Drummers on the roof
After the cars are emptied from the Collins Blvd. Parking Garage, the building doesn’t fall silent.
Baydum Beatz Tassa Krew, a group of four USF students, can be found practicing tassa on top of the parking garage after 9 p.m. at least once a week, usually on Wednesdays and Thursdays.
“Tassa is a big part of our culture,” said Sunil Buddhu, a senior biomedical sciences major and member of the group. “Every once in awhile I go to Guyana. I remember when I was younger we went for a wedding. It was nice, I saw (tassa), and I was kind of mesmerized.”
Tassa drums are part of the Indo-Caribbean culture. There is a high-pitched tassa and a slightly lower-pitched one, according to group member and senior pre-med student Rajiv Deochand. The lower-pitched instrument is played at a steady tempo with the bass and jhal, and the higher will play improvisational parts.
The group formed about a year and a half ago. Its members are Deochand, Buddhu, senior pre-engineering major Rohan Abraham and accounting post-graduate Jonathan Sanowar. The members met through school and come from different backgrounds. Buddhu and Deochand are both from Guyana, Abraham from India and Sanowar from Trinidad.
Deochand and Buddhu man the tassa drums while Sanowar plays a bass drum called a “baydum,” and Abraham plays the brass jhal, which are like cymbals.
They perform at traditional Hindu wedding ceremonies and religious events, festival events and Caribbean carnivals. They chose the parking garage for practice because of its convenient central location and lack of people after classes are over.
Deochand played percussion in high school, but got into the tassa rhythms after hearing them at an Indian-Caribbean wedding. He started playing in Orlando, and when he came to USF for school, he had to look for a new group.
When Buddhu came back from Guyana, he attended another wedding where he saw Deochand and his friends performing.
“Maybe a year later I met him at the Library, and he needed people to play with him because he was the only one,” Buddhu said. “It’s not only something fun to do, it’s keeping our culture going.”
Buddhu explained how at ceremonies when tassa drums would play, the women would be the ones who danced, and the male drummers were also their protectors.
Deochand explained how the British took indentured laborers from India. As people were moved, they took their culture and instruments with them.
Tassa drums are from southern India, and the bass and jhal are from northern India. When the people were brought together, so were the different instruments.
“Every time you hear us play (on the garage), feel free to come up and watch,” Buddhu said.