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Just Drumming Up a Little Business

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Tambourines, conga drums, frame drums and flutes cover a coffee table surrounded by women. They sort through the instruments looking for the perfect noise.

Some look for soft-sounding drums, others pick one that makes a big boom. Some are attracted to bells, some to rattles.

Regulars bring their own instruments, newcomers borrow. But together they all make music during what has become a weekly ritual at Living Planet, a new Santa Monica coffeehouse.

The women are part of a grass-roots drumming circle, open to the public, that gathers most Thursdays for a two-hour session of “women’s spirit drumming.” From 15 to 50 women might show up for the event. They do take night life to a level uncharted by most coffeehouses.

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As they sit in a circle their teacher, Joselyn Wikinson, who studied in Ghana, tells the group that drumming is communication and that each person’s sound is a means of delivering feelings, emotions or a response to the sound of another drum. After the brief lesson, Wikinson, who performs with Adaawe (a women’s music society), begins to drum.

Once the beat is set, the crowd joins in. Some drum intermittently, others stroke their drums to create a long-lasting sound. Some reach for the noisemakers and those who are moved by the moment get up to dance.

The drumming takes place against a backdrop where turtles frolic in a fountain and birds flit in a spacious wooden cage. Incense fills in the air and candlelight emits a soft glow over the coffeehouse.

“This is the perfect environment to make music together,” says regular Tina Gilger of Anaheim, a drummer with Shadow’s Fury--regular performers at Living Planet.

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As patron Ma’Heo explains it, the drumming is best sans men, who often add an entirely different sound to the mix because they want to out-drum each other instead of trying to blend, like the women. When the occasional man drops in, however, he is welcomed.

Opened three months ago in a spacious storefront shop on Ocean Park Boulevard, the eco-friendly Living Planet features healing and spiritual entertainment--and coffee.

Formerly located in Long Beach, the establishment has become the newest New Age hangout on the Westside, offering plenty of space for patrons to explore a deeper side of life or just drink java. Owner Tony Moss moved his business to Santa Monica because the majority of his clientele lived there.

Living Planet features a variety of entertainment including healing dance, New Age concerts, drumming, meditation, shamanic journeys, organic poetry and has held a wellness day for healers, psychics and body specialists.

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In addition, the coffeehouse has a store on the premises that sells a number of items such as candles, books about spirituality and incense. Hence, the spiritual setting and earth atmosphere create the perfect ambience for a drumming circle.

“All these rich elements come together in a comfortable and peaceful setting that is perfect for drumming,” Ma’Heo said.

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Where: The Living Planet, 1700 Ocean Park Blvd., Santa Monica; (310) 452-1082.

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When: Open daily, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., and at varying times during the evening. Spirit drumming on Thursdays at 8 p.m. Call to confirm that it has been scheduled.

Cost: Spirit drumming is $8. Cover varies with other entertainment.


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