Bowe, from left, Rasheed English, Terrence Welch, Michael Tankersley
and Diane Drenhan play during a recent Riddimfest "drum circle."
Below: Oti-Lisa Brown,
left, and Yawnie Knox dance at a recent "drum circle"
organized by Rob Bowe, standing in background.
JOE IVERSON / Tulsa World
something to do with hearing your mother's heartbeat in the womb.
least, that's Rob Bowe's theory.
very primal. The beat of a drum connects with the human soul at a
very primitive level."
first connected back in the late '70s, when he was a student at
Booker T. Washington High School, famous for its energetic drum
didn't play back then. But before a big game, students used to do a
"snake dance" around the halls and out to the field house
for pep rallies.
got into me," Bowe said. "I couldn't resist the rhythms.
That's where it started for me, my love of drums."
'90s, he was a professional drummer with his own band, the Rhythm
Lizards, which gained a loyal following around Tulsa with an eclectic
mix of African, Latin and reggae grooves.
band got bigger than I ever expected," he said. "We even
put out a CD and I thought that was what I was going to be doing for
the rest of my life, playing drums for this band."
Bowe suffered a back injury, underwent surgery and never fully
became painfully difficult, so he quit the Rhythm Lizards in 1998 and
the rest of the group quickly dissolved. Jobless and depressed, Bowe
spent much of his time just lounging around his house.
was professionally and spiritually lost," Bowe said. "I
never thought I would play again."
weeks ago at a local library, Bowe ran into one of his old bandmates
and struck up a conversation.
out, she was trying to put together a "drum circle" and
asked Bowe to help out.
circle, as Bowe already knew, is a sort of potluck dinner where
rhythms are served instead of food.
brings a drum. Everybody gets in a circle. Everybody starts playing
at once. And the beats somehow mesh together, forming an
unpredictable but surprisingly coherent rhythm.
basically people coming together like a village," Bowe said.
"People coming together like a community to celebrate life."
made a few calls. Enlisted more drummers to participate. Arranged to
use a vacant storefront on Cherry Street. Then scheduled Tulsa's
first Riddimfest drum circle last month.
40 people showed up, including a large contingent from the weekly
African dance and drum classes offered at Lacy Park.
was a spiritual experience, everybody playing together like that,"
Bowe said. "And it gave me a whole new perspective on life. I
might not be able to play in a band again, but I can do this. I can
still play drums."
are professionals. Some are well-trained amateurs. And some have
never touched a drum before in their lives.
the drumming begins, with more than three dozen people playing at
once and none of them playing exactly the same beats, it's impossible
to tell who's expert and who's novice.
individual fades into the group and the music just takes over,"
said Shirley Roper, who is helping Bowe plan the next Riddimfest for
don't even play drums, because I'm disabled and can't play. But I
like just being there, listening to the drums and being a part of the
fall, a new business will move into the group's vacant building on
Cherry Street. So Bowe needs somewhere to go, preferably rent-free so
the Riddimfest can continue to be open free to the public.
me, the drum circle should always be free and open to anybody who
wants to come," Bowe said. "Charging for it would almost be
like charging somebody for coming to church."
next Riddimfest drum circle is scheduled for July 28 at the Greenwood
Cultural Center, at 322 N. Greenwood Ave., starting at 7:30 p.m.
event will feature several local bands, including a performance by
the Rhythm Lizards. The show also will double as a fund-raiser for
Babatunde Olatunji, an African drummer who helped teach Bowe how to
play and who now needs a kidney dialysis machine.
smaller group of drummers will meet each Sunday at 1548 E. 15th St.
For information, call 425-5663.