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Thursday 23 May 2019
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Exodus’ drummer boy

12-year-old Joaquinn raises the rhythm in steelband

Drumming is “a way to express myself,” says Joaquinn Headley as he flicks his drum sticks. PHOTO BY ROGER JACOB
Drumming is “a way to express myself,” says Joaquinn Headley as he flicks his drum sticks. PHOTO BY ROGER JACOB

Joaquinn Headley, 12, has been playing the drums with the Exodus Steel Orchestra for just under two years but he has been drumming since birth.

When asked what drew him to the drums he said, “I just like hitting stuff.”

However, Headley’s mother, Jennifer Dorset, said it was like he was drawn to it from birth because even as a baby she could not stop him from going to church with two straws in his hands and play drums in the air.

She said when he started to move around on his own, he would set up his own drum sets using cushions, shoes, buckets, a BBQ pit, old fan frames and more. “And I still do that!” said Headley.

Dorset said Headley’s older sister, Rashunda Dorset-Headley, would play the steelpan at home and he would accompany her on his made-up drum set and it would sound good. Later, when he was around three-years-old, Dorset took Headley to practice with her at Tipica Steel Orchestra where he fist played on a real drum set.

Two years later, as a teacher at a primary school, Dorset organised an inter-school steelpan competition. The band had a drum set which Headley ran to and started playing as soon as he saw it.

His first real drumming instruction was later as Rashunda played pan with Birdsong Steel Orchestra and attended the Birdsong Academy.

He would often attend her practice and gravitated to the drums. The drummer there showed him some moves and told him about lessons at the Birdsong panyard which was where he met his first drumming instructor. “I even used to come up with my own beats. It’s just a way to express myself”

When asked what was his first memory of playing the drums, Headley said, “My first real memory playing drums was when I was home practising with Rashunda when she had a competition at school. She wanted me to accompany her for her competition. She wanted me to drum for her because she didn’t trust the other drummers that were there to do it right.”

Joaquinn Headley playing the drums with Exodus Steel Orchestra at Emancipation Day celebrations last year. PHOTO COURTESY JENNIFER DORSET

In 2012, Headley started playing drums with the choir at church. One of the choir members’ brother was the manager at Exodus Steel Orchestra and was impressed with his skill. “He paid for me to go Exocubs and from Exocubs I advanced to the Junior Stateside Band, then after a few months in Exocubs, I went to the large band.”

His first major performance with the state band was the Big 5 pan concert in September 2018 but he also played with them for Independence and Emancipation Day celebrations.

Headley said he would like to play with the band for Panorama this year but he did not think he could sustain the fast beat for a fill eight minutes. However, he said he would do it if there was a second drummer playing with him. “I know for prelims they don’t count too fast but semis and finals... I think they go at about 130 bp per second and that’s tough for me with over 100 players... I want to play for Panorama but I need to do some exercise.”

Headley also played the steelpan which he started when he joined the Athenian Pre-Secondary School in St Augustine at age six. In fact, he won the Northern Division and placed second in his solo category playing the tenor pan at the 2018 Music Festival. However, he said he loved the drums more than the pan.

Headley said he wanted to be a pilot and a building contractor, but planned to continue playing drums on the side.

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