To construct any building, one must begin with research. Is the earth sound? Is the bedrock strong enough to support a major project?
In the instance of Barbados’ music industry which some say does not exist (I firmly believe it does) let’s examine what we do have, and shed light on its potential by first assessing what may be found in the very foundation of our talents. We will most certainly find lying beneath the dusty bedrock of industry uncertainty, lack of adequate financing and constant restructuring, a precious stone waiting to be unearthed and sold to the world.
For many years, our vocalists, songwriters and musicians have been battle-hardened, much like Israeli soldiers, through the rigours of competing in the many forums our island boasts. These include NIFCA, the Richard Stoute Teen Talent Contest, scores of school-based pageants, and, of course, those within the annual Crop Over Festival, now going over four decades.
They then venture into hotels and perform night after night some as many as seven nights a week, a routine even more gruelling than a global tour by any major artiste, who often rests for three days between each performance.
This has created a talent pool of fierce performers across many genres of music.
Talented hundreds have even been discovered in the sacred halls of the church, where, in some instances, poor sound equipment, or a veritable lack of amplification, has forced singers to pull from their very souls, utilizing their various vocal resonances to deliver to experienced audiences long fed with years of musical excellence and unspoilt vocal ability, and not easily amused by amateurs.
One must not forget that Barbadians have a very similar history to the Blacks in the United States, our centuries-old origins nurturing quite similar skills with respect to the performing arts that has resulted in the discovery of the Stevie Wonders, Whitney Houstons and Aretha Franklins of this world.
It can be boldly and honestly stated that Barbadians have within them the ability to be as musically accomplished as the very best of our brothers and sisters in New York, New Orleans and the Carolinas, and this has become quite evident for some time now.
This island’s talent pool has yielded vocal luminaries like the Mighty Gabby, Norma Bowen, Paula Hinds, Toni Norville, Kareen Clarke and James Leacock, and supremely gifted musicians, including Arturo Tappin, Chris Allman, Nicholas Brancker, James Lovell and Elan Trotman all of whom can perform anywhere in the world and stand toe to toe with the best on offer.
It should come as no surprise that the intensity embedded in Robyn Fenty through the influence of the envelope-pushing soca queen Alison Hinds, the soul she was exposed to by watching Toni Norville in full flight, and the showmanship she surely saw on television demonstrated by Carlyn Leacock would have had a profound impact on the young mind of a woman who has gone on to become the cohobbolopot of Caribbean fire and fearlessness, now known the world over as its biggest star Rihanna.
With over 230 million records sold, eight Grammy Awards earned, and countless other accolades, Rihanna continues to exude the Barbadian charm and vibe that have gone far in aiding her ascent to the very top of the global musical ladder.
We should never underestimate the potential of our most valuable resource РР our people; and within that vast mine of human ability is the diamond, hardened by many years of slavery, economic ups and downs, and the need to prove itself as beautiful as any other to be found elsewhere in the world. That diamond is our core population of singers and musicians; and if ever that diamond is extracted, polished, handled and valued to its full potential, Barbados will see economic returns that one normally only dreams of.
(Ronnie Morris is president of Gold Coast Records and director of the Barbados Music Awards. Email: [email protected])