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The Rhumba Box

While waiting in the immigration line at the Donald Sangster International Airport in Montego Bay a few years ago, I heard the unmistakable sound of a mento band. They were playing a familiar tune, Take Her to Jamaica, and as I waited, I tapped my feet lightly and hummed along.

The singing got louder as I exited immigration on my way to pick up my luggage from the carousel. By now, I could see the musicians – three or four of them. One was playing a rhumba box, a percussion instrument that I hadn’t seen in years.

Rhumba box, Jamaica

Rhumba box

The rhumba box is a two foot square wooden box. It has a hole in the center to which is attached five metal strips that are tuned to different pitches. At that size, it’s also a seat for the musician and allows him to reach the metal keys.

The rhumba box originated from the African mbira, or thumb piano. It made its way to Cuba, where it’s called the marímbola, then to other countries. In Jamaica, it’s synonymous with mento, the folk music that is a precursor to ska and reggae.

Sitting on the rhumba box, he strummed the metal strips to hold the rhythm for the guitar and the maracas players as they belted out the words to another song, This Long Time Gal.

I watched many stoic faces relax and smile as they heard the music. I was still humming to myself as I walked out of the airport.

Click here to listen to the sound of the rhumba box and here to hear a mento version of Amy Winehouse’s Rehab by the Jolly Boys.

 

I’m linking this post to the weekly photo linkup, Travel Photo Thursday, at Budget Travelers Sandbox. Be sure to head over and check out other photos from locations around the world. Enjoy!

 

Everald Brown Dove Harp – Jamaica

It wasn’t hard to miss this colorful object, called a dove harp, that was part of an exhibition on view at the National Museum of Jamaica (formerly the Institute of Jamaica). I thought I recognized the work as belonging to one of our local artists but I wasn’t sure.

A quick look at the caption confirmed that the object was the creation of intuitive artist, Everald Brown, popularly called “Brother Brown.”

Everald or Brother Brown's Dove Harp

Dove Harp

Continuing, the caption noted that Brown’s “art and spirituality are bound together and are distinctly indicated through his work. His art work is the visual representation of a generously all-inclusive world view, in which just about everything is regarded as being spiritually meaningful. Brother Brown’s musical instruments bring together sound and vision, the two most important components of his mystical experiences. Their shapes and decorations are laden with intricate symbolism and were originally meant for collective ritual use by his church band.”

Everald Brown, a self-taught artist, was born in Clarendon, Jamaica in 1917. He embraced Rastafarianism and Revivalism and founded the Assembly of the Living, a mission of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, in Kingston.

In 1973, Brown moved his family from Kingston to a community in rural St. Ann where they lived off the land. There, his art and spirituality flourished and he painted and carved his dreams and visions of the world around him. He also created handmade musical instruments, like the dove harp, and star banjos.

Following his death in 2002, the National Gallery of Jamaica mounted a retrospective of his work in 2004. It featured more than 100 paintings, carvings and musical instruments.

 

This week, I’m linking up with Travel Photo Thursday, which Nancie at Budget Travelers Sandbox organizes. Be sure to head over and check out other photos from locations around the world. Enjoy!

The Gumbay Drum

The gumbay drum caught my attention at the Accompong Maroon Festival in January. I’d never seen a drum that was small and square and looked more like a stool than a drum.

As I was leaving the festival, I noticed a small stall with storyboards explaining how gumbay drums are made. There were also several drums on display. The gentleman inside introduced himself as the son of the master drum maker.

Gumbay drum maker's son

Son of the master drum maker

Maker of the gumbay drum

The master drum maker

Sanding the gumbay drum

Storyboard of the master drum maker

Although simple in design, the gumbay drum has several parts. The inner part of is called a baby, the outer part the frame. The top, which is usually made from the skin of the female goat, is the membrane. Maroons use the gumbay drum in their rituals and traditional ceremonies. They are also used to induce a trance state and to communicate with the ancestors.

Storyboard explaining the making of the gumbay drum

Storyboard

He explained how the drums were made — the design looked simple enough for a professional. I doubt that I would have been able to fit the pieces together as easily.  He also demonstrated the special rhythms that drummers play in the different instances when the drum is used. (Sorry, I can’t find my notes and I’ve forgotten the names of the master drum maker and his son.)

Three gumbay drums

Drums on display

Closeup of a gumbay drum

Closeup

 

This is my submission to Travel Photo Thursday, which is organized by Nancie at Budget Travelers Sandbox. Be sure to head over and check out more photos from locations around the world.

 

 

 

5 Places I’ve Never Been (and Why I Want to Go)

Like most people who love to travel, I have a list of places I’ve never been. And I add to the list each time I read or hear about another place that fascinates me.

Most of the places I’ve never been are historic. This surprises me because I was never interested in history.

Some are sacred, and that surprises me too.

All have been designated UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and each resonates with me in ways I can’t explain.

As there are more than 20 places on my current list, it was difficult to choose the five I wanted to write about for this challenge. But if I were to stop traveling tomorrow, I’d kick myself for not seeing these places.

Peru – I was just out of high school when I visited Chichén Itzá and my interest in ancient civilizations was sparked. The trip, I believe, set the tone for future trips and the things that would eventually capture my imagination. I was fascinated by what the Mayans were able to accomplish without the sophisticated building equipment that we have today and wanted to see Machu Picchu, the estate the Incas had constructed for their emperor.

Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu

Spain – The Alhambra. I attended school in Barcelona for 4 months but never had the time nor the funds to visit southern Spain. I had become intrigued by what we had learned about the Moorish presence in Andalucia and have longed to see the historic palace. The closest I’ve come however (if you call that close) was in 2011, when I visited the New York Botanical Gardens’ celebration of the Alhambra in an exhibition titled Spanish Paradise: Gardens of the Alhambra.

India – Taj Mahal. This unbelievably beautiful symbol of love and loss, was built by Emperor Jahan for his third wife who died in childbirth. It’s hard for me to imagine or even understand love so deep and loss so profound.

A Love Poem Written in Marble

Taj Mahal

Ethiopia – Lalibela. The city of rock-hewn churches, is Ethiopia’s holiest cities and a center of religious pilgrimage. It is considered to be a representation of the old city of Jerusalem. I learned about Lalibela from one of my Ethiopian friends — can’t wait to go.

Jordan – Petra. I had a pact with my Jordanian friend: she’d take me to Jordan to see Petra, the city made famous by its rock-cut architecture, and I’d show her Jamaica. I was hoping to go in 2011, but only made it to Paris. Unfortunately, my friend passed later that year.

What places have you never been that you’d like to visit?

This post is part of the Traveling Brown Girls Blog Carnival hosted by BrownGirlsFly.

photos by: Matito & laszlo-photo