‘Livin’ the Rhythm’ brings African drum circle and community to a Loxahatchee farm
Under the evening sky, music lovers get in tune together around a fire pit for a traditional African drum circle on a newly acquired farm in Loxahatchee. And as art events spring up across the county during the pandemic, organizers say the drum cypher promotes community healing and healthy eating.
Tucked inside of a patch of farmland in an unincorporated community in Palm Beach County, a few miles west of Royal Palm Beach, more than a dozen people of all ages watch beginners and professionals make music with djembe and dundun drums — just an ensemble of small-to-large hand-drums and percussion instruments.
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Abasi "Manblack" Hanif is the founder of ‘Livin The Rhythm.’ The teacher, artist, and percussionist says the intimate event has been connecting people interested in the African diaspora, through traditional music, for more than 11 years.
“We never let go of drums. We let go of this way of doing it, in this level of connection to it, of it feeling like a spiritual thing,” said Hanif. “But it’s always been a spiritual thing for Black people. I feel like drums, specifically.”
Hanif said the drum circle is an “African-centered” cultural expression that’s been missing in community spaces. And he felt emboldened to spearhead his own after noticing a lack of representation in many of the local drum circles he had attended throughout the years.
“We [people of African descent] have almost been totally disconnected,” said Hanif. “The drums were made illegal here in America after the Stono Rebellion. They pretty much cut us off from our own culture.”
The Stono Rebellion was a slave revolt in South Carolina in the early 1700s. It was one of the largest slave insurrections in U.S. history. Enslaved people used the African drums as a form of communication, which led to some U.S. colonies outlawing the instrument to suppress the African culture.
Livin' the Rhythm occupied several locations throughout the county in the past decade and the pandemic forced the organization, and the event, to pivot.
“We’ve been able to reach more people now. There were global drum days, digitally,” said Hanif. “Online, I was able to reach people I would’ve never met through that. It’s really just opened up a different wave.”
Hanif is working in conjunction with Rahein Jones, co-owner of the popular downtown Delray Beach restaurant and food truck, The New Vegan. Jones, who runs The New Vegan businesses with his wife, chef Patricia Jones, and their proprietary vegan food ordering app, Innaclick, is turning the 10-acre property into a multi-purpose farm and event space.
“It’s not about color or size or gender — it’s about rhythm. It ties the community together,” said Rahein Jones. “Everyone can kind of leave their problems at the gate and just come in and just drum out.”
Rahein Jones says vegan and non-vegan locals and people of different ethnicities have embraced the gathering.
Loxahatchee is a rural enclave in Palm Beach County, known for its drive-in safari park, Lion Country Safari, and the town of Loxahatchee Groves, which, according to U.S. Census numbers, has a population of just over 3,000 people.
Soon, part of the Jones' farmland will be used as a community farm. He said people will be able to use a plot of land to cultivate their own fruits and veggies; farmers will be able to sell to the public, and the New Vegan will purchase from the farmers as well.
“There is a need for it. A lot of families don’t have the opportunity to farm for their families and make some money behind it,” said Rahein Jones.
The outdoor event, at the New Vegan Farmland on 15550 Okeechobee Blvd in Loxahatchee, occurs every first and third Thursday of the month from 7 to 11 p.m.
Organizers say this is part of a broader effort to merge health and wellness with traditional entertainment in Loxahatchee.
“This farm is going to put Loxahatchee on the map. As far as health and wellness, as far as good vibes, as far as bringing awesome people together — this is what this place will do,” Rahein Jones said.