Brooklyn Raga Massive playing at the 4th Year Anniversary Celebration of Golden Drum

Two weeks ago Greenpoint’s spiritual center, The Golden Drum, celebrated its fourth anniversary and invited Greenpointers along for the fun. Having never heard them before, naturally we here at the news desk were intrigued. Armed with curious minds and hearty dose of New York instilled skepticism, the fabulous Julia Moak and I visited the Golden Drum to see what the center was all about and why it was attracting all these shiny happy people. 

The Golden Drum is everything you would expect from a spiritual learning place. It has white walls, smells of freshly lit incense and is filled with the smiling faces of Buddha, the Dalai Lama, and the center’s founder— Maestro Manuel.  The anniversary brought together all walks of life—hippy mammas in batik skirts, tattooed hipsters, lots bangle bracelets and beaded moccasins, and yes, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the large amount of bearded white men rocking turbans.

Maestro Manuel

First up on the agenda was a sampling of vegan delights from the center’s vegetarian restaurant, The Jungle Café. But before we could dive into the Jungle Café’s amazing lasagna made of layers of delicately flavored corn tortillas or their divine desserts, the group gathered around, held hands and hummed in a variety of yogi frequencies. With the blessing complete, we chowed away and never once did I miss the absence of meat or dairy products.

Next, the party moved into the main room for a little raga music. A raga, as it was explained, is like a seed that is planted and grows into a tree. Firmly planted on my little magic carpet, I closed my eyes and let the sounds of the sitar wash over me.  Forty-five minutes into my ride Julia turned to me and whispered, “I can’t believe we’re in Greenpoint. I feel like I’m on vacation!” Eyeballing a woman several feet away, her curly head swaying like a flag come Labor Day, I had to agree. Let me tell you Greenpointers, these people know how to throw a party.

Rounding out the night’s festivities, Maestro Manuel made an appearance. Here is where things got interesting. “Tonight I want to talk about humanity,” said the smiling man, tribal beaded necklace swinging from his wiry bearded chin.  With a glint in his eye, he pressed onward as if he were letting us in on a grand cosmic joke: “But to begin to talk about humanity we must first clean our minds. Some people call me a brainwasher and to that I say, ‘Yes, I am. I want to scrub your brains because your minds are dirty…like whoa, really dirty.’”


The Maestro spoke of our incessant need to bury our heads in our technology and how memories—good or bad—are cluttering the mind and disabling our sense of humanity. He stressed we need to live in the present and strive to free ourselves of negativity; these were essential ingredients for a happy existence.

No matter how much I wanted to chalk off his speech as some high and mighty guru preaching, I couldn’t.  Some of his words resonated with me. Dare I say, perhaps my dirty little mind really did need a good scrubbing?

The next day, Julia and I arrived back at the Golden Drum with loofahs in hand, prepared to scrub our brains and powwow with the Maestro in order to gain some practical tips for stressed out Greenpointers. While Maestro Manuel agreed meditation was the best form for relaxing the mind, he also believed it wasn’t for everyone. Instead he suggested, “Everyone should do some form of art every day: Writing, painting, playing a musical instrument, dancing—these are all easy ways we can tap into our creativity and free the mind from everyday stressors.”

After a little more chitchat about the current astrological storms hitting the Earth this month, and how modern day man doesn’t give ancient civilizations enough credit, it was time to say goodbye to the Maestro and be on our merry ways.

Upon my departure I had to ask him one last question,” Of all the places in the world you could have set up this spiritual center, why did you choose Greenpoint?”

He flashed a serene smile and said, “I love Greenpoint because of its sense of community—the harmony and connections. This neighborhood makes the city special.”

No matter where you fall on that Zen scale of enlightenment, I think we can all agree with the Maestro on this one: Greenpoint is a special place indeed.

For more information about upcoming classes or group meditation sessions, check out the Golden Drum’s website for details.

Join the Conversation


  1. I come from a country where maestros are those who teach in schools; so, teachers. This guy with his mind scrubbing sounds more like a cult leader or something like that. So, yes, brainwasher sounds quite right.

  2. I have spent time at the Golden Drum. My sons and daughter-in-law live there. As far as brainwashing is concerned, my mind is cleaner since I’ve had the experience. My sons are learning and growing and have become extroidinary young men through this experience. Love the place, love the people.

    1. “As far as brainwashing is concerned, my mind is cleaner since …” Yep, that’s exactly what brainwashing does. Thanks for your post.

  3. I am one of the founding members of Golden Drum. I saw Francisco’s comment back in March and chose not to engage in comment board debates. I came across the article again and saw that the conversation continues so I thought that I would add in my piece.

    First off I always find it interesting when a person decides to take the opportunity to publicly call someone a cult leader or some other name when they haven’t spent a moment with them. Strong choice of words but you have the right to say it so go right ahead. I would be the last person to stop you. After spending 7 years as Maestro Manuel’s student I know that nothing could be further from the truth so it doesn’t bother me. At the same time I like to take the opportunity to add clarity when it is given for those who haven’t had the same experience that I’ve had.

    If you want to see what a cult looks like look no further than every day life. A college where teachers and board members dress in robes at a graduation where they give you a piece of paper that doesn’t guarantee you anything after years of work and thousands of dollars that you might be paying back for decades to come. Perhaps its the job that you go to where you have to work a certain amount of days a year and a certain number of hours a week regardless of how sick you get, dress a certain way, speak a certain way and in some cases are so demanding that they border on the edge of slavery just so people have the means to feed and house themselves. Why? I would say because people have decided for our culture (cult-ure) what benefits the system they’ve create and what doesn’t. If there is a group that reinforces the materialistic paradigm that we’ve created then its simply and institution, or a company, or a government. But if that group comes together to become more conscious of themselves and breaks with that system they are certainly going to be called a cult.

    To add clarity to what Maestro Manuel meant when he said “Some people call me a brainwasher and to that I say, ‘Yes, I am. I want to scrub your brains because your minds are dirty…like whoa, really dirty.” He later went onto say during that lecture, “That’s why in the shamanic tradition they wash and clean because we understand that the main problem is dirt. What is dirt? “I am not able to do that. I am not capable. I can not do it. I’m ugly.” The person is not really using the mind. When you really begin to use your mind, you begin to say “Wow this is really special.” But in order to get there you need to clean it. Right now the main pollution of humanity is not the environment. It is that the mind that is highly polluted. If the mind is polluted you cannot see things properly. It is filled with all kinds of philosophies, ideas and impositions. When you act out of philosophy the mind gets really dirty. Because once you think in one way you are not using your mind. It is just a bunch of reactions based on your belief systems. Even if someone shows you the truth you are not able to see it because your mind is lost in a concept. It is not free. The reason you are not able to see all the gifts that you have is a person because the mind is polluted. You come from a particular place in society. Because of that you think that you have a great mind because you went to Harvard or something. In reality the person is not thinking. The person gets a bunch of books to memorize but the person still isn’t using the mind. Right now humanity only uses reason and intellect, but these two are being mixed down. They are mixed with instinct. When you mix the human mind down, then you have a tragedy. Then you create atomic bombs and all kinds of garbage. Instead of building with it, it chooses to destroy because the animal instinct has taken over. But when the person begins to use reason and intellect with their intuition you begin to see what is happening and where things are going. The intuition is telling you what is coming. When you are afraid don’t want to see it. The intuition shows it to you but you don’t want to see it. If the intuition is clear you can see it. ”

    I hope this offers some clarity Maestro Manuel’s words. I know that Francisco is not to first and will not be the last to associate Golden Drum with a cult. Over the years I’ve learned to just accept that there will always be people who praise and always be people who blame no matter what you do. Thank you for the opportunity to share. If you’d like to learn more about Golden Drum for yourself I invite you to visit our site at or come to some our events. Peace to you!

    1. Amigo Matthew,

      The conversation didn’t continue, as you say. No one had posted anything in over a month until you did, so I’d say that you just were patiently waiting to “add your piece”, as you put it. And what a piece it is: It quadruplicates everyone else’s comments combined. Now, that’s a “piece”. It makes me wonder if selling half-baked truths is part of that enlightenment you mention.

      Manuel, the big honcho; el big kahuna, perhaps; but maestro he ain’t.

      But what really gets me is the implication that you somehow know something about the truth. The truth? Really? Can anything be cultier than trying to sell “the truth”?

      Reading your pamphlet brings to my mind that little speech of Mr. Udall in As Good As It Gets: Where do they teach you to talk like this? In some Panama City “Sailor wanna hump-hump” bar, or is it getaway day and your last shot at his whiskey? Sell crazy someplace else, we’re all stocked up here.

      Yes, indeed.

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