Reviews and Media

Below are some of the many reviews and media coverage in blogs, websites and magazines that have featured Ray and Warasa!

TripAdvisor Reviews

CNN article “7 ways for travelers to Belize to enjoy Garifuna culture”

The Stevenson Family Blog:

That afternoon we pedaled out to Warasa, where the boys had a drum lesson with Garifuna drummer Ronald Raymod MacDonald (he goes by Ray). The boys were a bit intimidated by Ray, but he was such a patient and kind teacher that eventually they warmed up to him and really started getting in to the lesson. It was fun watching them get the feel of the sometimes tricky rhythms that characterize Garifuna drumming.”

Travel to Nature website (translated from the original German):

“If you want to get to know the colorful and fun-loving culture of Garifuna, this is the place for you!
The founder of the local Drum School, Ronald Raymond McDonald (yes, that’s right!), And his mother welcomed us warmly. They asked us directly for a set table under a palapa – a roof covered with palm leaves. The traditional food, which included a soup with coconut milk and fresh fish, was absolutely delicious! Just the right strengthening before the following program. Ronald and his father showed us how to make their drums by hand today. If you liked, you could try it yourself. During the subsequent drum lessons, we learned various rhythms of the Garifuna songs. And who had experience in it, could prove this here. Everyone who felt like having two left hands made sure there was enough entertainment! Of course, we also learned a lot about the history of Garifuna. As a grand finale, we danced traditional Garifuna dances.”

Island Expeditions website:

“The Warasa Drum School in Punta Gorda offers interactive lessons in traditional Garifuna drumming, dancing and drum-making.  It’s a hands on opportunity for travelers to experience Garifuna drumming and explore the unique culture whilst having fun.”

German website “Magizin Forum” (translated from the original German):

“Tam-tam, tam, short, short, long – the first rhythm our teacher is playing for us is easy. Without much effort, we beat, like him, on the taut deer skins of our bass drums. “Is everything okay?”, asks Ray during the round, then he laughs and really starts playing – our hands are to beat on the upper half, then on the lower half of the drum in rapid succession. I count strongly along, while Ray keeps me in time. “Don’t think such a lot, close your eyes, let the rhythm guide you,”.  The instructor, whose full name is Ronald Raymond McDonald, encourages me, wearing a casually knotted headscarf and faded jeans on his athletic body.  Again he sets off, tam-tam, tata-tam-tam. My colleagues at the class and I are not keeping up with our hands. But eventually it works – we drum, we sweat.”

Travel Dudes Blog:

“Ronald Raymond McDonald (no, really – the fast food chain is non existent in Belize, hence the parents’ lack of concern at choosing such a name), Garifuna drummer extraordinaire, taught us how to play a simple punta beat on the Segunda, or bass drum, used to keep the steady beat of the music, whilst he pummeled away at the Primera drum, a smaller, higher pitched instrument, played faster (and with far more skill) over the top. It’s harder than it looks, and as soon as my beat was steady enough to have accompaniment, it was all I could do to not start slapping the drum to the same rapid beat of my tutor.  The class was great fun though, and Ray really is an amazing drummer and very patient teacher.”

From the Chinese Traveler Luxe website – translated from the original Chinese:

“To pass on and promote Garifuna drums, Ronald Raymond McDonald, a former Belize national dance troupe, founded the Warasa Drumming School, the most famous drum school in Toledo, where he teaches drumming, drum making and providing Garifuna cultural experience….The drums, Ronald’s singing and laughter, the beaming faces under the thatch…the happy atmosphere infected everyone. “Garifuna drums feed my soul and are imprinted in my flesh and blood,” Ronald said. “This is a heartfelt voice, “singing from the heart” is the spirit of Garifuna drumming.”

Eco Clubs Blog:

“Drumming is just one of the tangible elements of the Garifuna culture, and the local Warasa Drum school is aptly named – “warasa” meaning “our culture” in the Garifuna language.  Warasa Drum School was founded in 2010 by Ronald Raymond McDonald, and his wife, Ruth. Ruth originally hails from Scotland, and she reminisces that a few weeks after they first met Ray shared his dream with her of opening a Garifuna drumming centre – not only to teach drumming, but also how to make drums, and to share the Garifuna culture with others. With both of them working and saving hard to build their house at the Garifuna reserve they struggled to see how this vision could become a reality but, deciding they had to start somewhere, spent a weekend designing a sign, putting paint to plywood, and erecting the finished product outside their rented house. The sign did its job, piquing interest, and Ray began teaching four local children. He was also engaged by a PG guesthouse to provide weekly drumming lessons for their guests, and interest quickly spread to include performances and lessons at a number of lodges throughout the District. Ray is an engaging character and a very patient and skilled teacher.”

The Blog of our friend Jess who volunteered with us for a week

Lonely Planet entry

Miss Goodwin in Belize blog:

“Today, our first full day in PG, we took a drumming class with a man named Ronald McDonald (no joke!). He and his father are part of the Garifuna culture, and the drum school, Warasa, works to preserve it. It was a great class and we all learned a lot and had fun!”

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Drum, Dance & Dine

Drum, dance & dine with us under our beautiful thatch palapa at Warasa!

Please note: This is an activity for larger groups only (10 guests or more). For smaller groups, we recommend one of our other activities, such as a drumming lesson, or half-day package.

Drum, dance & dine

Enjoy an evening with us at Warasa.  Your activity begins with a short history of the Garifuna history and culture.  Then we will move onto a 30 minute professional group performance followed by a short dance lesson where you will learn some of the traditional dances like paranda, punta and jonkunu.  Finally, sit back and relax and enjoy a traditional Garifuna meal of “Hudut” – fresh fish fillet sauteed in coconut milk with mild spices and served with mashed plantain.

Price per person:

Groups of 10 -13 people: $17.50USD/$35BZD per person

Groups of 14+ people: $15USD/$30BZD per person

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Bookings

For guests who wish to book in advance and are not yet in Belize, you can book through the relevant activity pages below, and pay via secure credit/debit card. If you have any problems with the booking pages (including if it tells you there is no availability….), then please don’t give up!  We set up this whole website and booking system ourselves, and it isn’t perfect 🙂 – just drop us an email and we can usually still arrange your booking and payment that way.

If you are already in Belize, then the best way to book your activity is by giving us a call on +501 632 7701, or emailing us on warasadrumschool@gmail.com.  For all activities except those that include food, you can pay cash on arrival. Please note we don’t have a card machine and we aren’t able to accept card payments onsite at the drum school.

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Contact Warasa

Contact Warasa

Warasa Garifuna Drum School, Saint Vincent Garifuna Block, New Road, Punta Gorda, Toledo, Belize.

Phone: +501 632 7701

If you prefer you can email us the “regular” way at warasadrumschool@gmail.com, call us on +501 632-7701 (WhatsApp only) or +501 662 8455 or through our Facebook Page Messenger

Contact Warasa

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About Warasa Garifuna Drum School

About Warasa Garifuna Drum School

About Warasa Garifuna Drum School

About Ray

Warasa Garifuna Drum School is the dream of its founder and master drummer and teacher, Ronald Raymond McDonald.

Ronald, or Ray, learned drums by watching his family group from childhood. He is a former drummer, dancer and singer for the Belize National Dance Company. He has performed all over Belize and much of Central America.

About Warasa Garifuna Drum School

Ray is passionate about his culture, and for many years his dream was to start a drumming schoool and teach others about his culture.

With the help of his wife Ruth, Warasa (which means “our culture”), was begun in 2010.  The School has grown from borrowed drums and a rented house, to more than 20 of our own drums at our beautiful thatch palapa.

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Garifuna Performances

Garifuna Performances

Ray performs with his family group in Belize and all over Central America for over 15 years!  His group are one of Belize’s most respected traditional Garifuna groups.  You often see them performing in public during annual cultural celebrations in November and around Christmas time.  Local families hire them to play for birthdays, wakes and other events.  The group also performs at weddings, masses and cultural events from San Pedro, Ambergris Caye to La Ceiba, Honduras.

Garifuna performancesYou can hire a group performance within Punta Gorda for $150Bz per hour.  Or, you can experience a 30 minute performance as part of one of our Half- and Whole Day Packages.

Our guests love sitting back and enjoying the music or joining in for a dance!  You can choose!

 

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Garifuna Drums

Garifuna Drums

886745_642546015806365_721270680_oGarifuna drums are made by hollowing out solid trunks of hardwood, and are hence genuine solid wood drums.  The hollow is traditionally started by burning hot coals in the centre of the trunk, but these days, unless some termites have chewed out a hollow for us, it is often started with the help of a chainsaw!

Once a rough hollow is made, a long chisel is used to chisel the log into a cylinder, and is then planed and sanded smooth.  Holes are drilled around the bottom of the cylinder for the ropes to pass through when it is time to add the skin.

Deer skin is the most commonly used skin, and it must be soaked, the hair scraped off, and then rinsed, before being cut to the correct size.  Natural vines (called teetay in Belize) are used to create two rings that fit snugly over the top of the drum cylinder: these rings are what holds the skin in place with the aid of the rope.  When they are cut from the jungle, the vines are very flexible, but they become rigid after a few hours, so the rings must be formed to the correct shape and size soon after they are cut.

The rope is one single length that is threaded through the holes around the bottom of the drum and then through the upper ring which pulls down on the skin.  The rope is tightened by turning hand-carved wooden pins, which causes the skin to be pulled taut.

The skin is still wet when it is first fixed to the drum, but the drum with its skin must then be left in the hot sun in order for it to dry.  Once it is totally dry, the top side of the skin is then sanded smooth while still on the drum.  The rope is then adjusted and the pins tightened again.

Once the skin is tight enough, the snare strings or wire are added.  For the Segunda drum, string is used to make a double snare wire; for Primero, the McDonald family like to use a few strands the wire from inside a bicycle brake wire cable, as it is strong and does not rust.  Wire produces a harder sound than string, and better suits the Primero drum than string.

The cylinder of a Garifuna drum can last decades if looked after and varnished regularly, but the skin must occasionally be replaced. Ray’s father, Mario, has had the same mahogany Segunda and Primero drums for over 40 years!

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Warasa Garifuna Drum School

 

Experience authentic, interactive lessons in traditional Garifuna drumming, dancing, drum-making and more at Warasa Garifuna Drum School.  Visit us in the peaceful coastal town of Punta Gorda.
Learn about the rich history and culture of the Garifuna while learning the different traditional drumbeats and dances that influence music throughout Belize and Central America.
Enjoy our spacious traditional thatch drum school in the heart of the Garifuna community.  Surround yourself with lush vegetation, see parakeets flocking around, hear sounds of howler monkeys nearby.
All just a 20 minute walk, 10 minute bike ride or quick taxi ride away.
We share the Garifuna culture with locals and visitors which helps to preserve the culture for generations to come.  We welcome guests of all ages and backgrounds.  Don’t worry if you’ve never done any kind of drumming before or if you think you can’t dance.  We welcome those with no rhythm, two left hands, two left feet, and of course those who consider themselves professionals.
Read about us in Lonely Planet,  Moon Belize and most other reputable guidebooks.  Also check our TripAdvisor reviews, Facebook reviews and Google+ reviews.

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How to shake your arse (Belize style)

Go to any bar with live music at night in Belize, and you will witness the dominant form of Belizean dancing, which like the dominant form of Belizean music (Punta rock), originates from traditional Garifuna culture.  That is, it involves shaking your arse.   Visitors to Belize often marvel at how Belizean women especially are able to “move their ass completely independently of the rest of their body”, and think that they have developed special arse muscles that allow such frenetic yet well-controlled booty manoeuvres.

I have a secret to share: no special arse muscles are involved.  In fact, I would venture that you don’t really use your arse muscles at all.  Or even your waist muscles (not at beginners’ level punta/punta rock dancing anyway).  The key is all in the feet and legs.  If you stand still, feet shoulder width apart, bend your knees slightly, and then bend one knee more than the other, you will find your other knee straightens.  Then you switch and bend your other knee forward more.  Keep doing this, and you will find a funny thing happens: your arse moves side to side.  No special arse muscles required.

Of course, to look professional, you have to do it in time to the music, and be able to move around side-to-side, forwards, backwards, in a circle, and a few other little fancier movements here and there, but that is the basic secret.  So stop focussing on your arse, shift your knees, and be prepared to look like an idiot.

Ray likes to take credit for the fact that I can now dance punta (and paranda, and to a certain extent hungu-hungu), and while he did give me two or three lessons (where even though it was just me and him in the house I still felt like a complete idiot!), I think most of it just came from getting bored sitting down watching everyone else having a good time, and finally thinking “ach stuff it who cares” to all those that wanted to laugh at the white gal who (couldn’t) dance.

http://www.warasadrumschool.com

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Yurumein: The story of the Garifuna

Every year on 19th November, Ray, his family, and pretty much every Garifuna person in Belize (plus lots of other interested Belizeans and visitors) will attend their local “Yurumein” on the national holiday known as Garifuna Settlement Day, the anniversary of when the largest group of Garifuna people arrived on the shores of Belize.

 

Yurumein is the Garifuna name for St. Vincent, the island where several Spanish slave ships were wrecked in the 17th century, allowing their occupants to escape slavery and mix with the local indigenous Arawak and Carib Indians living on the island, creating the Garifuna culture, language and ethnicity.  But the word “Yurumein” now also refers to the annual re-enactment of when the Garifuna arrived in their new homelands in Belize, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua after being expelled from St Vincent by the new British colonialists in the 19th century.

In PG, this re-enactment involves two or three boatloads of Garifuna people paddling towards the main dock, carrying essential crops such as banana, plantain, cassava and coconut to plant wherever they land.  The also carry their flag, and also come playing drums to announce their arrival.  Unlike the original arrival, in the Yurumein re-enactment, hundreds of local Garifuna people line the shore and the dock waiting to greet their brethren, wearing traditional clothes and also carrying flags, drums, and crops, and singing and dancing in greeting.  Local British/Zimbabwean/Belizean Jack Nightingale, who is a portly middle-aged white man with blonde/white hair and an English accent, takes on the role of the British Governor General, and thus when the first boat requests permission to settle in Belize (British Honduras way back then), he refuses the request.

 

 

He refuses two or three more times, and the lead boat paddles back to discuss the next move with the other boats, but persistence pays off, and eventually the Garifuna boats are granted permission to land and settle the uninhabited coast in the south of Belize.  The new arrivals land their boats, and join in with the singing, dancing and drumming, and parade town to much celebration, before going to church for a brief ceremony.

Last year, 2010, 19th November was a rainy day, but although rain stops many Belizeans going out under normal circumstances, the Yurumein still went ahead, and had even more poignancy, as made you ponder what it must have been like to travel across the sea for weeks looking for a new homeland, only to be refused entry.  I would have persisted also!

And so the coastal Garifuna towns and villages Dangriga, Punta Gorda, Hopkins, Barranco and Seine Bight were formed.  The other Garifuna village in Belize, Georgetown, is inland, but was only founded after some families from Seine Bight relocated following a bad hurricane.  While Garifuna people make up less than 10% of the population of Belize, their influence is widespread, especially in the areas music and education, with the majority of Belizean musicians and a large percentage of Belizean teachers being of Garifuna heritage.

http://www.warasadrumschool.com

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