By Simone Tull
Celebrations marking Barbados’ 56th year of Independence and the first year as a Republic culminated in grand style on Wednesday night.
The mega concert at National Heroes Square produced by the National Cultural Foundation brought a fitting end to month-long activities.
A massive audience gathered at the venue in The City. Patrons who were unable to get a prime view of the two stages were kept in the loop by strategically placed large screens capturing every moment of the monumental occasion.
The entertainment package catered to a wide demographic and their varied tastes. There was something for everybody. Though singers featured prominently, dancers of multiple styles and spoken word artiste Sunrokk added to the diversity of the programme.
The rebranded Barbados National Youth Orchestra, augmented with steel pans and tuk, opened the show on a high with their phenomenal artistry. Under the leadership of Dr Joy Knight-Lynch, the musicianship of the ensemble was excellent. The group was joined by vocal powerhouses Betty Griffith Payne singing Beautiful Barbados and Adrian Clarke with I am A Bajan. This segment also featured saxophonist Winitrey Harper, who performed Love on the Brain.
They were followed by the Barbados 100 – Voice Project directed by Ryan Boyce. With more than one hundred voices drawn from communities across the island, the group combined in harmony to regale the audience with local folk favourites. The choral presentation featured gospel singer Keaan Walters. Shem White, fresh off his Best Talent win at the recently concluded Spirit of the Nation show, blended his powerful vocals with Allison Norville for a spectacular rendition of How Great Thou Art. The choir’s segment included a spouge medley by Donna-Lisa Yearwood.
Darien Bailey and the Independence Band provided the accompaniment for all the performers in the next phase of the concert. Every musical style was covered, whether it was gospel phenom Paula Hinds, rapper Rubytech, dub artiste Brutal Crankstar or bashment soca guru Stiffy, music lovers were guaranteed to have their specific musical thirst quenched. Biggie Irie added reggae vibes with 10 Tons of Love and Problems.
Adding to the feeling of revelry was the procession of the Rhythm Section from Independence Square to the heart of the city. Performers who swept away the awards for Crop Over 2022 were a part of the stellar cast. Reigning Junior Monarch Shontae and Calypso Monarch Quon showcased their talent.
Special mention must be made of Lil Stathis, who commanded audience attention with 10 Speed. Attendees grappled for their phones to capture his dynamic stage presence. Skyy Dowridge continues to blossom as a performer, and this was evident with her song Never Enough.
Seasoned members of the crowd were in for a special treat with the appearance of Alan Sheppard of Spice & Company fame and Barbados Queen of Song Wendy Alleyne. There was a merging of generations when veteran Shirley Stewart joined forces with youthful Joshua Osbourne, on the hit song Walk Away from Love. Another fantastic pairing was Nicholas Brancker and Cultural Ambassador The Most Honourable Anthony ‘Gabby’ Carter on Emmerton.
The final segment featured the who’s who of the calypso fraternity. Hypasounds intensified the energy level with Sugar Rush and Fair Sa. RPB opened with the patriotic Bim and then had his fans rocking at the conclusion of his set with Boat Ride. Alison Hinds and Edwin Yearwood had the excited audience jamming to their familiar tunes. Not even the intermittent rain could dislodge fans from their spots during Mikey and Nikita’s appearance.
Among the extensive list of artistes paying homage to the island were Alix Cage, Harmoni Hinds, Reniece Bonnet, Kweku Jelani, TC and Peter Ram. Crowd pleaser, Lil Rick, fittingly ended the night with Iz a Bajan.
Barbadian pride was the overarching theme of the five-hour show. (STT)