The beat goes on: Newton resident plays music in Centennial

Ray Prieba plays a pan drum Sunday in Centennial Park in Newton, enjoying the warm late winter day. Wendy Nugent/HC Now

By Wendy Nugent, Harvey County Now

NEWTON—Color was everywhere on Sunday afternoon as the warm late-winter breeze carried the tunes Ray Prieba played on his pan drum. The sky was blue, grass was turning green and Prieba’s tie-dye shirt displayed colors in a swirl.

Prieba had a variety of instruments out in Centennial Park, sitting near the Blue Sky Sculpture parking lot.

He was outside playing music for the world to enjoy for several reasons.

“We’ve been through the pandemic and heaviness—just feeling like not only for my myself—everybody needs something positive,” Prieba said, surrounded by a speaker and various instruments, including a couple of rain makers, a didgeridoo, four or five drums, at least one rattle, a cowbell and an instrument he invented called a tambouru, a cross between a ukulele and a tambourine. “It’s just a positive experience for everybody.”

He said people stop and talk to him or take photos and video.

Prieba said there’s only one tambouru in the world.

“This is my latest creation,” he said, holding up the tambouru. “I’m a master of the tambouru.”

He doesn’t actually play the ukulele strings part of the instrument, but rather demonstrated how he plays it by shaking it and using it as a drum.

“This is when you have too much time in the pandemic,” he said, adding that’s what his wife says.

He grew up loving music and didn’t really start showing any interest in playing until his 40s going into his 50s.

Prieba said he also has a banana thunder drum, which sounds like thunder and has a banana sticking out of it. He also has another thunder drum. It sounds like, well, thunder.

About 15-17 years ago, Prieba helped create The Drum Nation.

“We did drum circles for about a year, year and a half,” he said, adding he decided to restart a drum circle, and if anyone wants to join him, they are welcome, although he doesn’t have a regular time he goes outside to play. “A lot just depends on the weather.”

He did have his Drum Nation banner on display.

The drums he had with him were just ones he collected and purchased.

Prieba said he’s played in his garden the last few months, as he has a nice one, and then decided to go to different places to play.

“I’ve been going to Wichita to Keeper of the Plains,” he said. “As soon as it turns green, I like to go up on the hill. The ski hill [in Centennial Park]. I like the panoramic view.”

The Newton resident said he plays to pre-recorded music.

“Most of the music I like to play is from Australia,” he said. “Some of it is so old. They’ve been playing that music—handing it down. It’s great to play along with.”

In addition to Centennial Park, Prieba’s also played near Sand Creek and he also wants to play around the state.

“I never know where I’m going to set up,” he said.