Desert drumming in Doha

Tribal rhythms resound around open space

Desert drumming in Doha
Desert drumming in Doha Image #2

South African musician, Patrick Dilley, from the Doha Desert Drummers, introduces Jessica Bailey Ackerman to the beat of Doha’s nightlife scene.

Every so often, as the full moon rises and you drive into the depths of the Qatari deserts, you might come across the steady sounds of drums, beat after beat, leading you ever further toward the sands. Follow the rhythm and you’ll find one of Patrick Dilley’s ever popular desert drumming circles – a get-together of drum and music enthusiasts sharing and learning more about their chosen instrument.

On another night, you might find Patrick, instead, in his element on the Doha nightlife scene joining forces with some of the best local and visiting DJs. As the city’s after hours circuit grows ever-more exciting, Patrick is becoming a drummer extraordinaire in demand so I sit down with him at popular night spot Trader Vic’s to find out more about how starting off a small drumming circle in the desert has seen him ultimately infiltrate some of Doha’s best parties.

Patrick arrives to meet me with his South African heritage beaming forth; he emanates chilled out surfer vibes and wears a colourful traditional African shirt. He has been drumming most of his life and tells me he lives and breathes everything that is music. Starting at the age of eight, Patrick followed in his father’s and brother’s footsteps by joining a marching band. By the time he was 13, he was the lead drummer.

‘I was always busy as a child and struggled to focus when it came to things like mathematics and exams,’ Patrick tells me. ‘I was more into literature and being creative. I always felt school put people in boxes and I found my way out of the box with a natural affinity for the drums.

‘I used to get home from school and play drums until the neighbours would complain,’ he laughs.

After moving to London, where he studied the art of the drum kit at a London college, he was introduced to the Djembe, a West African drum. Patrick considers himself a Djembe aficionado although he says ‘amazingly enough, in London was the first time I saw one. It only reached South Africa in the early ‘90s once border controls were opened.’ Since then, this type of drum has become hugely popular.

When he returned to South Africa, he set up a local drumming group called Team Spirit, which is still in existence today. He brought guys from all over Africa to learn from the masters of Djembe, and in return he would teach them about engaging and communicating with audiences in English, a foreign language to them.

In Patrick’s opinion, one of the best aspects of the Djembe drum is that it enables you to interact with your audience instead of being stuck behind a drum kit. Nowadays, in Doha, Patrick engages with his audience on a new level through interactive team building sessions for corporate clients, as well as at the desert drumming circles he hosts either through his community Facebook page, Doha Desert Drummers, or in conjunction with Arabian Adventures Doha.

While he’s most passionate about the Djembe, he’s a veritable drum fanatic. He says, ‘Put it in front of me and I will [play] it.’ So he also plays the regular drum kit, Dun Duns, Congas and just about any percussion instrument he can get his hands on. Oh, and he sings and dances too, as well as teaches drum classes and workshops at various schools and one-on-one. On top of all that, as a representative of the College of London in Qatar’s Rock and Pop programme, he aims to continue increasing the standards of these music genres in the country.

And as if that isn’t enough to keep one man busy with his drums, Patrick has also teamed up with some of Doha’s best international DJs. ‘I have played with DJs from all over the world and travelled all over the Gulf doing performances with them,’ he says. ‘At the moment I am inundated with calls from DJs to join forces with them, but some of the best I have worked with are DJ Carl Roberts, who is such a great organiser; DJ Danny Rampling, one of the grandmasters of DJ-ing; DJ Kinky D, who is a local favourite and amazing to work with; and Jared McCulloch, who is exceptionally talented.’

Currently, you can catch Patrick at the Sundowner Sessions on the Al Dana Terrace at the Sharq Village & Spa alongside DJ Carl Roberts. Or else join him on one of the welcoming full moon desert drumming circles where you’ll learn the basics of drumming such as how to sit, how to breathe and how to play basic rhythms by following his lead. It’s open to anyone with any skill level on the drums. And next time you’re driving out on a sunset excursion, before the full moon appears, just remember to open your car window and listen out for the progressive rhythm of Doha’s music scene amid the breeze of Qatar’s desert.
For more info join Doha Desert Drummers on Facebook, email or call 6661 4643.

Patrick’s top tips for budding drummers
1. Don’t be scared to try if you think you have no rhythm, one in a 100 people have no rhythm so you will probably surprise yourself.

2. Start by attending a drumming lesson or drumming circle to learn the basics.

3. Relax and breathe. Breathing and good posture are key to drumming successfully.

4. Don’t be fooled, you don’t need to use all your strength to make a huge sound. It’s all about how you hit, not how hard. Sometimes only one finger can create a big sound.

5. Play! Play! Play! As much as you possibly can.

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