2018 was the year for recognizing the contributions that Barbadian artistes, artists and artisans made towards the development of the island’s cultural and creative economy. The vibrant and bold culture of Barbados came to the forefront and was celebrated locally and regionally.
It kicked off in January when three of the island’s biggest influencers, voices and mentors to aspiring performers were designated the title of Cultural Ambassador to Barbados by then Prime Minister Freundel Stuart.
Dr Anthony Mighty Gabby Carter; Alison Hinds, also known as the Queen of Soca; and Stedson Red Plastic Bag Wiltshire were given a lavish, celebratory ceremony at the Garfield Sobers Sports Complex where the best established and rising young artistes performed the trio’s greatest hits, to the delight of the hundreds in attendance.
While expressing his gratitude for the designation, the Mighty Gabby also reiterated calls for more investment in the island’s cultural industries, saying “every dollar we put into culture, we get back six, which means we are doing what we are supposed to do be doing and I want to see more funds being given to culture so we can take it where we want it to go, because I know we can do it for Barbados”.
And so the Mighty Gabby said it and thus it would manifest. The then Minister of Culture, Youth and Sport Stephen Lashley revealed that two state-of-the-art recording studios were established in honour of Barbadian musical icon and father of spouge music, Jackie Opel, in February.
One of those facilities was in Silver Hill, Christ Church – a part of the Youth Empowerment Centre supported by the Maria Holder Memorial Trust – while the other was located in Pelican Village.
“We are hoping that by decentralizing opportunities for quality recording, that we can unearth home-grown talent in keeping with Jackie Opel’s vision for the advancement of music in Barbados,” said Lashley at the time.
During the first five months of the year, before the lead up to the highlight event of the year – the Crop Over festival –, residents put their economic worries and political affiliations aside as they partied at a wide range of events.
People from all walks of life were able to enjoy themselves at the annual Naniki Jazz Festival which took place on the weekend in which Errol Barrow Day fell, as well as the gospel-centred Errol Barrow Sunset Concert at the Kensington Oval, which featured Grammy awardee Donnie McClurkin headlining the show. In February, there was the Rockin’ Hard Concert at Bagatelle Great House which was an epic night of exhilarating performances from the legendary Jamaican Grammy-nominated band Third World and celebrated local band Spice and Company. After nearly a decade, the royal family of reggae, Morgan Heritage, also touched down on our 166 square-mile island during their Avrakedabra World Tour.
Over 1 000 tourists from Canada and the United States also came to the island for the Vujaday Electronic Dance Festival which ran from April 4 to 8. The first of its kind to be held in Barbados, the festival featured over 20 electronic dance and house deejays from across the world.
From April 22 to 28, the Barbados Reggae Festival was staged, and thousands of Barbadians did not miss it. Dancehall artiste Aidonia was the headline act at this year’s Magnum Tonic Wine Reggae Beach Party. The Jamaican dancehall artiste did not disappoint, ‘turning up’ the crowd with hits like Hot Tool which cemented his headliner status. Making her first appearance in Barbados was dancehall diva Shenseea who commanded the stage with her dynamism.
FAS Entertainment’s Vintage Reggae Show was a blast from the past with outstanding performances from the likes of Josey Wales, Johnny Osbourne, Tony Tuff, Leroy Gibbons and vintage regular Ernie Smith, whose deep baritone seems to get sweeter as he gets balder and greyer. The annual Digicel Reggae on the Hill saw Anthony B as the headlining act, thrilling the crowds. Popular Jamaican artistes Queen Ifrica, Jah Cure, Tarrus Riley and Maxi Priest also graced the stage.
The uncertainty, tension and the jitters of the elections and politics permeated throughout Barbados for most of 2018. The May 24 general election date hung over the heads of every Barbadian who anxiously anticipated the outcome. When the dust settled and the tide shifted, a dark cloud was cast over the island during the Crop Over season.
It was during the remaining six weeks of the three-month festival that Barbadians started to get into the spirit of mas and revelry. Lil Rick was this season’s highlight as he snatched a majority of the titles. He became the first king of the inaugural Yello International Bashment Soca Competition. He also won the Sweet Soca Monarch title for the first time. Lil Rick was also designated Road March King with Mudda Sally, and STAG Jam Tune winner when his songs Ben It and Mudda Sally were the most frequently played songs on Foreday Morning. Meanwhile, after seven years, Mikey reclaimed the Party Monarch crown at Bushy Park with My Kind Ah Party.
The kaiso produced for this year’s Pic-o-de-Crop Competition was reflective of the country’s social and economic climate. Pic-o-de-Crop Monarch Anderson Mr Blood Armstrong took the crown with his stellar delivery of Stars and Stripes and Sexual Harassment.
However, one of the competitors who created a stir with his biting social commentary was Billboard. During his performance of Sex Change, Billboard dressed as half-man, half-woman and sang about transgenders changing their bodies to assume another sex. He also stated in the song that no matter the steps transgenders took to alter their appearance or body structure, they would always be the same inside.
His song was met with outrage from the local LGBTQI community who described the song as “problematic”.
The season had its high and low points but it was definitely filled with surprises.
Veteran calypsonian and cultural ambassador Red Plastic Bag was expected to defend his Sweet Soca title. However, he announced his retirement from competition, shocking his fans and soca lovers. Calypsonian William Smokey Burke was a strong contender for the Pic-o-de-Crop finals but he was forced to withdraw from the competition due to illness. Burke had developed sepsis and while recovering he suffered a stroke which impacted the left side of his body.
During the year, we said farewell to cultural gems such as legendary calypsonian and four-time calypso monarch Sir Don – real name Don Jose Lamont Marshall – and 71-year-old former calypso monarch Charles Romeo Smith, who is famed for his songs Gem Gone and Brother Fuzzy. Both calypsonians were stalwarts and pioneers of the genre. They were esteemed for their dedication and passion to the calypso art form.
December saw the 10th anniversary of Hennessy Artistry and it was truly a spectacle with Popcaan headlining the event at Kensington Oval. American R&B artiste Trey Songz was also a crowd pleaser. Meanwhile, artistes like Luciano spoke about keeping the peace and urged the youth to put down the guns. While Hennessy Artistry at Kensington Oval was about irie vibes, Hennessy Artistry on the Beach was all about shellings with performances from Spice, Cham, Rygin King and a surprise performance from Popcaan.
But the climax of the year was the announcement by FAS Entertainment that Buju Banton, who was released from prison in the United States earlier this month, will be performing in Barbados on April 27, 2019 at the Kensington Oval. Talk about something to look forward to next year!
With this revelation there is no denying that 2019 will have us on the edge of our seats. (KK)