By Orita BaileyThe 14th annual Brimstone Hill Fortress Emancipation concert got off to a prompt start on Sunday 14th August 2011, for what has become a feature on the cultural calendar of the Federation.
The Emancipation concert has been held on the second Sunday in August since 1997 to honour the memory of our ancestors, not only those who were involved in the construction of the fortress, but all who resisted, survived and endured that period of out history.
The programme as in previous years featured mainly local talent – the young and not so young; and as is customary showcased a variety of art forms, music – both instrumental and voice, spoken words artists (poets), folklore practitioners and this round a sound imitator! Missing though this year were the dancers.When the MC for the occasion Ms. Jihan Williams invited the large audience to stand for the singing of the National Anthem by Mr. Larry Vaughn, we knew we would be in for an enjoyable experience indeed. The invocation was then delivered by Rev. Chris Archibald of the Anglican Church; this was followed by the welcome address by President of the Brimstone Hill Fortress Society, Sir Probyn Innis.
Sir Probyn reminded the audience of the importance of the fortress not just to the Federation but to the world, having been recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage site. It’s construction mainly by our ancestors under the rule of the British and its role in securing for that nation command over the Caribbean region during the 18th century and beyond.
Sir Probyn also exhorted the audience to remember our ancestors who toiled to construct the fortress, not just for their physical strength, for that was obvious from the edifice around us which was constructed without the aid of all the mechanical equipment we have today; but their emotional and spiritual strength, which is evidenced by their survival, their endurance and perseverance, without which we would not be here today. He implored us to seek to emulate that perseverance and endurance, especially at this time when our youth seem to be on a path of self destruction.
The first performers for the evening was a group of mainly Nigerian students – the African Singers, who according to MS Williams cemented our link to our past, and demonstrated the integrative nature of our present society. The group performed a medley of songs – in various languages including some of those of Nigeria and South Africa – including Melody in My Heart, Hallelujah and Praise the Lord.
Performances followed in quick succession including Larry Vaughn – Deep Jordon and Wade in the Water. Jihan Williams – The Skin I’m In – a discourse on our pre-occupation with skin colour in black communities. Her conclusion that bias against people with darker skin tones is no longer coming from the white our other races, but from within our own communities which are still ‘fixated’ on light vs. dark, with lighter tones being the preference.
The youth put on and excellent display of talent, notable was Zack’s International String Band, the youngest of whom was eight (8) years old, Sparkes Steel Orchestra, featuring the vocals of Craig Mc Dowel, with a stirring rendition of “Slave” by The Mighty Sparrow. Dejour Alexander a fourteen (14) year old with a voice in the baritone range who gave a tremendous performance of John Legend’s ‘Ordinary People’ that demonstrated great control and range for one so young. A star in the making.
Tama Martin on piano also represented the wide talent of our young people, her performance of ‘Wind Beneath My Wings’ was executed with flair and aplomb.
Performances by Ashkenaz – Man from Zion, Roaring Lion and Angel, Emotional & Sweet Voices, two different performers who came together for the event, presented Set us Free Jah, and Kneel and Pray. Sandwiched between the youngsters was a spoken word tribute by Cameron Gill – General Manager of the Brimstone Hill Fortress Society, to Mr. John James Bass, a Master Stonemason, now in his 90’s and all the others whose work still stands to this day. Entitled Stone by Stone, it spoke of the work of a master stonemason and his determination to build something lasting.
The performance continued with something really unusual – Sound Imitations – a young man who demonstrated that creativity takes all forms; Jervin (Dawg) Richardson’s vocal imitations of a weed-eater, motorbike and a real bad dwag had the audience enthralled.
The folklore was exceptional this year, the Sylvester’s Masquerade, led by Sylvester Huggins gave a spirited performance, It was good to see that the troupe had a few younger masqueraders and to know that the art form has a vibrant future. The Sagre Dandy Mocko Jumbies, from Sandy Point another of our historic cultural icons were also well represented with youth and we can be confident of their continued presence on the cultural scene.
The latter part of the show was a mixture of age and youth as well as different art forms. The singers were the most represented with the talented Rolensha Henry, Miss Independent (Karisia Willet) Crucial Bankie, Colleen Duncan and Mick Stokes all giving excellent performances and keeping the audience in their seats even as twilight and then sunset. Poet LOV (Lover of Virtue) gave his usual touching performance…
The musical accompaniment was by Royalitiez Band who gave their usual excellent performance. The vote of thanks was conducted by Cameron Gill.