Synthesis Shaman Drum Circle


Szintézis Sámándobkör: the meaning of the name is „Synthesis Shaman Drum Circle”. Tamas Paulinyi, founder and leader of the Synthesis Free University in Budapest, started their shaman drum circle together with the school and its evoking public society in 1997. As a journalist, writer, poet and scientific parapsychological researcher, of course, he was already interested in the international culture complex and local phenomena of neoshamanism in the preceding years, and since several initiatives of this kind had appeared on the scene as pioneers of the genre not much earlier, he neither wanted to stay out of the progress of events… So thus the Synthesis Shaman Drum Circle was relatively quickly born among the first comers of the (typically home-made, do-it-yourself-like) drum-circle movement that had been started before by Istvan Somogyi and Zoltan Solyomfi-Nagy during the ’90s in a building-from-below way in Hungary, trying to revive our ancient shamanistic traditions again, too. These circles usually are open clubs or loosely-organized friendly societies who come together with the intention of collectively experiencing their possibilities: they themselves make their instruments (which are as simple as possible), following the basic types and examples of the Siberian or Native American (or even the old-world Hungarian) drums for this, like other folk instruments, too. Cultivating our inner connection to Earth and Nature through this all, and meaning to reawaken the common wisdom behind the traditions in us – to see an elementary communal experience. This drum group of the Synthesis Society accompanies the school from the beginning as a sort of open club where anyone can take a part in the common improvisation or the singing of the songs. In the course of the years, a little regular membership has also formed, acting like a band – entering on stage. Our repertoire mainly consists of our own compositions (but there are some traditional themes and songs from other similar groups among them, too).

Inter alia Botond Szathmari historian of religion made a short, but well done, light study about the global phenomenon of neoshamanism (and within, the typical character of „metropolitan shaman”), which is accessible on the internet at several locations (entitled Shamans at the Dawn of the 21st Century). You should read the original work; which I would underline here, that he mentions those two books apostrophed as standard works that the most probably helped this international inflammation on: Mircea Eliade: Shamanism. Archaic Techniques of Ecstasy (1951) and Carlos Castaneda: The Teachings of Don Juan (1968). Likewise he briefly deals with the activity of the two new-world anthropologist and etnographer: Michael Harner and his disciple Jonathan Horwitz (whose name is erroneously listed unfortunately as „Horowitz” in many places, so at Botond, too) gradually grown into a sort of „original-guru”. The former of the two was he who had been to Budapest in 1986 (for the invitation of Mihaly Hoppal), then the latter in 1991, and held some trainings of the theme. Predominantly this was such one primary source that „started up” or made fruitful several key-figures (among others: Istvan Somogyi, Zoltan Solyomfi-Nagy, Attila Grandpierre, Andras Laar, Laszlo Mireisz and Tamas Paulinyi… etc.); as well as dispersed throughout the first sparks on this ceremony-thirsty Hungarian fallow… (Albeit it was pretty much preceded by the indian camps regularly kept by Tamas Cseh at Bakonybel from 1961.) These irreversible initiatives later worked onward and spreaded in a very viable way, and by now there already are some whole dozens of lesser or greater drum circles and shaman clubs, creative self-teaching and dancing circles, and traditionalist, neopagan, neoshaman societies blossoming and growing picturesquely, vividly and richly all over the country. Maybe the two most beautiful features of that are: naturalness, and unaffected, homely simplicity. The latter means that the manner is open for anyone: the required tools can be made at any household domestically, and their usage neither demands any preliminary studies or practical skills for.


When the first year of the Synthesis Free University organized by Paulinyi in 1997 began, it already included its own shaman drum circle, which has been working since then, together with the school, with undiminished energy. It is a kind of open club reassembling every two months, where any visitors are welcomed who arrive equipped with any kind of usable instrument (that may even be his/her own voice, too…), and/or are interested in or at least feel any affinity for the atmosphere of neoshamanism. (See: Synthesis Free University at the contacts.)

Once and again handfully we are lingering or vegetating at the hall, while at other times – to surprise – the number swells to several dozens. The actual social composition always changes in the same incalculable way. There occur some regular members still as tribesmanship, and there are many kind guests returning occasionally. (Although the shaping atmosphere does not firstly depend on the quantity of present company… of course.) Besides, we have even got a place called Cserkut, that forest-lodge lying a few miles away from Cserhatszentivan at the back of beyond, which could rate as a real sanctuary and a cult-place in the eyes of the very most of other congenial-spirit companies in our country, too. That hermitage of a has-been watermill these days, rebuilt to an oven-heated little peasant house right at the meeting-point of several streams and brooks in the depths of the oaken wood in a picturesque valley, isolated in a cool and quiet, smoky solitude, with the fire, the former general headquarters of Istvan Somogyi and the Arvisura Theatre, that nowadays gives shelter to and accommodates those withdrawing and self-sequestering ones searching for immersion day by day. Tamas usually writes his novels over there, too, even outstanding entire frosty winter months all alone; or our small group spends a few days every summer there.

Since the circle exists, it exists not only for itself, but shoulders external performances, too. There are own songs and turns established – with or without singing – that are playable and presentable already on stage. In the beginning it consisted of mere improvisation, which the text and structure were only subsequently added to. That small band consisting of five people was forming out according to this, who mostly take over these roles (Tamas Paulinyi, Katalin Furjes, Tilda Takacs, Zsoka Szucs and Robert Olessak), though occasionally this number might complete with others, too. (We had already tried to hang a lot of names upon ourselves, but none of them worked lastly, thus we remained Synthesis Shaman Drum Circle further on for lack of a better…) We shared part in various kinds of camps, sundances and firewalks, miscellaneous solstitial, equinoctial feasts, nature-healing, esoteric fests; drummed together with the above-mentioned Somogyi/Solyomfi’s companies, or a very talented seeming successor of them, the Firebird Shaman Drum Circle lead by Osku Feherhollo („White Raven”), the Javas Music by Laar/Mireisz, another Laar-band Tuzforras („Fire Stream”), one or two times with the VHK and KFT… (elder Hungarian punk, pop cult-bands). Made some so-called Ritual Theatres, too. (Once drumming on our half-made yet and still „unofficial” taiko drums, hm, upside down; another time with eccentric poet Janos Sebeok.) Persian tribal stomach dances, ancient Hungarian horse-back archers; folk music and folk dance; electronic goa music; the international Rainbow Tribe (by Boli Balatoni), Krishnans, Buddhists… etc. Sometimes with the congenial Turunga Circle (didgeridoo players); Devalon inviting; and of course our other bands (Kiyo-Kito, Stonehenge). Beside this intensive and partnering life, however, in the course of years, we more often act with own repertoire.

Not more than an experience gaining process this is, happening inside, in our inner world. Maybe succeeded in living through some one or two elated – or transcendent – moments, the memory of which we surely should not ever exchange against any other else. Yes, and naturally there were such occasions, too, which finally degenerated into any diverse kinds of alcohol-steamed, insane chaos, or unrestrained, frenzied, feral, infantile storming. The innocent and harmless, adsorbed, solemn, nature-loving, tradition-bound, full-of-pathos philosophers’ circle; and the inhumanly beside-oneselves, swindler, reveller and riotous rabble – yonder Human Being’s two evident faces, which seem mutually exclusive or contradictory and inconsistent only to the superficial outsider observer. But between the extremities polarized, some eventual rainbow-scale of individual transitions stretches over, arches ever, colorfully lived. (And the travelling through nether, upper worlds either may not exist genuinely without any opposite of each other and themselves…)

For the sake of truth – and landing back to ground – nevertheless of course it must be admitted, too, that this little, modest, so-termed „urbanly countrified” worn-winged drum circle of ours, well, is actually more reserved, close, stand-offish and self-contained, gloomier and melancholic place than the others’; rather like a rainy afternoon; and not so much an animating, elevating, ravishingly ecstatic movement like e. g. there were any of the etherealized seances of Istvan Somogyi at the castle of Buda, occasionally even with as much as several hundred people together formerly… We rather do it just for ourselves; rather club, than band; but we do feel good within that, anyway.

After all, we could label the whole thing as musical performace. However, it is – at least, in any case – inexact. It is not definitely, and also not always „musical”, since we can rather only speak of singing and rhythm accompaniment; and it is not mainly meant a „performance” (that is for a passive, receptive audience), but rather is an open, common celebration or a feast, in which all those present take an active part. That is also such an initiative, intended to show an example.




Robert Olessak (2010)

Stonehenge Ancient Rhythm Formation

  Kiyo-Kito Taiko
Kiyo-Kito Taiko

  Our Bands brochure (2010)
Our Bands brochure (Kiyo-Kito, Synthesis and Stonehenge) (0.3 MB)