Since Egyptians started beating drums in 4000 B.C., their ability to move and inspire and unite has been almost universal. In Grenada, the tradition dates back to the arrival of African slaves in the 18th century. The slaves struggled to keep their culture and traditions so drums were used, as they always had been in Africa, to covertly communicate in a rhythmic language. Music was also used to express anger and frustration and, though drumming was forbidden, the tradition continued. Eventually, European styles of music were also integrated, resulting in an Afro-European fusion across the Caribbean and, more specifically, the hypnotic pulsation of the Big Drum tradition in Carriacou.
With a mix of Grenada’s original Carib population, French and British colonists, African slaves and East Indians indentured workers, the culture of Grenada is as eclectic as any other in the Caribbean.
In 1995, the community of Tivoli gave birth to an organization dedicated to promoting Grenada’s indigenous culture and heritage through education and the performing arts.
Starting with the annual Grenada Drum Festival and Drumming in the Moonlight, the Tivoli Drummers have brought the art of drumming and dance to communities and schools across the Caribbean and the North American diaspora, with plans to build a Cultural Centre for the promotion of educational, recreational and Grenada’s indigenous cultural heritage in the village of Tivoli.
There’s power in the boula! For those who are unfamiliar, the boula or tambou dibas is a rum cask drum that is at the centre of Carriacou’s Big Drum Ritual. Brought to Grenada by West African slaves in the 18th century, the Big Drum Dance is performed at festivals and fetes, weddings and wakes to pay tribute to the ancestors.
Visit Carriacou during our regatta season to experience the Big Drum Festival. Then listen closely and you’ll feel how the singing and chanting and shakers and maracas blend together to move you!