Musician Wilbord “Saxie” James performs his saxophone at Guyana heritage event at Crystal Manor in Flatbush on July 14.
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

“A Taste of Hopetown” soiree marked the celebration of Guyana’s African history at Crystal Manor in Flatbush on July 14. Afro-Guyanese culture was on full display at the ancestral event from music to attire. Hundreds of partygoers attended the event, which was a shining presentation of what the country’s music scene can be and the artists, said the event’s co-organizer.

“It was spectacular and beyond perfect,” said Stacey Hamilton. “It went smooth, and it’s amazing to see how we use drums and keyboards.”

The inspiration behind the soiree was Hamilton’s childhood of going to the annual emancipation celebration in Hopetown, Guyana. Every year it is observed in the town in a celebratory fashion honoring the festive origins in which formerly enslaved Afro-Guyanese marked their freedom from the British with music and dance. And after a considerable time, Hamilton missed out on several soirees, but wanted to find a way to observe it.

Master drummer Akoyaw Rudder at a Guyanese heritage event at Crystal Manor.
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

“This is something that was celebrated back home, and my cousins and I used to attend with my grandfather,” he said. “He would take us a lot and once he passed we never went anymore, but it was always something always wanted to do.”

So he brought it stateside for Guyanese who also could not make it home to celebrate. And guests were more than happy to participate in the festivities, that Hamilton says he was touched by their jovial reactions and fulfilling the event’s African attire recommendation.

“They had a lot of fun, and it felt good see the older folks out and dancing,” said Hamilton. “But what really moved me was seeing how they adhered to the dress code. People wrapped their hair and wore traditional African garments and sandals that I never saw before — it was beautiful.”

Consul General of Guyana Barbara Atherly at the Guyanese heritage event at Crystal Manor Banquet Hall in Flatbush on July 14.
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

Hamilton said one of the things he loved most about his event was performing a time-honored Hopetown tradition prior to the musical entertainment.

“Besides being a cultural celebration, getting in touch with our ancestors was our main thing,” he said. “We do a libation to try to connect with ancestors to get into the spirit of the music, and in doing so one of the things I see is the rich energy to get into the soirée spirit.”

Reach reporter Alexandra Simon at (718) 260–8310 or e-mail her at asimo[email protected] Follow her on Twitter @AS1mon.
Pianist David McRae performs at the “A Taste of Hopetown Soiree” event in Flatbush on July 14.
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

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