The much-anticipated National Independence Festival of Creative Arts (NIFCA) Music in the Square series is back, and throughout Independence month will pay tribute to three of the island’s musical greats.
James Millington, Jackie Opel and Sir Emile Straker will be celebrated when some of the island’s finest musicians come together for three free concerts dubbed Icons Night. The concerts will take place on the first three Fridays in the month – November 3, 10 and 17 – beginning at 6 p.m. at Golden Park Freedom Park, The City.
As NIFCA celebrates its 50th anniversary under the theme, 50 Years of Excellence Remembered, Icons Night will be used as a vehicle to salute the dedication, service and contributions of these persons on the music landscape.
Cultural Officer of Music Education for the National Cultural Foundation (NCF), Kevin Moore, stressed that the three stalwarts were selected because the impact they had on Barbadian musicianship, music education and music performance was significant and far-reaching, whether directly or indirectly.
In the case of Millington’s legacy, he was revered around the Caribbean for his eminence as an educator and was known for his development of the music programme at Combermere School where he founded string and symphony groups. During his time there, he directly influenced the likes of Dr Duncan Fletcher and Victor Pilgrim whose guidance later impacted prominent musicians including Arturo Tappin, Pernell Farley, Mark Husbands and Chris Allman.
Millington was also the father of renowned musician Janice Millington and the grandfather of Miles Robertson, the former musical director of multiple Grammy winner Adele.
Night one of NIFCA Music in the Square kicks off with James Millington night, entitled From the Classics to Jazz. It will feature the David Weatherhead saxophone quartet, Bajan Brass, Combermere Steel Orchestra, the Barbados National Youth Symphony Orchestra, Kweku Jelani, Paula Hinds, Shawn Layne, and more.
The second night will be Jackie Opel night, held under the theme Spouge and Reggae. Some of Barbados’ biggest names in reggae, including Daniel Medford, Rhesa Garnes, Peach Bless and Biggie Irie will share the stage with aspiring young talent including Jessica Hunte, Asanta, Mighty Bit Bit, the St Leonard’s Boys’ Steel Orchestra, and Baje to the World winner Kyrique Alleyne.
Moore stressed that while Barbados claims Opel, especially for his development of the indigenous Spouge genre, the Cry Me A River singer was highly respected in Jamaica’s music industry. In fact, top Jamaican reggae stars like Bob Marley, Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer, for example, have credited him as one of the major influences in their early music.
Sir Emile’s impact on Barbadian, Caribbean and international music will be celebrated on night three. The focus will be on his work in calypso and folk music.
Sir Emile’s group, The Merrymen, was at the vanguard of the promotion of Barbados music spanning from the 1960s and lasting for well over 40 years. They were the first Barbadians to be featured at the Super Bowl half-time show in 1979, performing calypso/folk music.
The Mighty Gabby will be leading a host of excellent talent in Sir Emile’s tribute with a lineup that includes the St Leonard’s Boys’ Choir, the Ignatius Byer Primary School Choir, Arts in the North, Mylon Clarke, Alex Cage, the winner of the NIFCA arrangement challenge, and others.
NIFCA Music in the Square was created last year when the talent of Barbados’ youth was showcased at after-work limes on Fridays during the month of November. (PR)