“Wait how a girl playing drums suh good?”
These questions are nothing new to 22-year-old drummer Juanita Juanz Clarke.
It is not customary to see a girl behind the drums, and it’s even more surprising for one to be so good at it. But this former Queen’s College student who has been playing drums for 11 years wants everyone to know that this is nothing strange.
“I like what I like and I always liked rhythm. I used to watch others playing and imagined myself doing it too. I always found it fascinating,” Juanz said.
But Juanz, who is also referred to as “drummer” by her neighbours, admitted that drumming did not come naturally at first.
“My coordination wasn’t very good at first but I learned after awhile. I watched people and learned from them. I watched my best friend Daryl Springer and I practised what I saw him doing. I came home and anything I could find I beat up just so I could get more practice,” she added.
She also gave the most credit to her teacher and mentor James Lovell.
“I look up to James; he has helped me a lot. I did lessons with him, and then I started lessons at Foundation Groove studio once a week with him,” Juanz said.
And in her case, practice does in fact make perfect, because the down-to-earth Juanz can now play any genre under the sun, without even thinking about it.
Juanz is now lead drummer in the Big Show Calypso Tent for the second year.
“I like playing in Big Show; it is a lot of work but I love it. I get the opportunity to play behind a lot of good entertainers,” she said.
And this is not where it stops for Juanz, not by a long shot. She plays in many other bands such as Loc Dong, which is Peter Ram’s band, NJ30 and Counterpoint Academy, James Lovell’s band.
After listing out the bands she proudly stated: “Drumming is my career now. It is life. I am doing what I love.”
Juanz has also played behind the likes of Blood, Sister Marshall, Albert Olton, LRG, Bobo, Poonka and Arturo Tappin, among many others.
She was even apart of an all girl band Flare but it only lasted two years.
“After a while everyone branched off into other things and I was the only one that wanted to continue doing the music so it ended.”
However, she admitted that she never imagined herself as a professional drummer.
“I wanted to be a landscaper or something like that. I always loved drumming but I never thought I would be at this point right now,” she added.
While she admits that this career does not pay as she would want, she said: “It’s my dream so I do it; it opens many doors for me.”
And so far in her career, she said playing with Spice And Co. Ltd. has to be the most memorable, and will stay with her forever.
“Getting to play with the Splashband was amazing, it was just one song, but that was a huge moment for me. They are much older than me so I could see people in the crowd looking and asking who that girl. That felt pretty good,” Juanz revealed.
She added that travelling to Bequia to play with NJ30 in January was an amazing feeling.
And, having such a hectic career does not hinder Juanz from pursuing her academic goals. She is now enrolled at the Barbados Community College completing an associate degree in music.
“I am not sure about school after BCC but if I get the opportunity to get a scholarship I will go to a music school in England or the USA,” she added.
Juanz also has big dreams of leaving her mark on the entertainment scene.
“I want people to remember who I was when I’m gone, so I want to be a producer. Make good music. I also want to open an entertainment club for musicians, not just entertainers, because I find the musicians in Barbados are not given enough exposure,” she said.
For now, she is giving back to the younger ones teaching beginners classes at the Foundation Grove.
But her eleven year journey was not all smooth sailing. She told Bajan Vibes that there was a point when she did not play at all.
“I had financial difficulties and had to stop classes for a while. I played steelpan during that time but I wasn’t progressing and wasn’t learning anything much at all,” Juanz revealed.
But with the help and support of her parents Marcia Cadogan and Barry Clarke and her grandmother Gloria Murray, she is now good
“I practise at home and they don’t complain so I appreciate that. My mother is such a huge help because I have to use her car to get around a lot and she doesn’t complain,” the drummer added.
She also mentioned that her friends support her a lot and attend many of her gigs.
So between school and drumming, Juanz admitted she does not have time for much else.
“I like to party but I don’t do it as much now. There is not much outside of drumming for me. When I get the chance I watch lots of TV and catch up on my rest,” she said.