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Every evening at dusk, a group of drummers form a circle in front of the 63rd Street Beach House on Chicago's South Side. "They just know to come," said Rick Taylor, a drumming teacher, who has been part of the circle since 1983. "There is no organization." The drummers have been meeting here daily for the last 40 years, when the weather permits, of course.

"The circle is here at 63rd Street because of the nearby communities. Most of the drummers come from South Shore, Hyde Park and Kenwood," said Marcus Lenton, a construction manager, who has been coming to listen for 30 years and has many friends in the circle. Many in the audience join the circle after enjoying the nearby beach. Because the drummers don't play in a formalized amphitheater there is no need to reserve the space – something that fits perfectly with the circle's spontaneity.

The place where the circle forms is nothing special: the drummers set up over a wide stretch of sidewalk that leads from the parking lot to the Beach House entrance. Without the drumming community, this space would be just another silent, unused path. Instead, it comes alive each night when the group sets up between a colonnade of tall tree trunks on the east and low, full bushes on the west. The trees are the only fixtures that trace out a loose boundary for the group, separating the circle from the vast grassy lawn where picnickers spread out their blankets. The trees make the circle feel complete and protected, but also natural and unplanned…almost like a camp- fire site where the beat is the flame.

Lenton said the circle is great exactly because nothing has been built to host it: "There are no additives, it's totally natural." He was adamant about keeping it that way. "I wouldn't change a thing. Don't build anything. It would ruin it. It's got to be spontaneous."

A single drummer, explained Lenton, is enough to start the circle. Pretty soon, without fail, others set up chairs and instruments near the trees. The circle is widest and loudest just before nightfall and continues until around 10:30 when, according to Lenton, "the cops break it up" in time for the park to close at 11:00.

The circle is open to everyone. "If you can catch the beat, you can join in," explained Lenton. The drummers are a mixed group. "Some went to school for it, some just picked it up recently, and some were brought up doing it their whole lives."

Even though everyone calls the gathering "the drum circle," it's not limited to one kind of instrument. Some people shake maracas or tambourines; others play the trumpet and saxophone, while some just clap, sing, and stomp their feet. Even the police officers who walk this beat clap along and nod their heads from their places along the circle's periphery.

Kenyatta Jackson, who plays several kinds of drums in the circle, said he comes because the circle provides a "release for us as drummers and as human beings. It's a way to maintain our lives, day-to-day." It's also a community center: "[The drum circle] brings all the generations together," said Edward Phillips, Lenton's friend, "this is our common culture. It's like we all found our home here."

Jackson said a rule of the circle is "no drinking, no drugs, no profanity, and no arguing." As long as there are drummers, he said, "it's safe here. Check the police log if you want, but I can tell you there are no violent crimes when this circle is around." Taylor added, "Anytime you have music, anytime you have rhythm, the place starts getting crowded. It just builds and builds."

 
 
 

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♪♫♪...Today In The News

Asia shares stage patchy recovery but volatility seen staying high

A pedestrian looks at an electronic board showing the stock market indices of various countries outside a brokerage in Tokyo By Hideyuki Sano TOKYO (Reuters) - Asian shares struggled to recover on Thursday with volatility remaining high, while emerging economy and commodity-linked currencies softened as investors worried about the global repercussions of slower growth in China. Japan's Nikkei rose for the first time in four days, gaining 0.7 percent. Many Asian bourses also advanced but weakness in Australia and falls in Asian currencies drove MSCI's dollar-denominated broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan down 0.2 percent.


China holds massive military parade, to cut troop levels by 300,000

Chinese President Xi Jinping stands in a car, at the beginning of the military parade marking the 70th anniversary of the end of World War Two, in Beijing By Ben Blanchard and Sui-Lee Wee BEIJING (Reuters) - President Xi Jinping announced on Thursday he would cut troop levels by 300,000 as China held its biggest display of military might in a parade to commemorate victory over Japan in World War Two, an event shunned by most Western leaders. China's confidence in its armed forces and growing military assertiveness, especially in the disputed South China Sea, has rattled the region and drawn criticism from Washington. Xi, speaking on a rostrum overlooking Beijing's Tiananmen Square before the parade began, said China would cut by 13 percent one of the world's biggest militaries, currently 2.3-million strong.


Boat capsizes off Malaysia with 100 aboard: maritime agency

A boat carrying about 100 people has capsized off the western coast of Malaysia near the busy Strait of Malacca, maritime authorities said on Thursday. A spokesman for the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency said it was not immediately clear if there were any casualties in the incident, which took place near the district of Sabak Bernam in Malaysia's richest state of Selangor.

Chung claims 'fraud' in FIFA presidential poll

South Korean FIFA Honorary Vice President Chung Mong-Joon announces his candidacy for the upcoming FIFA presidential elections on August 17, 2015 in Paris South Korean FIFA presidential candidate Chung Mong-Joon on Thursday accused the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) of "election fraud" in backing rival candidate Michel Platini. Chung said the AFC, whose president Sheikh Salman bin Ibrahim Al Khalifa has publicly supported Platini, had sent "unsolicited" letters to almost every AFC member association except for South Korea and Jordan, to win their support for Platini.


In Alaska, Obama becomes 1st president to enter the Arctic

File - In this May 24, 2006 file photo, frozen human waste from honey buckets litter the frozen Newtok River, in Newtok, Alaska. It’s a good bet that President Barack Obama, like most Americans, has never used a honey bucket. The five-gallon drums serve as rudimentary toilets in large swaths of rural Alaska, where residents haul the waste-filled buckets to nearby sewage lagoons to be emptied. Obama’s historic visit to the Alaska Arctic on Wednesday will shed a rare spotlight on the plight of Alaska Natives and others who populate more than 200 far-flung villages in Alaska, toiling under third-world conditions unimaginable in most of the United States.(AP Photo/Al Grillo, File) KOTZEBUE, Alaska (AP) — President Barack Obama crossed the Arctic Circle on Wednesday in a first by a sitting U.S. president, telling residents in a far-flung Alaska village that their plight should be the world's wake-up call on global warming.


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