Capturing Dominica’s Creole Spirit: An Afternoon ‘in the Park’

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Gwendominica waits near the main stage at Creole in the Park to see and hear ‘Freddie and Friends’, a renowned assembly of Dominican musicians who have perfected various types of Creole music. Photo taken by J.

Creole in the Park is a highly popular daytime event that is anticipated by Dominicans of all ages, returnees and visitors during the Independence season.  By 2013, this four day celebration of all things ‘Creole’ has been taking place annually for 11 years, under the sponsorship of LIME, a telecommunications company on the island.

This year, I attended the event  on Thursday October 24th,  2013,the final day of Creole-based festivities that have always been in the Botanical Gardens near Roseau.

Because I arrived on the site in advance of the musical presentations, I was able to spend some time viewing  hand-made goods and chatting with the vendors.  I was astounded by the diverse range of creative talents in the craft industry in Dominica.  Traditional and contemporary fashions, natural soaps, home-made rums and other  herbal beverages, eye-catching photographs of the Nature Island,  renowned Kalinago baskets, attractive costume jewelry and other locally made products were on display.  Their presence here certainly increased awareness about the availability of  unique creations on  Dominica.  Residents and visitors perused the showcase tables and were able to buy items of appeal then and there!

Here is a sampling of the wares on display at Creole in the Park 2013:

This Creole Craft Expo  on site recognized the 30th anniversary of International Creole Day..

This Creole Craft Expo on site recognized the 30th anniversary of International Creole Day.

Products crafted by Dominica's Indigenous people, the Kalinagos, were also on display.

Popular ‘baskets’ crafted by Dominica’s Indigenous people, the Kalinagos, were admired by many.

Hand-made soaps and massage oils are easily found in Dominica.  This particular brand is made by Heaven Scent.

Hand-made soaps and massage oils are easily found in Dominica. This particular brand is made by Heaven Scent.

Jervez Jno. Baptiste (jpix@hotmail.co.uk) displayed some of her wonderful photos at  the Craft Expo

Jervez Jno. Baptiste (jpix@hotmail.co.uk) displayed some of her wonderful photos at the Craft Expo.

Home-made rums and local tonics (noni) were available for sale.

Home-made rums and local tonics ( such as noni) were available for sale.

All of the crafts-people and the food stalls were contained under large tents.  There were even some provided for patrons to shelter whenever it rained!

All of the crafts-people and the food stalls were contained under large tents. There were even some provided for patrons to shelter when it rained!

On my way to the area in front of the stage, I was delighted to see that the good folks from the Dominican Mountain Chicken Project had an information booth.  Although they have a Research Facility in another area of the Botanical Gardens, they chose to be a more obvious presence during the festivities.  Numerous interested and concerned individuals had chatted with them and  gleaned more information and understanding about the dire plight of this almost-extinct amphibian.  You can read more about the ongoing international collaborative efforts to save the mountain chicken frog here. 

Researchers from the Mountain Chicken Research Project had a public booth on the site.  From left: Luke, Machel and Alex.

Researchers/staff from the Mountain Chicken Research Project had a public booth on the site. From left: Luke, Machel and Alex.

I was very pleased to speak informally with some of the people involved in this project.  Watch for an update about their work and the status of this fragile frog in the New Year.

It had rained considerably that week and the first day of the event had to be cancelled because of  muddy conditions and consideration for the protection of the natural terrain in the Botanical Gardens.  However, that decision turned out to be my good fortune, as I was able to see and hear an important longstanding group  who had been originally scheduled to perform on Monday.  I was delighted to indulge in local Creole music offered up by  Freddie (Nicholas) and Friends, an assembly of some of the finest and most renowned Dominican

Fitzroy Williams has been in the music industry for almost 50 years and has performed in many countries around the world.

Fitzroy Williams has been in the music industry for almost 50 years and has performed as a keyboardist in many countries around the world.

musicians.  This well-known band included a man who was bestowed a Creole Lifetime Award by LIME earlier in the week and received another one for his contributions to Dominican culture at the World Creole Music Festival later in the week: Fitzroy Williams.

Fitzroy, as he is commonly known helped to develop a form of Creole music called Cadence-Lypso, which combines rhythms of Haitian music with calypso, which of course always tells the audience a story about a social situation or challenge. He was one of the key players in the Exile One band, which was formed in the early 1970’s. They travelled all over the world to perform and put this unique brand of Dominican music on the map!

He has worked with many other musicians in promoting this Dominican musical style and most recently teamed up with  the immensely talented Dennison ‘Dice’ Joseph, six-time Calypso Monarch.   Together, with some other brilliant local musicians, they created a compilation of Cadence-Lypso songs on a CD called ‘Heritage’.  When I heard ‘Dice” singing in this genre instead of strict calypso for which he is famous, I really had to do a double-take!  He easily crossed over into a different type of music – but then again, they are related!

Calypso Monarch Dice serves up a Cadence-Lypso creation by Fitzroy, who is on the keyboards on hte left side of the photo.

Calypso Monarch Dice serves up a Cadence-Lypso creation in Creole by Fitzroy, who is on the keyboards on the left side of the photo.

No matter what style of music, Calypso Monarch Dice has an innate ability to entertain and instruct his audience!

No matter what style of music, Calypso Monarch Dice has an innate ability to entertain and instruct his audience!

Freddie and the other musicians in his band are fantastic!  Freddie is on foreground bass guitar; Jerry in background on guitar; Finnish-Dominican saxophonist  who is superb; brilliant drummer too and nice back-up vocals from the lady on the left.

Freddie and the other musicians in his band are fantastic! Freddie is on foreground  keeping the band together on bass guitar; Jerry  is in the  background playing smooth licks on  lead guitar; Fitzroy plays it up on the keyboard;superb sounds emanate from  the Finnish-Dominican saxophonist; a super tight beat is held by the drummer and sweet back-up vocals from the lady on the left blend with Dice’s dramatic voice.

J., a well-known musician round town takes a break from marking papers to enjoy listening to his associates in Freddie and Friends.

J., a well-known musician around Roseau takes a break from marking papers to enjoy listening to his associates in Freddie and Friends.

I really enjoyed his performance at Creole in the Park and I remained directly in front of the stage to take it all in .They played a long set and I was content with the wonderful infusion of Creole melodies that emanated from Freddie and Friends.  It was also a great pleasure to observe visitors from a cruise ship that was in port that day really enjoying the local “vibes” at Creole in the Park. One of the ladies even expressed their collective delight in being there to Alex Bruno,

These two couples (one from NYC, USA and the other from Vancouver BC Canada) came off a cruise ship to revel at Creole in the Park!

These two couples (one from NYC, USA and the other from Vancouver BC Canada) came off a cruise ship to revel at Creole in the Park!

one of the MC’s. He had noticed that the tourists were really taken with the music and I could tell that he was thrilled about their instant attraction to Dominica!

Between main music  acts, other artistes took to the smaller second stage.  Performers of all ages from the Waitukubuli Dance Theatre Company entertained those assembled with contemporary  Creole movements.  Because of their flowing poses, I chose to watch and not attempt to photograph.  I really appreciated the contribution of this renowned troupe, which has been in existence for more than 40 years!

One of the young artistes from the Waitukubuli Dance Theatre strikes an impressive pose in a still moment.

One of the young artistes from the Waitukubuli Dance Theatre strikes an impressive pose in a still moment.

By now, the afternoon was wearing on and the people were starting to pour into the ‘park’ – that’s usually my cue to scoot.  I do have a bad habit of enjoying events before I get lost in the crowd!  But I did stick around to hear a few songs from Neijel ‘Nayee‘ Jno Baptiste – a young man who is called the ‘Prince of Bouyon‘ as he writes and records this particular style of music that was also created in Dominica!  I listened to a few of his tunes, which started to get everyone ‘jumping’! Bouyon is  another blend of local Creole styles, including Cadence-Lypso and traditional Jing Ping, with plenty of keyboard emphasis.

Nayee is a Bouyon artist who was orignally a lead singer for the WCK but has now made a name for himself on his own.

Nayee is a Bouyon artiste who was originally a lead singer for the WCK  band, but has now made a name for himself on his own.

Nayee is certainly popular with the young people! I wish him well.

As the afternoon wore on, more peole came inot the 'Park' to enjoy a Creole infusion of Music, Food and crafts un

As the afternoon wore on, more people came into the ‘Park’ to enjoy a Creole infusion of Music, Food and Crafts

My mission for the day was accomplished, even though there was more great music to come – including a reunion of the original members of the acclaimed WCK band.  I knew that thousands would enjoy it but I was content to leave the ‘Park’ with a good infusion of the Creole culture to last me until the next big events (the following few days!). Check out Ti Domnik Tales to read all about it!

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