"This is how it’s done!" Director of the Commission??for Pan-African Affairs, Dr. Deryck Murray showing the Minister of Culture, Stephen Lashley, drumming techniques while Chairman of the Commission for Pan-African Affairs, Dr. Erskine Simmons look on. (A. Miller/BGIS)

A group of students at the Grantley Adams Memorial School will be exposed to the art of drum and percussion making when the new school year begins in September.

This disclosure came today from Minister of Culture, Stephen Lashley, during a press briefing at the St. Joseph-based school to discuss the project, which is being sponsored by the Commission for Pan-African Affairs, in collaboration with the school.

Mr. Lashley explained that in the first instance, 15 children between the ages of 14 and 15 would be involved in the project, which was designed to expose them to their African heritage, as well as help them develop skills and understand some of the historical facts that would have gone into the making of the African drum.

He stated that the Grantley Adams Memorial School readily embraced the project which would be incorporated into its curriculum. He pointed out that the drums would be sold locally and regionally.

"This is but one opportunity for our young people to engage in an activity that could very well end up being the business that they do afterwards. The demand for drums across the globe is phenomenal. Any band that is operating must have drums and percussion and we want to reshape the thinking of our young people by having them believe that they can design and manufacture drums of international quality and they can also have a business that manufactures the Barbadian drum…

"We have to ignite and rekindle within our young people that self confidence that they can do major things and as small as this may appear now, I believe that this will mushroom into a major project. And, once we follow through with this particular drum … then we will link with other government entities that will allow them to engage with us in terms of marketing," he stated.

Mr. Lashley stressed that the project would be very important because the Commission was busy planning an international drum festival.

According to Principal of the school, John Mascoll, the project would cement a longstanding relationship with the Commission and the children would develop various skills. "The children would construct the wood section of the drum. As a school heavily involved in agriculture, we have a sheep farm and part of the project will be using the skins of the Black Belly Sheep to be a part of the surface of the drum, and that in itself will be a special skill which the students will learn as well. We will have the Art Department where the children will learn various craft … as they engrave the wood section and paint the drums.

"And, the completed drum will be used in the development of drama and arts… So, I see the project as being very beneficial to the school," Mr. Mascoll surmised.

Chairman of the Board of the Commission for Pan-African Affairs, Dr. Erskine Simmons, added that a country had expressed a desire to buy Black Belly Sheep skin from Barbados because of the fine leather it produces.

"I hope I can see a resurgence of the rearing of Black Belly Sheep because it is not only that it produces fine meat, but also the skin is very, very much wanted…

"From that skin you would probably get a different kind of percussion than you get from the ordinary skin, so maybe we can use the Black Belly Sheep skin to enhance the music that we brought from Africa," Dr. Simmons said.

The Chairman proffered the view that many good things would come out of the project, including encouraging children to use their hands to produce.?? "Learning is not always by reading and taking an exam, it is putting your mind to constructive things and coming up with things that are different…??

"We have new material which we can use to produce drums and other things and I don’t see why we should have to send our Black Belly Sheep [skin] to England for them to produce fine leather. We can probably do it here ourselves and that can be an industry as well…You at Grantley Adams [Memorial School] are starting something very unique and I hope to live long enough to see it spread," he said.

Director of the Commission, Deryck Murray, pointed out that preparatory work would be done on the workshop during the summer and Jeffrey ???Ifie’ Wilkinson, who has been building drums for several years, would be the school’s technical advisor.

Dr. Murray added that once the school component of the project was launched and functioning, it would be extended to the community for young Barbadians who were interested in participating.


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