It was a stellar showcase of musicality last Sunday night at the Garfield Sobers Gymnasium as some of Barbados’ best vocal acts gathered to pay tribute to the island’s newest cultural ambassadors.
Queen of Soca Alison Hinds and veteran calypsonians Dr Anthony Gabby Carter and Stedson Red Plastic Bag Wiltshire received their instruments and official designation as cultural ambassadors from Prime Minister Freundel Stuart.
During the ceremony, fond memories of the popular trio were rekindled by the spellbinding performances delivered in their honour.
Alison Hinds, who was commended by the Prime Minister and the Minister of Culture Stephen Lashley for paving the way for local female entertainers, was actively engaged as female vocalists Nikita, Mahalia Cummins of the group 2 Mile Hill, and Faith Callendar belted some of her most popular hits.
Led by the 1688 Orchestra, Nikita kicked off the musical tributes with an energetic performance of Bazodee, which promptly brought the crowd to their feet. She also had the crowd fully enthralled with Hinds’ 2005 single Roll It which was written by Barbadian singer-songwriter Shontelle and Sheldon Benjamin.
Nikita’s brother, Jabari Browne, who is also a musical actor, joined the stage during Roll It with his rhythmic spoken word, which brought a humorous element to the performance.
With her powerhouse vocal and captivating energy, Mahalia of 2 Mile Hill delivered a lively version of Square One’s 1998 Faluma which catapulted Hinds’ to regional fame as the undisputed Queen of Soca.
Faith Callendar rocked the stage with Togetherness, another Hinds hit. During her performance, Faith stopped to personally thank Hinds for being a mentor and for being the voice of Caribbean women.
A nostalgic performance by Jamal Slocombe and Mandisa of Hold You in a Song aroused memories of 1992 when Hinds and John King won the Caribbean Song Festival which was also held at the gymnasium.
Hilarity ensued during the tribute to Dr Anthony Gabby Carter, when Ian iWeb Webster came on stage impersonating the veteran calypsonian dressed in an African dashiki, and a knitted cap with dreadlocks. iWeb had the crowd in stitches during his enactment of Boots and Dr Cassandra, where he imitated Gabby’s famous dance moves.
Displaying impressive vocal ability, the charismatic voices of the Marlon Legall Project thrilled the modest crowd who attended the Government-organized event.
The group received a standing ovation for their renditions of the classic Gabby hits, Riots in the Land and Bridgetown. The lead vocalist on Bridgetown, Alix Cage, was given a special round of applause for his exceptional jazzy and soulful performance.
The tone was set to honour Gabby’s musical genius with lively and dynamic performances of Ole Ase by young vocalist Kareem Agard and Culture by Kellie Cadogan. Patrons also heard a new rendition of Emmerton done by classical soprano Dionne Timothy.
With an extensive repertoire of 400 songs and 25 albums, a medley of 18 of Red Plastic Bag’s most popular songs was not sufficient to do justice to his lengthy discography, but the performing team consisting of Adrian Clarke, iWeb, Donella and Adrian Greene did a fantastic job.
Greene, with his calming and intoxicating voice, reinterpreted Bim, while Clarke, iWeb and Donella each tackled different songs of Bag through the years such as Bag of Riddles, Black Man, Country Ent Well, Issues of the Day, Mr Harding, Can’t Find Me Brother and Volcano, to name a few.
The trio graced the stage together for the final selections from the 2000’s, bringing the crowd to its feet and dancing along from the stands to Roller Coaster, Spontaneous, I Love It and Boat Ride.
Bag himself looked overwhelmed with emotion as he watched the performances on stage.
Although the ceremony to commemorate the appointment of the cultural ambassadors was modestly attended, the superb performances were insightful expressions of how powerful their influence has been on the local entertainment fraternity.