Warasa Garifuna Drum School

Living life to the beat of my own drum: beginnings

When I left Scotland on my first long-term overseas adventure, my good friend Linda wrote me a goodbye and good luck card which I have carried with me ever since. In amongst many lovely things she wrote, she said I “live life to the beat of my own drum”. I wonder if she’s an unwitting psychic, as now I am indeed living life to the daily beat of drums on the other side of the world in Belize.

I met my husband Ray (full name Ronald Raymond McDonald)at a bar in Punta Gorda town, Belize, during Toledo district’s annual Cacao Festival. I was there with my visiting friend Becky, and he was playing drums. Actually, he wasn’t supposed to be. Another group were playing drums, but he was “helping them out” by singing and occasionally taking over playing the small Primero drum. Four years later, I know that Ray is incapable of sitting down to watch and listen to other people play Garifuna drums, because either “they no play good” or “they cyahn sing the song properly”. A drumming and Garifuna singing perfectionist. Maybe that’s why his dream is to teach people drumming, because he just can’t handle hearing people do it wrong!

The first things I remember about when I first met Ray were his huge white smile, his drummer’s arms, and his persistent attempts to drag me up to dance. Not much has changed, except now I can do a little punta dancing without feeling like I’m going to reinforce all the locals’ beliefs that “white gyals cyahn dance gud”.

I’d been living in PG, as Punta Gorda is known, for about four months, and had often heard the drumming coming from a mile away every Friday night, but this was the first time I’d actually seen it live. I loved it, except when the group would break into a very bad rendition of Jonny Cash’s Ring of Fire or some Backstreet Boys’ number – I may not have known what any of the real Garifuna songs were about, but I was sure they were far superior to any Backstreet Boy’s number, and I just don’t think Jonny Cash songs should be messed with.