What I really like about the Sunday night edition of recent World Creole Music Festivals (WCMF) is the earlier start time! As I am not
really a late night person, I appreciated the opportunity to arrive in daylight at the Windsor Park Sports Stadium, the venue of the event. And my efforts were duly rewarded! As I walked through the gates, I was thrilled to hear the fabulous sounds of Carimi, a Haitian-American band that specializes in the Creole compas (kompa in Haitian dialect) beat. I love their music. Whenever I listen to this fantastic group, I just have to move my feet! They were actually performing their sound check, as they were scheduled to appear later ( wee hours of the morning!) and I had not planned to turn into a pumpkin on this night. While I have had the pleasure to see them at earlier WCMF’s, my spirits soared to experience a little taste of their unique sound once again. Although they were the last act on this third night of the 17th WCMF, thousands did stay on site to take them into their hearts before they headed off to work on Monday morning! And if you’ve never had the pleasure – check out their latest album “Invasion.” It recently reached the number 2 spot on Billboard’s Best Selling World Music Album’s Chart (November 2013). I can’t wait to get it!
While I waited for the programme to begin, I chatted with a few media and musician friends backstage. We excitedly awaited another superb evening of the finest Creole music anywhere on earth.
I feel very strongly about supporting young emerging musical talent on the Nature Island. It was a real delight to see and hear these young people, referred to as ‘Rising Stars’ perform on the ‘big stage’ and literally sing their hearts out. While the night was still early, and people were slowly sauntering in to the stadium, I was able to remain front and centre in the photographer’s ‘pit’ for some time. The singer who really
caught my attention was a 2012 talent search winner with whom I was already familiar: Rachel Jno Baptiste. I have watched and heard her for a several years and I was very impressed with her presentation at the WCMF. She has a lovely, rich, powerful voice and intuitively knows how to grasp the attention of her audience. She also appeared very much at ease (while I can well imagine how stressful it may have been!) and expressively ‘communicated’ the message in each song to the crowd. She certainly got resounding applause for her efforts!
There were other ‘Rising Stars’ who clearly put everything they could into their performances and I applaud them for their efforts. I also encourage them to work very hard at perfecting their craft as emerging
Then came the highlight of my night – and it wasn’t Creole music in the true sense, “but in a kind of a way” – as NYC Latin music sensation Tito Puente Jr. might say. This vibrant, energetic, charismatic, seasoned performer graced the stage at the WCMF and truly carried on his father’s legacy as a Latin music legend. I didn’t stay in the photographers’ pit too long – it was now filled. I took some quick ‘pics’ and headed out into the crowd to practise a few long-forgotten dance steps – merengue, cha-cha, samba and rumba, to name a few. (Sorry – I don’t do mambo or salsa – yet!). As Mr. Puente Jr. told the media after his performance, his music is largely Afro-Cuban in origin, hence the Creole connection! What a fabulous show. If any Latin music enthusiasts happen to be around NYC, then you’ve just got to check him out (or go see him wherever in the world he has a gig)!
I have been a loyal fan of the Swingin(g) Stars since I first arrived on the Nature Isle. Back then, they played on some Sundays at Springfield Guest House. Those were the sweetest afternoons and I have fond memories of those jams. This versatile band truly knows how to entertain a crowd – and they should – they’ve been around for more than 50 years! On this night, they were focusing on outstanding calypso greats of the past 35 years. After a little soca, bouyon and other Creole favourites, lead singers Chester (Daddy Chess) Letang, Tasha (Tasha P) Peltier and long-time singer Phillip Horsford had all the Dominicans in the house tripping down memory lane as they served up the best of oldie-goldie Carnival road march calypsos from years gone by, as well as a few more recent tunes. Other renowned calypsonians, Daryl (De Bobb) Bobb ,
Derek (De Hunter) St. Rose and reigning Monarch Dennison (Dice) Joseph followed them with some well-known renditions.Then it was time for me to go!
Yes, I know – Kassav from Martinique was on next and the Haitian band Carimi would close the 2013 show – and I was thankful that I had heard their great Creole music at other WCMF’s.
Was I crazy to leave then – or what? Probably – but my mission to hear and support Dominican Creole and Calypso music was accomplished. I left the stadium with a smile, knowing that I’d hear lots more Calypso very soon – as Carnival 2014 was just around the corner!
*Many thanks again to the Dominica Festivals Committee for providing me with a media pass and access to the photographers’ ‘pit’. Much appreciation is extended to Event Director Natalie Clarke for reviewing this piece before publication.