The smell of bonfires and sound of crashing waves is typical of a beach visit, but with every full moon, beachgoers can expect to find a different sound at Aliso County Beach in Laguna.
Open to the public, the Laguna Beach Full Moon Drum Circle is an event where people sing, dance and play their instruments by the ocean under the moon.
Deanna Cook used to visit larger drum circles in Miami and Lake Worth, Florida, but she said she prefers Laguna’s more intimate size. A follower of the moon cycles, she’s been coming to the drum circle in Laguna on and off for a few years.
“The full moon is really beautiful. To be at the beach with the full moon, the music, the tide rolling in and all the energy — it’s beautiful,” Cook said.
Individuals of all ages, genders and interests gathered around a fire to shake off their cares and absorb the energy in the air that seemed to surge through the circle Thursday night.
The drum of choice is usually a djembe, an instrument that originates from West Africa. Djembes of all sizes were brought to be played at the event. Whether the larger sizes, which helped carry the beat, or the handheld variety that provided a quieter rhythm, the djembes brought cadence and life to the circle.
Though it’s called a drum circle, all instruments were present. Tambourines, mini electric guitars (with amplifiers) and a Latin instrument called güiro brought a variety of sounds that added to the atmosphere.
No matter the instrument, the music they played almost dared everyone to ignore the beat. Whether they were standing up and shaking their hips or sitting down and bobbing their heads, people couldn’t help but feel the music.
As the full moon ascended, everyone seemed to shed their inhibitions and enjoy the vibe. More visitors found their way into the middle of the drum circle where they danced, laughed and enjoyed each other’s company.
Someone who was in the middle of the action was Raquel Frankson, who has attended the event on and off for the past eight months.
As she danced by the fire, she felt a sense of spirit and freedom. She said it wasn’t always like that; her first few drum circles were spent watching instead of dancing. Over time, she built the confidence to start moving to the music.
“To dance a little bit in front of the fire on the sand — you don’t get that very often,” Frankson said.
The camaraderie also came from the drummers as they encouraged each other to play louder and harder. They even let some of the dancers hit a few beats from their drums. Most often, though, they just closed their eyes and played to the beat they felt.
The drum circle isn’t just for drumming and dancing; many visitors chose to sit on the outskirts and watch. A few passerbys even hung out for a few minutes to check out the scene.
The next drum circle will gather on April 29 for everyone who wants to bring instruments, a sweater and enjoy the music.