Fya Empress rocking on stage at Carifesta in Barbados.
Photo by George Alleyne

The Vincentians came with a purpose and wasted no time taking over the previously serene Bajan night air by unleashing a power source of lively infectious music and dancing that rocked the Carifesta crowd Monday night.

It can be nothing less than a St. Vincent and the Grenadines invasion when there is on stage at the same time three-time calypso monarch Man Zangy; current Calypso Monarch, Fya Empress; former monarch for many years and now a regional legend, Skinny Fabulous; current Ragga Soca Monarch, Hans John; and second runner-up for Road March L Pank rocking the Two Mile Hill evening.

None of those in the small rabid crowd could be blamed for thinking they were amidst an encore of the St. Vincent carnival that ended July 11, but they in fact were in the car park of the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre, Barbados, where SVG was the featured member that evening for the Carifesta Country Night and the combined singing, dancing, prancing took on the appearance of a miniature Vincy Mas.

It was not music alone as the Vincentians brought out some of the unique lifestyle aspects of that island group within the Caribbean.

“Our performance really is Cultural Gateway AIA (Argyle International Airport), a Vincy cultural experience,” explained the evening’s narrator and St. Vincent theatre personality, Gloria Williams. “We wanted to show aspects of who we are and we tried to show it in our package.”

AIA was inserted into the theme of this Carifesta performance because of St Vincent’s desire to highlight its spanking new international airport that since its February opening has been the gateway for people coming and going, and each being a cultural persona.

The islands of St Vincent and the Grenadines are the ancestral home of the Garifuna, a people of mainly indigenous and African mixture celebrated for their confrontation with colonisation, and who in their resistance dispersed themselves to Nicaragua, Honduras, Belize, Costa Rica, Guatemala and the USA .

Performers did the Garifuna Punta dance, “a celebratory dance for when you die. You prepare the souls to met the elders,” explained Williams who added that the complex symbolism of these movements are also to welcome births, coming of age and marriage.

Then there was a ‘drumology’ with drummers tapping into African mixed with Garifuna influences. “A kind of hybrid sound.”

“Carifesta is about culture, artistic abilities of people within the Caribbean.” Williams noted and explained, “so we tried to give some of a bit of everything. We did some traditional stuff, and things that are very current.”

There were Vincy folk songs such as ‘Moonlight’, recalling the days of the ‘Poor Man’s Lantern’ before installation of electricity service.

“So full moon in St Vincent was a real family time. We told a lot of stories, we played a lot of games,” she said.

‘Come to St Vincent’ was another of the folk tunes performed telling about the attributes of SVG “that will make you want to come to visit.”

There was a steelpan piece ‘St Vincent I Love You.’

This was written by Alston Becket Cyrus, “The man who actually originated Ragga Soca,” Williams asserted beating her Vincy chest.

“Ragga Soca is a gendre of music that started in St Vincent by Alston Becket Cyrus. It is now sold as a product of other countries but the record shows that it started there.”

A colourful dancer from St. Vincent and The Grenadines participate in the Carifesta events in Barbados.
Photo by George Alleyne

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