The Never-Ending Story
After a few months of listening to Ray and his family play drums almost every weekend, I still knew very little about Garifuna drumming and music. One night Ray’s dad, Mario, carried a tape recorder to the bar, and I was given the job of recording them play. On playing it back, Mario asked me “wind it back to weh part we change from punta to paranda”. He overestimated my abilities somewhat! You see, when Garifuna groups play, they play non-stop for 20-40 minutes, and in that time, will sing 5 or 6 songs, and often switch rhythms half way through. The uninitiated just think that Garifuna songs last forever! In actual fact, all Garifuna songs are stories, about daily life, tragic events or their cultural history, so it kind of makes sense that they let the stories flow naturally from one to the next.
At some point, my proper initiation into Garifuna music and drumming began with Ray teaching me to play the Paranda beat on the large Segunda drum. It’s the simplest one to learn, and looks very easy. If you have zero drumming experience however, it is much like mastering how to rub your belly and pat your head at the same time but at different speeds and while desperately trying NOT to watch the person juggling chopsticks next to you. But that is when I finally started to grasp where one song ended and another began. I can now proudly say I can identify (but not play!) all of the 7 core Garifuna rhythms, and I can now also tell when people are not playing it right.