Barbados TODAY’S A View from London comes to you this week from the sunny streets of the Rock. And what a week it has been! The Crop Over festival is well into third gear and promises to be fairly special this year when it gets into overdrive within the next two weeks.
I visited an event of pure Bajan music and style which was titled Fusion on a moonlight evening at the Prime Minister’s residence at Ilaro Court. The aim of the evening was to showcase a combination of steelpan music with other conventional musical instruments. Graced by the presence of the Prime Minister herself and many other dignitaries, the events of the evening catered for all. The performances bordered on awesome and were a fitting testimony to the excellent cultural talent that currently exists on the island.
The youth band, Altered 5th, led by a saxophonist of mega talent, opened the programme and treated the patrons to 30 minutes of sheer joy. This was the first indication of the fusion which had been promised and the steel pannist was outstanding. Their command betrayed the fact that they are not formally studying music. Producer of the show Ms Karen Pestaina told Barbados TODAY that the intention each year is to showcase young Barbadian talent and expose it to the bigger audiences in the belief that one day star performers will emerge. My layman’s ears tell me that Altered 5th is on the way to stardom, if given the opportunity.
I thought that the standard Altered 5th set would be hard to beat, but if their act was merely the curtain raiser, then the promise for the evening of things to come would send one into spasms of more joy.
A performance by a Tuk-Tuk band followed but in the end, a Tuk-Tuk band is a Tuk-Tuk band. However, it served to underpin the broad cultural base of things that are purely Bajan.
Not to be outdone by the young starlets of Altered 5th, the Nicholas Brancker Band took the stage and dominated the evening’s entertainment with an array of music that defies description. Suffice to say that the extraordinarily gifted Barbadian led his band through all types of music and also had the audacity to deliver an excellent rendition of the hymn Amazing Grace.
Surely, it could not get any better, but more was in store. We had cameo performances by some of the leading singers on the island and the patrons rocked and gyrated in unique Bajan style. The manner in which the good and the gentle threw away their inhibitions was interesting to note, and I wondered whether they would recover their genteel postures come Monday morning when the office doors would be flung open.
The rains came and went but the party continued on and on. Ras Iley, Lil Rick, Edwin Yearwood, Mikey, Jamal Slocombe and Adrian Clarke were some of the many who provided a spectacle for all who were present. However, a special mention should be made of the Trinidadian Len Boogsie Sharpe who thrilled and perhaps captivated the crowd with his performances on the double tenor steelpans.
Our roving and amateur assessment of the Crop Over season had begun the previous week when we visited the Big Show at the Dome in Maxwell, Christ Church. Supervised by its Chairman, businessman Hal Nicholls, this tent, as it is commonly known, threw up the same high level of talent and entertainment that was experienced at Fusion. However, the setting was more genteel but the show certainly was not genteel by any means.
Hosted by the wily and excellent Mac Fingall, the evening’s programme was filled with performers of the highest quality. The acts were a showcase of the music that is currently in the minds of Bajans and will no doubt be put forward to compete in the musical competitions that will bring the season to its closure.
A galaxy of talent was ‘led’ by the outstanding TC. Her delivery of Iron Lady was magic and one could perhaps say it is appropriately titled in the current times. Classic with One Song, Mac – Viagra Man, Marvay – Push and Guh Thru and Skung Yung all performed with wonderful artistry. Biggie Irie, Natahlee, Mr Dale, Mr Blood and JSlo were not to be outdone and brought the house to its feet with their renditions. Guest artiste Ramases also joined in delivering an evening that would not easily be forgotten.
Mr Nicholls promised that he will be ramping up the shows for Vision 20/20. He will be managing four tents during November and December when Barbadians from all over the world are being encouraged to come together in Barbados in one show of nationhood.
To understand the Bajan’s love for his own entertainment is to understand the tent. It is not that the Bajan is not keen on other people’s music, it is merely that at Crop Over time, ‘We music belong to we.’ Other nationalities have their carnivals, mardi gras and whatever, but this period of the year is uniquely and exclusively Bajan, only in Barbados.
It appears that nothing, not even the hardships endured by some Barbadians, will dampen the mood for the celebration of an event that is no longer merely a fete, but one which annually provides a vital stimulus to the island’s economy. All Barbadians, regardless of background, came together to take part in this event and that really is where the Fusion truly stands.
Vincent ‘Boo’ Nurse is a Barbadian living in London who is a retired land Revenue Manager, Pensions and Investment Adviser. He is passionate about the development of his island home and disapora.