The drum has been a tribe-to-tribe communication tool since the beginning of time, which is probably why it’s being banged on all over the world at the moment, with drummers of every stripe railing at all this death and loss and seeking catharsis by pounding away long and hard and prayerfully as a physical, musical, spiritual way of expressing this almost inexpressible collective howl we’re all howling here in shutdown solitary confinement.
And while the COVID-19 pandemic has inspired human beings in cities across the globe to bang on pots and pans in support of frontline coronavirus workers, one bangin’ block in the Kingfield neighborhood of south Minneapolis is doing so for the heroes, sure, but also for the lot of us — heroes, zeroes, you, me, their neighbors, and therefore all of humanity, all survivors, and the planet itself — as they perform their afternoon ritual of playing percussion instruments together for seven spirit-lifting minutes.
“Even though we’re in isolation, every day we get to see familiar faces from a distance, and we come together, and it just feels like we’re part of a community,” said Jenna Hohenstein, who lives with her family in the house next door to the happening’s organizer, artist/drummer Garth Gailbraith. “It’s been something to look forward to for all ages, and the toddlers love it — and it’s been a wonderful motivation to get the toddlers through the day, knowing that at 5 o’clock we have something.”
It’s a simple, and simply poignant, scene. Each day at 5 p.m. for the last four weeks, the block (3900 South Harriet Ave.) erupts into a joyful noise of drums, tambourines, wind chimes, wood blocks, pots, pans, and, yes, cowbells for seven raucous minutes. It’s a way of connecting with their neighbors, themselves, and “sending good to the universe,” as Galbraith put it to MinnPost.
“It’s not that we don’t want to show solidarity with essential workers and frontline workers in all different areas — in health care and food service and Targets and Walgreen’s and all those places, said Sarah Springer, a mother of two who played tambourine; “I think our intention was more of a flow of what we were already doing together anyway as a neighborhood.”
MinnPost dropped in on the seven-minute celebration Wednesday evening; in photos and interviews:
Garth Galbraith: “I’m 75 years old. I’ve lived on this block in three houses. I do all kinds of art. I have a good time. I love Minneapolis. We love this neighborhood. I’ve always done what I’ve wanted to with my yard, so when this thing hit, I’ve got a lot of drums, and I shared them with people. I don’t know. It’s inspired by the fact that we’re a neighborhood, here. We are the best block in Minneapolis. We all get along pretty well.
“It connects us, all of us. All the people who come out and ring bells and they play pans. Everybody kind of says, ‘Hello.’ It just says, ‘We’re all in this together, and we’re going to make it.’ We are doing this in solidarity with our neighborhood, and with that comes the fact that we send as much good feelings out into the universe as we can. People come from far and wide, and when it’s warm, you’ll see people running to get here by 5. The lady two blocks down says it starts her cocktail hour.
“But it’s just enough to say that we’re here, and we’re OK, and we wish the world happiness, and we wish the universe happiness, too.”
Sheena Lor and Tim Evans: “For me, it’s a way to build community and build solidarity and a great way to look at our neighbors in a different way,” said Lor.
“We live a block down on Grand, and I was walking a couple weeks ago and I heard the noise, came over to see what was going on, and they’re very inviting,” said Evans. “We’ve been coming for a couple weeks now. The reality is, with how insular this whole process has been with everyone’s lives, it is really refreshing to be able to come out and have a moment of solidarity, a moment of collective community and spirit together, and to try to recognize that there is going to be an end to this experience, and we can all do what we can to try and get there together and lift our spirits in the process.”
Rachel Lynn played the pots and pans: “I saw the very first video on the neighborhood Facebook page, and it was of Garth playing the tympani, all alone, and I decided to make my way from the western suburbs to check it out. It’s grown, and I think people just need creative ways to get by, to get through it, as evidenced here.”
Sandy Nekola played the cowbell: “Garth is such a wonderful neighbor. When he gets something going, you just want to be a part of it. I’ve lived here for more than 50 years, and this neighborhood is wonderful. Support from neighbors is nice. It’s nice to come out and see people and know we’re all here.”
Elizabeth Merrill, Christopher Berrens, and their son Rohn (playing the drum). “For us, it provides solidarity with all of our neighbors,” said Merrill. “We all care about each other, and it’s a way for us to get to see each other, and socialize in a way that we can, and to let each other know we’re all doing OK.”
“It’s also a release, because everyone’s cooped up and it allows you to just get out some of that stress and frustration that you’re feeling because of everything that’s going on,” said Berrens. “You have an opportunity on a daily basis to be reminded that everyone is dealing with this. Not just here, but everywhere.”
Sarma Ozmen played the tambourine: “I like that it’s a routine. I’m home with a toddler every day, so it’s something to look forward to, to come out at 5 o’clock and do this. It also gets all the neighbors out. We’re a very social block, but less so now, so at least we get to see each other and say hello.”
Ken Heer played the wind chimes: “Garth has lived here for 30 years. When he started doing it, I was in my house and I heard it and said, ‘I gotta see what this is.’ We get people stopping every day, checking out what we’re doing, and it gives you a chance to see everybody, and check in on people, to see if they’re OK.”
Sarah Springer played the tambourine: “It’s been a fun way to have something every day to come out to with the kids. I like that my toddlers see this. It’s demonstrating to them how you can connect with your community, and how simple things can be points of connection.”