The energetic and healing event returns for a seventh year.
During its 40-year run, Garcia’s Internazionale Restaurant was not only a purveyor of Peruvian cuisine, but a point of convergence for different cultures in Columbus. At its location on High Street in the Old North area, both words and artistic customs were exchanged.
For the owner’s son, Iggy Garcia, that meant learning different styles of drumming. A significant moment in his development occurred at 14, when a Macedonian band was playing regularly in the restaurant.
“One day the drummer got sick so they just threw me in,” Garcia recalled. “I just kind of progressed and I stuck with that band. … And then the belly dancers came. That's where I learned the Middle Eastern drumming.”
Today, Garcia is an accomplished musician who teaches, performs and provides music therapy services. And on Sunday, July 28, he will help organize the seventh annual “Gathering of 1,000 Drummers & Dancers” at Scioto Audubon Metro Park.
“It kind of started as a joke,” Garcia said. “‘What happens if we get 1,000 drummers out here?’ … I think the closest we got was about 800 people. We just stopped counting [over] the years. But, roughly, we have about 400 to 600 people.”
The massive drumming circle has become a facilitator of community, bringing together drummers from all over the region. Many cultures are represented through the players and dancers; it’s not unlikely to see belly dancing, African dance and even people who think they’re at a techno club.
“It starts off a little bit choppy,” Garcia said of the rhythms. “Eventually, it all meshes. It just organically develops. … No one’s in charge.”
Garcia encourages everyone to bring their own drums. A couple of his signature instruments are the African djembe drum, as well as the pow wow drum. The latter, made of bull skin and Alabama cedar wood, is significant in Native American and other indigenous cultures.
“We actually use it for healing,” said Garcia, who emphasized the sacred “medicine wheel” symbol painted on the top, its colors taken from the flag associated with the Inca Empire. “The drum is a unifier. … It opens and closes the ceremony.”
Garcia has also been known to wear a Panda costume — it represents the mascot of Columbus Futsal, which he co-founded for kids in 2006 — to get people out of their shells during the event.
“Even drummers are shy,” he said.
Garcia stressed that the gathering is open to all, regardless of skill level, and very laid-back.
“It's not really a festival,” he said. “We're not selling anything. We're getting together. It's like a family reunion.”
This article has been updated to clarify the name of Columbus Futsal and Garcia's role in its founding.