In the main hall of RVA near the library, there are several drums. They are very beautiful instruments, made by hand with great affection by Selly Patterson and members of the Rose Hall Cultural and Development Organization community. Music in St. Vincent have always been important, including big drums, thriving musical scenes and movement to the music from the bottom of your heart. It teaches people about their history though an active education and story telling.
Importance of music
I had a long and interesting talk with Selly, who told me several things about the drums and the history of music in St. Vincent .
When the slave ships sank in St. Vincent coast and black people arrived swimming to the island, they brought in their hearts the African sound of the drums.
The Arawaks and Callinagos who were the original population of the island, received the Africans. They amalgamate, giving rise to the Garifuna people, at the same time they had learned the African rhythms and how to manufacture and play drums.
So, this was the way, that the drums and the rhythms of Garifuna Nation were born. And their sounds accompanied the history of the people throughout the years, until today.
We are going to hear what Selly has to say about the drums:
Lina – What is the name of your group and how it was created?
Selly – The group was created in 1998, in order to promote development and preserve the Garifuna culture in Rose Hall community. It is called Rose Hall Cultural and Development Organization. And we also created a specific group for drummers: The Rose Hall Drummers. There was Gilroy, Lindon, Nzimbu and me. The first professional drums show happened in the opening of RH Health Center, in 1999.
Lina – What is the importance of the drums to Garifuna people?
Selly – The drums are one of the bases of the Garifuna culture. They can help in curing some diseases, they can create conditions for spiritual manifestations, send messages, and of course, mark the rhythm for music and dance. Our drums are used only for love and peace. They were never used in wars.
Lina -Is there any other situation when the drums are important in St. Vincent?
Selly – In Rose Hall, there are many young people learning and playing drums. The drums keep the people together and preserve the original African culture.
Lina – What is the role of your group of drummers in the actual context of the country?
Selly – We are trying to preserve our culture, teaching how to manufacturing, how to play, and promoting the creation of new groups.
Lina – What are your plans for the future?
Selly – As professionals, we have already recorded an album, and plan to record others. We want to travel, in order to know the sound of the drums from other countries, and show them our way of playing.
Lina – Do you want to say something more?
Selly – Rhythm is life! Everything has a rhythm! The drums are in the sounds of nature, in all cultures, and specially in our history and in our future. They symbolize the heartbeat of a people!
Written by Lina Cintra.