Vale Paul Barrett, drummer with a difference
"If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away.” - (Henry David Thoreau)
BYRON Shire lost one of its own on Friday, January 13. Paul Barrett was everything that represented the best and most creative of our region.
He was a talented, generous and community minded man. Music and performance formed the centrepiece of his life.
I first came across Paul when we were living in Fremantle in the early 90s. In those days he could be seen at the Fremantle Markets honing his creative talents as a cartoonist.
It was in Fremantle that I first saw Paul drumming in his signature red Doc Martens.
The rest is Samba history.
Paul was born in Adelaide in 1960. His father Daryl was a mechanic and his mother Bettina gave him a sister Kerry. The family moved to Darwin in the pre Cyclone Tracy days, where he spent his childhood.
They later moved back to Adelaide, where Paul learnt to play trumpet in high school.
His first foray into performing was as a member of the Secondary Schools Orchestra.
Paul dreamt of being an artist and after a short stint as a mechanic he left Adelaide in his late 20s to pursue his dream in the port city of Fremantle - a favourite place for emerging artists, with a thriving street culture.
During Paul's career he founded no fewer than six percussion bands: Azuma, Ratula Drummers, Photo Percusssion, One Pulse and the Curry Boyz.
Locally, Paul was best known as the front man and musical director of the Samba-Blisstas, a group he founded in 2003.
It was hard to go to a public event that did not have the presence of the Samba-Blissta beat - Bangalow Christmas Eve, Soul Street, Falls Festival, Lismore Lantern Parade, Tweed Banana Festival, Ballina Prawn Festival. The list goes on.
All through his life Paul brought joy, happiness and a sense of rhythm everywhere he travelled. He lived and breathed community spirit.
One of his students told me: "Paul gave a lot of time to people suffering from mental illness; he knew that the drumming was healing, he knew that people just needed a way back.
"He was absent of judgment, he accepted everyone, he shared everything he had and he truly loved his and our lives.”
Since his death there has been an outpouring of thanks and sorrow from those who played with him and called him a friend.
He will be sadly missed.
Over recent years the Samba-Blisstas made the Byron Theatre in the Byron Community Centre their home.
Every Tuesday the group, with new and old members, would practise their beats for a coming public performance.
When the theatre was booked Paul would take the group onto the footpath outside the centre or up onto the veranda to the immense enjoyment and pleasure of those lucky enough to be walking by.
Paul and I always greeted each other as "The Other Paul”.
I will miss my "Other Paul” as a friend, performer and wonderful human being.
It brings a smile to my face to know that if there is a heaven, Paul Barrett will be drumming there decked out in glorious red.
May his beat go on!