“The drums are the primary musical instruments of the Garifuna and these are used for ritual as well as secular purposes.”- from UNESCO’s Declaration of Garifuna culture as a masterpiece of the oral and intangible heritage of humanity.
Though I travel at least a week out of every month, I rarely bring home souvenirs.
I like practical things, things that won’t clutter, things that won’t require dusting.
I also like things that fit easily into my backpack. I travel light.
The Garifuna drum didn’t exactly fit into that category.
When I heard Phil and his group (in the photo above) drumming at Pelican Beach, though, I knew I had to buy a drum for Francisco. A hobbyist musician, Francisco has talked about buying a drum for years. Somehow, we’d never gotten around to it. But as I let the drum beats of the punta enter into me, I knew I needed to figure out a way to get one of those drums home.
I asked Mr. Austin Rodriguez, master drum-maker with 35 years of experience, if I could buy one of his drums. “Don’t have one ready,” he told me. Though his workshop was littered with sawdust and strewn with drums in various stages of craftsmanship, he didn’t have a single one he could sell me.
I mentioned this to Phil, who told me he’d sell me his drum. Made of mayflower wood and stretched taut with deerskin, the drum was on the smallish side, but it was still going to be a challenge to get home, especially since I had to hop a couple prop flights on my way.
“How are you going to get that in your pack?” a friend asked me. “Not sure,” I said, “but I’ll find a way.”
The feature I love best about all of my Osprey packs is that no matter how full I stuff them, there always seems to be an inch more space that can be squeezed out of them. The drum, however, was a serious challenge. I needed a lot more than an inch to get the drum home safely.
I emptied my pack of its contents and started evaluating. I pulled all the straps as slack as they’d go. I unzipped the bottom of the pack (a critical, much-appreciated feature) and scooched the drum in that way, bottom up. I stuffed the open end of the drum with clothes and packed more clothes around it. Somehow the pack—which had been pretty full already—had just enough room for the drum.
Francisco’s in charge of the laundry, so he found the drum when he unpacked my bag. I’d mentioned a surprise, but he hadn’t expected the drum. He took it out, clothes strewn around the floor, and tucked it between his legs. When his palm met the deer skin, his eyes closed and he smiled.
To see more photos from Belize, click here.
If you’re headed to Belize with your Osprey, see what you can stuff into your sack! The Gulisi Garifuna School will gratefully accept your donation of small school supplies. More information can be found on the Stuff Your Rucksack site.