Exhibitionists·Video

This hand drumming circle is a beating heart in Toronto's Kensington Market

Traditional Indigenous hand drummer Veronica Johnny shows correspondent April Aliermo the rhythms that drive her women's hand drumming circle.

Traditional Indigenous hand drummer Veronica Johnny shows us the rhythms that drive her 'sisterhood'

Traditional Indigenous hand drummer and Meadow Valley Woman Veronica Johnny shows us the rhythms that drive her women's hand drumming circle. 4:39

Inside an unassuming storefront in Toronto's Kensington Market is a room full of monumental masks. That's the backdrop for Veronica Johnny's hand drumming circle classes for women. Johnny is a musician who shares her traditional Indigenous percussive techniques with the students who join her each week. The circle acts not only as a place to learn these rhythms but also a safe space for expression.

"There's no head of the table," Johnny says in the above video. "There's no person that's all-knowing in the circle. We all have our gifts and we all have what we bring to the circle to share — and so that's how we lift each other."

"It's in a drumming circle that I first found my voice," adds drummer Amy van den Berg. "Not as a singer, but as a human being."

CBC Arts correspondent April Aliermo joins Johnny at one of the circle's sessions to learn about the tradition of hand drumming, get to know some of the instruments and talk to the class — including regular participants Marcela Beochat, Kristyn Gelfand, Patricia Clark and van den Berg, in order of appearance — as she joins them in making music.

Native Women in the Arts present free Women's Hand Drumming classes with Veronica Johnny in partnership with Red Pepper Spectacle Arts, every second Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. beginning May 9 until June 20. Classes will happen again in autumn. Sign up by contacting info@nwia.ca.

See Veronica Johnny at the Indigenous Arts Festival at Fort York Historical Site, Toronto, June 21-23.

Watch Exhibitionists online. New episodes Friday nights at 12:30am (1am NT) and Sundays at 3:30pm (4pm NT) on CBC Television.

About the Author

April Aliermo is a Filipinx-Canadian musician, songwriter, entrepreneur and educator based out of Toronto. She plays bass and co-writes music and lyrics for Hooded Fang and Phèdre. She strives to build conscious communities while having the time of her life.