Music in Barbados has a promising future.
The 1688 Collective, a group of musicians, spent the last month giving free concerts at different schools across the island during the Scotiabank Fuh de Children music tour, an investment in music for the future.
Founder and Director, Dr Stefan Walcott, told Bajan Vibes the group was started seven years ago in response to a need to establish a space where the graduates of the Barbados Community College’s music programme could continually engage with the knowledge and skills they acquired during their studies.
He said the 1688 Collective now aspires to be the constant driving force behind Caribbean instrumental performance.
“The group is a unique Caribbean musical ensemble dedicated to the craft of instrumental performance,” he explained.
How did the group get its name? Walcott revealed the name 1688 came from a significant period in Barbadian and English-Caribbean history,
“1688 was right around the time the British tried to ban the playing of all African derived music, so all the drums, all the rattles, all the songs, they didn’t want them to be played in the Caribbean anymore because it led to and incited rebellion,” he said.
“So the period is significant in that the music nearly died in 1688, this form of music that is so vital to our cultural identity, and it was nearly dying in 2009 in my opinion and that’s where the name 1688 Collective came from,” added Walcott.
He went on: “The idea came to me of using an orchestra set-up, but not orchestra in the traditional sense of strings but an orchestra of what we do in the Caribbean..
“So a big band with a steel pan orchestra was started which was the 1688 Orchestra which was started as the flagship group of the whole 1688 Collective idea.”
Scotiabank’s Marketing Manager, Keisha Humphrey, told Bajan Vibes the company has been sponsoring the Fuh de Children music tour for the last three years.,
“Scotiabank is a proud supporter of culture and music in Barbados. The tour goes into primary and secondary school sharing live music with students, ensuring that there is an appreciation for such from a young age,” she explained.
“This is also why Scotiabank has been sponsoring the Junior Monarch (calypso) programme for the last 22 years and as a result, junior monarch participants also actively participate in the Fuh de Children music tour.”
This year, the tour took the 1688 Collective to the St George Primary School, St Luke’s Brighton Primary School, Half Moon Fort Primary, St Lucy Primary, St Gabriel’s School and the Deighton Griffith Secondary School.
Concerts primarily featured the playing of Barbadian songs and folksongs to expose children to spouge, an indigenous beat that was popular in the late 1960s and 1970s, and the gospel music of the late Joseph Niles. A selection of Rihanna’s music was also played.
The series of almost hour long concerts was well received by the students.