Funeral bands dying from COVID restrictions

September 10, 2020
A drummer in the Wakefield Tambo Group performing at a wake.
A drummer in the Wakefield Tambo Group performing at a wake.

On any given weekend, west Kingston resident Jahvon Archer could easily make a stipend from performing with the Tivoli Gardens Drum Core and Drill team.

But those days have become memories since the COVID-19 pandemic hit local shores.

"It has been really hard because we can't get to play at funerals and other gigs that we would usually get every weekend. My family provides for me but I would use what I make from the events to buy things for myself and ease the pressure off them a bit," he said. Among the measures implemented by the Government to control the spread of the deadly virus, is a ban on funeral services. Burials, however, continue, but with strict enforcement of the 15-person rule. The 15 persons include the funeral officials and the persons preparing the grave.

Speaking with THE STAR yesterday, 17-year-old Archer says this has placed a damper on his independence as he now relies entirely on his family for financial support.

"There are times when I used to get like a $1,000 or so per performance for funeral and so on, and while it may seem like a little bit of money for some, for me as a teenager, it used to help out to put a little change in our pockets but not anymore," he said.

Band instructor for Eastern Rangers Drum Core on Windward Road, Ronaldo Cooper, said that the band's operations have been shut down because there are no parades, or other events such as funerals and weddings at which they can perform. Sherman Wright, leader of Kingston-based Night Vibes/Duppy Band, said he and his band members have been feeling the COVID-19 pinch since the first lockdown earlier this year.

Band can't practise

"Not only did we play at set-ups but we used to play at other events so this is a job for the musicians," he said.

Wright said that the band can't practise and the members try to keep members away from the general public as much as possible.

"All weekly and yearly events have to be cancelled. This virus has put a major blow on us and other bands across the island. We no longer do funerals," he said. "We would usually travel to work every weekend and sometimes in the week but that has not happened in a long time. We don't depend on nine night alone but we would focus on other sectors in the entertainment industry but those dry up too," he said. Wright noted that a few of the members now play at churches.

"Just recently I spoke with a member and he is saying that it is three weeks now he has not worked and this is because of COVID. This pandemic has taught us all a valuable lesson that we have to find other alternatives to survive," he said.

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