Circle Singing: An Introduction

Close your eyes. Imagine you’re part of a small community. A small community where everybody has rhythm, harmony, music flowing into their veins.

Imagine everybody making a circle and starting to make music.

One voice, then another one, and one more, part after part weaving together. A brand new story to tell, born in the very moment where every single voice is creating it, a story that gets braided with another one, giving birth to a creature that depends on each other's whisper.

This is the vision I have of what Bobby McFerrin gave to the western world when, for the first time, he brought circle singing out of Africa.

Circle singing is a spontaneous, improvisational community-singing experience born in the most ancient part of our amazing planet. There are many ways to make and facilitate this wonderful experience. In the most common one, a leader (or facilitator) starts by improvising a line of music and teaches the parts on the spot to one part of the circle at the time. The group ends up singing new compositions; never-before-sung, wordless most of the time, fun songs, melodies, harmonies, and rhythms. Each circle is a unique experience.

It can be done with professional singers – and of course it can be a lot of fun to play with voices as with a human orchestra – but it can also become a precious and therapeutic experimental activity when it involves non-musicians or mixed groups.

The reason why I love it so much? It's ego-less. It's fun. It makes you feel like your voice matters, even among many other voices. It gives you the sense of how the parts are interdependent and it creates something special, unexpected, vulnerable yet full-of-beauty, every time, and it's never the same.

Over the next few months, let's go on a journey through the many wonders of the circle singing world, as we discover together the circle singing communities of the world! Until then, I hope you stay curious and inspired and start discovering more on your own!