For UK bookings, please contact us via the contact details below (not via the online booking portal).
Since 2020 we have been offering authentic Garifuna drumming and cultural activities in the UK!
We are based in Edinburgh, Scotland, and offer individual and group drumming and percussion lessons, cultural performances, and information sessions about the Garifuna culture of Belize and the wider Caribbean.
Warasa Garifuna Drum School’s founder Ronald Raymond McDonald (“Ray”) is a former drummer, dancer and singer at Belize National Dance Company, and has performed in Belize, the USA, UK, Guatemala, Honduras and Panama. He is from a family of musicians, and started a successful drum and dance school in his hometown of Punta Gorda, Belize. He is married to a Scottish woman, and since 2018 has been living in the UK, and now offers drumming and dancing workshops in Edinburgh and beyond.
We offer drumming workshops, performances and dance lessons for people of all ages and backgrounds. We can do workshops in schools and other public and private organisations. We can come to your location, or offer small group lessons in our central Edinburgh home.
We look forward to sharing the rich and dynamic history, culture and music of the Garifuna people with you!
WhatsApp +501 632 7701
UK phone/SMS +44 7511781737
Belizeans in the UK
In 1941, around 900 forestry workers from Belize arrived in the UK, to maintain timber supplies during World War Two.
Some of them stayed and made a life in the UK, including Sam Martinez, a Garifuna Belizean man who married a Scottish woman. He was an avid Hibernian supporter and lived to 106 years’ old — he saw Hibs win the Scottish Cup in 2016, just a few weeks before he died.
Warasa’s founder and teacher Ronald Raymond McDonald is from the same part of Belize as Sam and is a distant cousin. Ray played Garifuna drums and sang a traditional song at his funeral. Several of Sam’s children still live in Edinburgh.
The Garifuna Journey
The Garifuna people are descendants of Africans from shipwrecked slave ships who mixed with indigenous Arawak and Carib Amerindians on the Caribbean island of St Vincent in the 17th century, before European colonialists arrived. A new blended people were born—the Garifuna—with a blend of the language and culture of the Africans, Arawak and Carib people. The Garifuna people have never been enslaved.
In the 18th century, British and French forces arrived and fought for control of St. Vincent. At the time, France had (temporarily) abolished slavery, so the Garifuna fought with the French.
Henry Dundas, 1st Viscount Melville, was the UK Secretary of State for War from 1794-1801 during the Second Carib War (1795-97), which ultimately the British won. The British authorities didn’t want the Garifuna to remain on St. Vincent, and they deported over 5,000 Garifuna people in 1797 to Roatan, Honduras.
Around half the Garifuna people died on the journey. After arriving on Roatan, the Garifuna started to migrate along the Caribbean coast of Honduras, Nicaragua, Guatemala and Belize (formerly British Honduras).
The Garifuna in Belize
Garifuna people started to arrive in Belize in 1802. The authorities allowed them to settle in the south— where few people lived and they would also be far away from the enslaved Africans being used by the British in mahogany camps further north in the country.
19th November is a national holiday in Belize, known as Garifuna Settlement Day, commemorating the day when the largest known group of Garifuna arrived in the country in 1832.
The Garifuna have their own unique language, a blend of Arawak, Carib, French, Spanish and English, with a small number of words from west African (Bantu) language.
Music and dance is a key part of the culture, and the Garifuna drums and music are closely connected with their culture, which honours their ancestors through traditional spiritual ceremonies that can last for many days!
Garifuna drums and music are different to those from other Caribbean and African cultures, though there are some similarities—for example the “call and response” singing is similar to many West African styles. Ray and his father, Mario, make all of their own drums and shakas (maracas) by hand, and Mario and Ray’s younger brother Ivan continue to keep the drum school in Belize running.