Drumming circle a men's health initiative to lower stress, encourage social interaction

Jim Cowie knows well the therapeutic potential of music. 

For years, the violin teacher has watched his students’ stress dissipate moments after picking up their bows.  

But it’s another, louder instrument he believed could help men take better care of their mental health. 

Mr Cowie led a drumming circle at Bendigo and Castlemaine libraries on Thursday, a Men’s Health Week initiative.  

Budding percussionists aged 18 to 88 gathered for the event, taking part in an activity lauded from Mongolia to West Africa for its meditative qualities.

Mr Cowie, who described his style of drumming as a “mish-mash” of genres, believed it encouraged men to practice mindfulness. 

“You need to focus a certain amount of contemplation on the beat, so you can’t worry about the ugly or the bad things,” he said. 

Eaglehawk man Dave Lumsdon was among those who took charge of a djembe – the type of African drum Mr Cowie used for his classes.   

He believed the activity could prove especially helpful for young men having trouble expressing their frustrations.

“They’re naturally physical people,” Mr Lumsdon said.

“This is an outlet for their emotions.”

He also reported feeling energised after taking part in the exercise. 

The circle also facilitated the sort of social interaction on which men battling internal demons might otherwise miss out, Mr Lumsdon said. 

Bendigo has its own history with African drumming.

Local resident Trevor Casey, who attended Thursday’s once-off meeting, was previously part of the city’s drumming ensemble, though that group had since dissolved.

He said the past-time gave performers a sense of accomplishment and hoped there was enough interest to regenerate the ensemble. 

“It’s amazing how fast you can progress,” he said.

June 12 to 18 is a national week of action for men’s health. 

Pilates, documentary screenings and even father-son table tennis matches are being held across Victoria to mark the occasion. 

The topic will again be in the spotlight later this year when Bendigo Community Health Services runs its annual Men’s Health Marathon, an 11-day wellbeing program for men. 

Visit the Bendigo Advertiser website to see and hear the djembe drumming circle.