Darius Lyndsley, “Da Bucket Banga,” beats his buckets on a curb outside of Belle’s Diner in the French Market—lifting the bucket slightly with his foot to provide different musical tones. He flips his sticks high in the air, catching them without missing a beat. Someone drops a five, missing the bucket, and the bill floats to the ground. But before the wind can blow it away, Darius has deftly scooped it into the bucket with one hand, keeping the beat with his other.
Darius is not just playing music; he is playing for his life.
“I’m from the 9th ward, lived on the Westbank a little bit with my grandma, but I been [living in the] 9th ward mostly.
“When I was eight, my momma came home with some drumsticks ’cause she worked at a live music bar. That night I was drumming in the house and she told me ‘don’t drum in the house.’ The next morning I went outside and was drumming on everything. I got underneath the house and found these buckets with a little bit of paint in them. I started beating on them, messed up my new shoes for school and everything with the paint.
“The next day they dried out and I just kept going.
“I used to walk to the French Quarter—my momma didn’t know ’cause she thought I was playing football or something. I was only, like, nine years old and I been wanting to hustle, you know, make money. The motivation was Honey Buns, trying to have something to eat with my little brother when we went to school.
“I was always looking for work, even at seven. I would see somebody with groceries outside their house and ask, ‘can I help you bring them inside?’ I picked up trash, washed dishes for neighbors, anything I could make extra hustle off.
“Then I found the buckets. I’m the originator with this style of playing. I never joined the band in school. I did everything I had to do to get there but basically it didn’t match me. I was doing something different. I still performed at school, half-time, pep rallies, all kinds of events.
“I got known when I got posted on World Star and got a lot of followers. Then Common posted me and tagged Questlove with ‘That must be your son.’ Questlove is one of the best drummers in the world, and he was like, ‘We gotta find him.’ From that post I got contacted for the red beans commercial. That was fun, we was in a house uptown. They filmed me for about four hours. They even shot extra footage of me just playing around.”
Darius has been smiling at memories of good times but at the mention of his mother his smile fades.
“It’s a deeper story, why I move, how I move, how I keep to myself. I try to keep myself distant from falling in the wrong trap. My mom…she did drugs. I used to hold a burden from feeling like I contributed because I was bringing all the money home, taking care of my family—living in hotels for two years straight, having to provide. It was hard.”
His enthusiasm returned but when I ask how his mom is doing, sadness falls across his face.
“She’s not really doing too good right now. I don’t really stay in contact with her. I try but she never has a solid phone number, she moves around a lot. I love her to death—that’s my rock—I think about her every day.”
As he speaks, he pulls a photo of his mom from his wallet to show me, while sad eyes look at it as he tucks it back into his wallet.
When I ask if he has an agent, the smile returns as he announces, “I’m my own agent, my own businessman, my own manager. I’m going to Delgado for two years for music business. I have a passion; if I didn’t go this route I probably wouldn’t be here. I’m not having the best life right now—this is not the good life I’m living right now but I make it look good. I want people to know it’s going to be alright. I’m a soldier. I got tattoos of my sister’s name, my two nephews and a spider web tattoo on my elbow with nine corners ’cause that’s the age when I started, ’cause I felt like I was trapped but I found a way out.”