“Drums Fi Life”
The drum is embedded not only in Maroon history and culture but throughout Jamaican culture. Historically, drums were the major tool for communication. They were used to arrest attention, to signal impending danger or to announce important happenings or celebrations. The Trelawny-Town Flagstaff Maroons, with the support of Fi Wi Jamaica project, have developed a project that uses drums to rescue the lives of vulnerable youths in the volatile communities in St James, encouraging them to use drums, while discouraging their use of guns and, in so doing, saving the lives of others at risk.
St James has become Jamaica’s murder capital. Murders have increased from 153 in 2012 to 268 in 2016. The murder rate in the most volatile communities, including Norwood, Flankers and Salt Spring, far surpass the most murderous countries in the world. In this pervasive culture of inhumanity, the respect for life is diminished, domestic and intimate partner violence (DIPV) proliferate and gender-based violence (GBV) becomes acceptable.
The rural community of Trelawny-Town, Flagstaff in St James, provides a striking contrast to these volatile communities. With one murder over the past 50 years, this maroon community, led by Chief Michael Grizzle, has a lot to offer from its long, rich history of defeating the British and preserving positive elements of African culture, most notably the use of the drum.
“Drums Fi Life” is part of a larger initiative, entitled the St James GBV Music Initiative, which seeks to reduce inhumanity and brutality by raising awareness about the destructive power of violence and the dehumanizing impact of GBV.
This behaviour modification programme is spearheaded by the Fi Wi Jamaica project, being executing by the University of Technology, Jamaica, in collaboration with the Trelawny - Town, Flagstaff Maroon Council, the Peace Management Initiative (PMI) and the Ministry of National Security. with the support of the members of the Jamaican Diaspora.
“Drums Fi Life” is part of a larger initiative, entitled the St James GBV Music Initiative, which seeks to build awareness and improve understanding of GBV, and to encourage a positive shift in attitude towards GBV in St James. This Initiative is being spearheaded by the Fi Wi Jamaica project, being executing by the University of Technology, Jamaica, in collaboration with the St James Inter-Agency Network led by the Social Development Commission (SDC), the Peace Management Initiative (PMI), tertiary institutions in Western Jamaica, the Cornwall Bar Association, among other organizations and individuals.
Drums Fi Life Overview
“Drums Fi Life” involves training high-risk youths to not only play and make bongo drum but also to understand important historical, cultural and social lessons related to drums and drumming.
Key features of the project include:
1. Giving a bongo drum, made by the Trelawny Town-Flagstaff Maroons, to high-risk youth in the most volatile communities in St James. The distribution of the drums will be coordinated in collaboration with the Fi Wi Jamaica Project.
2. Training the youth to not only play and make a bongo drum but also to understand important historical, cultural and social lessons related to drums and drumming...including issues associated with DIPV and GBV.
3. Training in spoken-word poetry and dancing to the bongo drums.
4. Enhancing economic activities in Trelawny Town-Flagstaff communities and other communities in St. James from the production and sale of drums.
5. Entrepreneurial assistance in finding income earning opportunities from the sale of drums and drum-related entertainment.
6. Planting trees to ensure sustainability of the forest and encouraging respect for nature, and buildng awareness of climate change.
The training will include, but is not limited to, the following:
- Culture Roots Drumming – Maroon/Rastafari History; Spirit and Guidance through education; releasing energy through drumming
- Rhythmic Drumming - Mental and Physical Health: Meditations through music
- Beat Drumming - Drumming to unite and build self-confidence
- Field Trip to Cockpit Country - ecology education; tree planting exercise
- Music Education (including African/Jamaican Culture and Roots; Reggae; Caribbean music)
- Group/Team Building (with focus on the Jamaican family, gender based violence and gang culture)
- Group drumming - making harmony through collective effort
- Drum Building - the satisfaction of earning through honest effort