MAGARITA, MORE THAN A DANCER

By Howard Campbell Observer senior writer

Sunday, March 31, 2013

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IT'S inevitable that once the name Margarita is mentioned in Jamaican music circles, trombonist Don Drummond comes up.


The storied rumba dancer, who was killed by Drummond on New Year's Day, 1965, will be one of several women honoured by the University of Technology (UTech) for their contribution to Jamaican music.


The ceremony takes place April 11 at UTech's Papine campus.


Margarita only recorded only one song, Woman a Come, for producer Arthur 'Duke' Reid in 1965. Herbie Miller, curator at the Jamaica Music Museum, recommended Margarita for the UTech recognition. He says there was more to her than just hip shaking and being Don Drummond's lover.


"Everything we've ever heard of her is that she was Don's woman and she was a victim of his mental state," Miller told the Jamaica Observer.


He recalls seeing Margarita as a boy growing up in east Kingston. She lived at Ocean View Avenue with her father and sisters, not far from his home at Carmona Road.


She was born Anita Mahfood, a member of a respected family who had left Lebanon in the 1870s and settled in Jamaica where they excelled as commercial traders.


In an interview with the Jamaica Observer, Joseph Mahfood Snr, chairman of the Wisynco Group of Companies, said his father Saleem and Margarita's father Jade, were second cousins.


Jade Mahfood, a fisherman, had four daughters but was not close to the Mahfood family. Joseph Mahfood says he never met Margarita and first heard about her when he was an adult.


Margarita was not always Don Drummond's woman. She was married to Rudolph Bent, an Honduran boxer who lived in Jamaica. They had three children.


The slender Margarita was not known for her domestic skills. She became a fixture on the Kingston club circuit in the 1950s and even danced at impromptu jam sessions staged by Count Ossie and his Rastafarian drummers at their base near the Wareika Hills.


According to Miller, Margarita once stood up for the Count Ossie troupe when respected show promoter Vere Johns refused to let them accompany her on stage for a performance at the Carib Theatre.


"He didn't want them to go on because they were Rasta, and she said she would not do it (perform) unless they accompanied her which was very principled," said Miller.


Some believe Drummond first met Margarita at one of Count Ossie's Wareika Hill sessions. A past student of the Alpha Boys School, he was a budding composer by the early 1960s and founding member of the Skatalites, an all-star band.


Drummond also had a dark side. He had checked himself into the Bellevue asylum twice to treat his mental challenges.


There are stories that he and Margarita had a tumultuous relationship. One that came to a tragic end at the dawn of 1965.


Drummond had missed the Skatalites New Year's gig at La Parisienne, a club in Harbour View. Margarita, however, went to work at a club close to the Rockfort house where they lived.


According to police reports, Drummond stabbed her in the chest shortly after she returned home, killing her instantly.


At his trial, Drummond was represented by lawyer PJ Patterson, who had also managed the Skatalites. He was found to be criminally insane and committed to Bellevue where he died from 'natural causes' in May, 1969 at age 37.


The Margarita/Don Drummond melodrama is part of Jamaican music lore. But while Drummond's compositions (Confucius, Eastern Standard Time) have been discovered by new generations of musicians, Margarita remains the brown, uptown rumba dancer who lost her life to a troubled genius.


"How do you give her a rightful place if you don't know who she was?" Miller asked. "I believe her relationship with Rasta and the music at a time when society shunned both, is very important.



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