In Panama, Luna Llena de Tambores equals drumming and joy under the moonlight

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On Jan. 31, a Super Blue Blood Moon shone down upon the world. It was a “blue” Moon (i.e., the second full Moon in a calendar month) which happened to occur while the satellite was at its closest point to the Earth in its orbit (and therefore looked “super” big in the sky), just as the Earth passed between the Sun and the Moon, provoking a total lunar eclipse that to us looked like a “blood” red shadow on the lunar surface. That’s a lot of astronomical events coming together all at once. The last time the confluence could be witnessed from the United States was back in 1866.

Most Americans, one presumes, looked up, said “cool,” and went about their business. Some ten thousand lucky people in Panama, however, were luckier: they got to have a Moon party, courtesy of the Luna Llena de Tambores festival (in Spanish the name is a play on words, which can be taken to mean “full moon of drums” or “Moon full of drums”). “It was amazing,” the organizers tell us, “to see so many people, on a Wednesday night, to come together for their monthly session with the Moon and the drum.” Under the banner “Unidos por el Ritmo” (“United by Rhythm”), the Luna Llena band and some guests, including La Tribu Performance Panamá, brought the crowd to its feet to dance the night away.

Created by multi-instrumentalist Alfredo Hidrovo and sponsored by a public-private consortium that includes the Panamanian government, civil society groups, and large corporations in banking and media, Luna Llena de Tambores is a free, interactive musical performance. “Its magic,” says Hidrovo “resides in bringing together people from all social strata in the country to join them in harmony and create a true and alive social network.” The message is clear: put down your phone, pick up a drum, and get banging. Drums, after all, “get the soul moving.”

It was a big concert/party, but certainly not the first. In December 2017, it was Christmas-themed, before that, partygoers formed giant drum circles and shared their energy with each other, in September they played on plastic orange buckets while getting soaked by the tropical rain. Next time (March 1, in fact), they’ll come up with another fantastic idea. For eight years, every night of the Full Moon, Luna Llena de Tambores has brought people together. “It’s a release,” says one attendee, “you take your negative energy and turn it into positive.”

What Hidrovo and his collaborators are doing is making music that’s more than entertainment. This is music as group therapy, music as social glue, music as a tool to make the world better. The world is full of socially minded artists who do the same. What sets Luna Llena de Tambores apart, besides its growing popularity, is its astral companion, which once in a while, such as last January, brings once-in-a-lifetime surprises along.

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