EL PASO — If you are ever passing by Rim Road near Scenic Drive in West El Paso in the summer on an early Friday evening, you might hear a throbbing sound of tribal drums pulling you in closer to the infectious pulse that is Echos in the Park.
What started out as a series of relaxing outdoor musical improv sessions by heads of the local jam band, Stanton Street Collective, has evolved into a weekly fluid gathering at Tom Lea Park of musicians and percussionists from all walks of life.
“There is something special about having an impromptu jam session with a bunch of people that have never practiced and sharing that feeling of camaraderie,” said Roberto Santos, organizer for the Barbed Wire Open Mic Series.
Since getting its start nearly four years ago, Echos in the Park has been gradually growing its circle of amateur percussionists up on top of one of the most beautiful and accessible scenic points overlooking the Downtown El Paso and Juarez area.
Though the event’s lack of centralized ownership, formal structure, legitimate promotion and fixed schedule, it has some how managed to continue to thrive efficiently and effectively with word-of-mouth throughout intimate circles of music lovers across the city.
“This is important because you have something that gets put together which is truly an event that the people have put on,” Santos said, “[this is]an event where there is no infrastructure going on, and there is no red tape to being able to perform. This is something that empowers the people who show up and are involved.”
Echos in the Park gives the audience complete freedom to participate and get involved in the circle of music.
“Like an open mic we invite anyone, any type of instrument and voice and let them speak,” said Richie David Marrufo, English graduate student at the University of Texas at El Paso, and Echos in the Park mainstay, “It’s an opportunity for amateur drummers and musicians to try their stuff out.”
Marrufo and many of the other regulars of Echos in the Park often bring extra instruments in the hopes to have more people involved and engaged in the communal sounds.
“All of us are beings of sound,” Marrufo said, “when you get to be a part of that in a small way by contributing a rhythm or making sound, it makes a difference. When [people participate], in one way, we are creating things, and I think it’s important to create and build community.”
Stanton Street Collective band members and avant Echos in the Park regulars such as Jose Melendez and Alfredo Gutierrez, praise the spiritual qualities music has in bringing people together.
“Music to me is a very big structure, it’s like talking to God,” said Jose Melendez, “when we are together, we play as one person.”
“Drums are super spiritual instruments because everybody gets put on the same frequency,” said Alfredo Gutierrez, “with our attitudes, we are at a high point overlooking the city, being humble, sending good frequencies, and giving prayers for El Paso and Juarez that way everyone has a blessed night.”
Gutierrez said these frequencies take on a form of love that is communicated to all of those who involve themselves in them.
“This universe can produce the war and bloodshed that we have seen throughout the world, and again it can also produce art, beauty, symphonies and make life beautiful,” Gutierrez said, “Everyone that goes to the drum circle is in love, [meaning]they are possessed by the music and are feeling God inside of them, and who ever is there will feel the same thing.”
Although structure in Echos in the Park might make give the impression of impermanence, Gutierrez said he has faith in people continuing to get together to create art long after he moves on.
“People are always going to be carrying the torch for beauty and art whether it’s at [Tom Lea] or at another park. It’s going to happen whether the masses are in love with it or not.”
Echos in the Park meets anywhere from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. on any given Friday in the warmer summer months at Tom Lea park on Rim Rd. if weather permits.
Regulars encourage others to come and participate in creating music communally at Tom Lea even if there is no one already there.
“People are always going to be welcome to come and be a part of this creative movement,” said Gutierrez.