Arts & Culture

Will complaints drum out Durham music group?

If someone keeps complaining, the police will keep coming.

But that doesn’t necessarily mean Batalá Durham has to stop drum practices in Durham Central Park.

The group has drawn support – and complaints – from its newest neighbors.

Liberty Warehouse Apartments opened downtown earlier this year next to the park where the Batalá Durham samba-reggae drumming group has been practicing the past two summers. Practice runs from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Mondays.

Before Batalá Durham’s practice this week, members said they were pleased that neighbors were showing support for their outdoor practices at Durham Central Park.

But later Monday evening, someone called police to complain and Batalá received a warning.

“Some of us work really early in the morning,” the caller told the 911 operator, adding she doesn’t “see why they continually come” on Mondays. She also referenced a previous complaint call to police.

City Manager Tom Bonfield said Wednesday that any time police get a complaint, whether from one person or mulitiple people, police respond. He said the managing partners of Liberty Warehouse have no concern about the drumming going on at Durham Central Park. The building manager declined to comment.

A Durham police officer won’t tell someone to leave the park if there isn’t a noise violation, he said. Bonfield said the officer is put on the spot of asking someone to turn it down or go to a different space. The officer’s role is to document the facts, he said. They’re “certainly not going to arrest anybody” over it, he said.

Police respond to a complaint call to see what it’s all about, Bonfield said. He encourages the property owners and supportive residents to work with the person making the complaint calls.

Can the police tell Batala not to practice at the park?

“No, not really,” Bonfield said. “That’s not the police’s place to do that. They’d be more about determining the noise.”

A “Batalá Durham” event Monday night was organized via Facebook by Kirk Royal, a resident of Liberty Warehouse Apartments. Liberty advertises its apartments as “fashioned to integrate with Durham’s chic downtown.”

Monday evening before practice, Batalá member Catherine Edgerton said the drummers appreciated the support.

“It’s so awesome, so rad, so positive,” she said.

Batalá belongs at Durham Central Park, Edgerton said. The group practiced there all summer in 2016, but this summer at least one resident of the new apartments has called in a complaint.

Royal said the anonymous person or persons should not be able to call the shots for the rest of the community.

“That’s not being a good neighbor if you’re calling the cops first instead of talking to your neighbor,” Royal said Wednesday. His apartment at Liberty Warehouse faces the skate park side of Durham Central Park. He has lived in Durham for about six years, in Old North Durham and Northgate Park, before moving downtown in May.

“The reason I moved into the warehouse is to be in the middle of everything. Sometimes the sound is a little louder ... and that just goes with the territory, and I knew that going in,” he said.

Royal said he can hear skateboarders outside all the time.

“I hear that clicking and clacking going on, and you know, I signed up for this. I moved in and knew that was there, so I can’t complain. I can’t come in and change the neighborhood – I joined it,” he said.

Harriet Sava and her husband moved into their Liberty Warehouse apartment a month and a half ago, she said. She can hear and see Batalá’s practices from her window.

“I do like it,” Sava said. “I just think this is part of our community.”

She walks her Labradoodle, Luke, at the park and wanted to live where she’d “be able to walk somewhere.” She has lived in Florida and the Washington, D.C. area, and loves Durham. Sava said she’d like there to be a grocery store within walking distance.

‘Not trying to pick a fight’

Caique Vidal, one of the founders of Batalá Durham, grew up in Brazil, where he said music in the streets is the norm. He has been teaching Afro-Brazilian drums in Durham and moved here from the Raleigh/Wake Forest area, he said, because of the arts and culture.

Vidal said Batalé is not against the new residents of Durham Central Park, but wants them to understand that “Durham is a vibrant city that supports the arts.”

This is what attracts people to Durham, Vidal said. “We’re not trying to pick a fight, we just want to keep the space open,” he said.

Bonfield said the city, which owns the park, relies on its officers to use their judgment.

“They always create peace, but a lot of times (they) are put between people who don’t want to work it out themselves and want the city [to do it],” he said. Bonfield said people will complain to the city about a neighbor’s leaves in their yard instead of trying to work it out directly with the neighbor.

Royal wants the city to adapt noise ordinances to clearly allow Batala’s practice and other events in the park.

“I have a strong conviction that those of us who move into downtown in what was already an existing neighborhood, across the socio-economic spectrum, we need to respect what makes the neighborhood what it is until we got there,” Royal said.

Vidal said no one has complained directly to Batalá about their practices, and he hopes neighbors will come out to meet them and listen.

On Monday, Aug. 14, Batalá will hold a school supplies drive at Durham Central Park.

“This group is giving back to the community in more than just cultural ways,” Royal said.

Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan: 919-419-6563, @dawnbvaughan