Internet -obsessed society. Old Age, indeed.

If you want to know more about Walkabout Drum Circle, take a course or get in touch with the band, visit them on Facebook. Want to check them live? They have a show coming up at the Tanit venue in Zekrit on Sunday, July 27.

Articles & Media

2 photos


Avatar 1
Post to facebook