The sound interrupts our quiet meal. It is not thunder and not fireworks. It is coming from the streets behind us. It gets louder. Then we hear the rhythm. No other instruments, just drums. Then we see a young girl moving above the tall fence. It looks strange. Curiosity draws all of us up from our dinner chairs and out in the streets. The young girl is on stilts and behind her a big band of happy drummers. Small kids and large, drums of all sizes all mixed together, but playing a unified fantastic rhythm. In front a wild looking guy with open shirt, gold chains and golden hair! He controls the beat and movement with hand signals. He makes the band stop, mix the beat between the different drum types, move from side to side, smile, laugh, screams, then put everything into full force. The fantastic rhythm and the wild sight of happy people makes it impossible not to feel joy. We followed them through the narrow streets of into the schoolyard and all the way into their rehearsal room.
Then I meet with the “golden top”, Urmain Dormoj. He shakes my hand and starts to explain. He has been running this project since 2008 with one purpose – keeping the kids off the street and giving them a purpose in life. The project is called Generation New Status and is a non-profit organization powered by people like Urmain. The kids range from 5 to 18 years old and they come here after school to practice and play together almost every day. Together with the music they are given important thoughts about the future. Urmain teach them to believe in themselves and set goals. In between the loud rhythms they shout statements about how they are suppose to behave towards each other and some of the kids are asked to come forward and tell about their goals, while the drums continue in the background.
Urmain says even in this small community here on Saint Marteen, it is easy to end up in the streets and projects like this is very important. He proudly explains about some of the kids that have stayed with the group all the way since 2008. Sometimes they play for cruise ships and sometimes the whole group travel to places like Washington DC to preform.
Today they practice for the national day parade starting tomorrow. Then they will walk the streets with their wild show lasting several hours, but we know now that the sound they make is so much more than just music.