Bridgetown early; Saturday morning;
See de women, how dem calling,
Saying, come fuh ya breadfruit, come fuh ya corn,
Come fuh de apples, fresh as de morn,
Come fuh banana, Come fuh potato,
Come fuh de guava, de guava, de guava, de guavaaaaaaaaa.”
by Latoya Burnham
It’s a song that for folk singer Anthony Gabby Carter still brings back memories of early Barbados – days when as a lad he would run through that Bridgetown market hunting “fuh potato”, sweet potato for his mother to make her Saturday black pudding and souse.
In fact, for him Independence is about all those early memories of Emmerton, of Bridgetown Market, of deeds done that would later form the basis for many of his songs, some of them award winning material. But at the time in his youth, this Emmerton born, City boy was only interested in living life.
He recalled much of his early life spent swimming in the City, as he boasted that he was a “pretty good long distance swimmer”. Among his favourite memories were swimming to Pelican Island and back or wading out when the tide was low and fishing from the rocks, or better yet running wild on Princess Alice pasture – and a vibrant youth he was, playing football, cricket, road tennis or simply
pitching marbles and flying kites, it was all about the fun of living in the City – and fascinated by the people who lived there.
“Who wasn’t a tailor was a joiner, who wasn’t a joiner was a mason, who wasn’t a mason was a carpenter, who wasn’t a carpenter was a shoemaker, so Bridgetown was a vibrant kinda place. People were poor but real skillful. There was a man called Daddy Hoyte, Terrance Hoyte, he used to make rope; so we used to go down there and help to turn de rope. It was life. It was childhood.”
The image of Bridgetown Market and what it has come to symbolise even within the frame of memories of Independence, is something he never envisaged.
The now famous Bridgetown Market was a song he recalled redacting from a similar song he heard by famous black actor, singer and activist Harry Belafonté.
“Very early in my life I became a fan of Harry Belafonté and I remember hearing him sing a song called Kingston Market. I had to write a song for Bridgetown and I call it Bridgetown Market. I don’t remember if he wrote the song or someone wrote it and he sang it, but me, I had experienced Bridgetown Market – had gone into de market for my muddah when she used to mek black pudding and souse I would go into de market for de sweet potatoes and buy all de other things she would make it with.
“So I know about Bridgetown. I know about walking de market as a little boy and seeing de women deck out in these beautiful, beautiful costumes. I mean they were their clothes, but to me so young they looked like costumes because not knowing they were doing what their forefathers in Africa were doing.”
Trips later in life would see him encountering women in Africa decked in similar garb in the markets there, and these big aprons and colourful head-ties would conjure memories of home, memories of Barbados and Bridgetown market.
“When you think about it. That’s why when Eddy Grant recorded it that you hear and feel the ole Bridgetown Market… So you have the amalgamation of ole Bridgetown and new Bridgetown. The song for me, I am singing it thinking of a 6/8 rhythm and thinking of my ancestors but at the same time singing to my people regardless of which generation it is. So that means a lot to me.”
It also conjures memories of Emmerton where he lived and would later write another famous song about – one that is especially poignant around this time.
“I wrote Emmerton because I lived there. I liked the area and I liked the people and it was so touching to me, but we had to move to Clapham and I was sitting in the house one Saturday night talking to my cousin and telling he it real hard to adjust to the move, but we got to adjust and he saying, ‘Yeah man.’ I saw my guitar and I pick it up and de words came one time and de melody and everything and in 10 minutes time I wrote that. I never feel it would mean so much to all of Barbados. It wasn’t written in that hope that it would have that kind of longevity, it was just emotion coming out.”
So when Independence rolls around, Gabby is usually performing to large audience, the way he likes to celebrate it best. This year it is in Cayman Islands with the Bajan contingent there, something that conjures even more memories, this time of Errol Barrow and performing for him, first in Independence Square and later in England to a big audience of Bajan immigrants.
“Me and Errol Barrow went to England for Independence, I think that was 1986. This was the first time they had ever had an event so big. We were at a big theatre, a famous, famous theatre and they allowed us to take out the seats, because this thing would seat like 6,000 people and they took out the seats and had 7,000 people standing.
“So they took out the seats and we performed there. They took up a huge Barbados contingent and we performed there. That was a real memorable night because the Barbadians were celebrating in London and to see 7,000 Bajans celebrating Independence in
London was so great. That was Independence.”