Caribbean At the 59th GRAMMY Award

The 2017 GRAMMY Awards, the 59th edition, proved to be quite fruitful and rewarding to recording artists of the circum-Caribbean. Ziggy Marley, son of reggae legend Bob Marley, won his sixth Grammy for Reggae, and Cuba’s pianist Chucho Valdes the Grammy for the Best Latin Jazz Album.


Reggae singer Ziggy Marley and his kids at the 59th Grammy’s. He won his sixth Grammy for Reggae Album of the Year. (Twitter image)

See the News Americas Now article published on Mon. Feb. 13, 2017 for more details.

Caribbean at the Grammy’s

First People’s fight to protect history, culture

Remembering our ancestors

The following article was published in the Trinidad Guardian on Oct. 20, 2011. It honors Hierreyma, one of the leaders of the native peoples, and the battles they waged against the colonialists in early 17th century Trinidad.

Amerindians parade on the streets of Arima. Photos: Edison Boodoosingh

After the founding of St Joseph in 1592, Spanish settlements were pretty much limited to four valleys in the western Northern Range. East Trinidad was the home of the Nepuyo nation, whose active resistance effectively limited Spanish attempts to control and settle North Trinidad. Their best known leader was Hierreyma, who continually harassed Spanish settlements from his base in Arima. In February 1636 he and his people visited the Dutch in Tobago. He proposed an alliance between their 80-100 white musketeers and his 400 warriors, to drive the Spanish out of Trinidad. He offered as hostages all his women and children and old men. But the Dutch did not take up the offer.

In late June 1636, a new Spanish governor arrived. By October he had destroyed one Dutch fort in the Nepuyo country of Punta Galera, and another in the Aruac country of Moruga. In early 1637 he captured the Dutch fort in Tobago, increasing his total number of prisoners to nearly 100: Dutch, French, and African slaves. He sent the son of the Dutch owner to Santo Thome on the Orinoco to await ransom, and the European prisoners to Margarita to await shipment home. Here, as food was short, 41 of them were secretly strangled and buried on the beach. In late July the Dutch factor of Essequibo, assisted by Caribs, Aruacs and Warao from the mainland, sacked Santo Thome, and freed the owner’s son.

Then, it was St Joseph’s turn. Early in the morning of October 14, 1637, 20 pirogues with Dutch soldiers and great numbers of Carib, Aruac, and Warao, arrived at the mouth of the Caroni to meet up with Hierreyma and some 600 Trinidad Nepuyo and Aruac. Guided by two Trinidad encomienda Indigenous, one called Andres, captured during the sack of Santo Tome, they overpowered the watchman. They all attacked St Joseph three-quarters of an hour before daybreak.  The townspeople were powerless to prevent them from burning the town and the church. The African slaves also assisted in the burning.

For a while in Trinidad Hierreyma and his people were free from the Spanish.Today as we remember and celebrate this great ancestor, who fought tirelessly for his land and his people, let us make a commitment to continue to fight to protect our history and culture.

For original post: First People’s fight to protect history, culture | The Trinidad Guardian.

Burglars rob camp, not spirits of Carnival’s winningest band

In the following article, which appeared in Caribbean Life on September 21, Glenda Cadogan reports on the recent robbery at the premises of  the Brooklyn-based community organization Sesame Flyers International.

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The strength, resilience and character of the Sesame Flyers International (SFI) brand stood up to the test this week in the face of two burglaries at the Church Avenue headquarters of the community-base organization. In the robbery which took place in two separate incidents on Wednesday and Saturday nights, the organization suffered losses of computers, televisions, sound systems and electronic equipment and a small amount of cash. There were also some significant damage to the property, known as the Cultural Center, as the burglars ransacked both floors of the building located at 3510 Church Avenue. But despite the losses, the organization this week was back to its full operational schedule.

The organization’s chairman, Raymond Luke took the opportunity to inform and assure the wider community that all is well with everyone in the Sesame Flyers family. “As expected, the burglaries may have momentarily rattled some nerves, but by pulling together as a team we have been able to put all our operations back up and is fully operational,” says Luke. “This is a testament to the strength of the organization which has been one of the vanguards of community and cultural empowerment in Brooklyn. You don’t build an organization of 28 years and have the kind of success that is part of our track record by being weak and giving in to challenges in any form,” he adds.

Luke also praised their neighbors who alerted the police while the robbery was still in progress and also officers of the 67th Police Precinct who took swift action and have been able to recover some of the stolen items. “I guess the good neighbor policy which we have embraced and developed over the past 20 years at this location has paid dividends in this case,” says Luke. “And in addition, the police officers have been outstanding in their response and are feverishly working toward apprehending the perpetrators.”

With the distinction of being the “winningest” band in the Brooklyn Labor Day Carnival, Sesame Flyers again captured the coveted title of “Band of the Year” in both the adults and children categories of the 2011 Carnival/parade with a presentation titled: Brazilia. The significance of this win, more than a dozen in its history, was celebrated even in the face of the robberies.

“We have a commitment to making excellence a priority in everything we do whether it is mastering our presentations on Eastern Parkway or in the numerous youth and community empowerment programs which form a part of our annual roster of services,” says Luke. “So we will celebrate both our victory in the masquerader competition as well as the fact that our daily operations are in full effect not just at our main office but at all three locations under our supervision.”

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The celebrations move forward with an appreciation party for masqueraders of the winning children’s band on Sept. 24 and on Sept. 25 for the adult masqueraders. The events take place at the (SFI) Culture Center on Church Avenue and Tikki Village on Ralph Avenue respectively.

Founded in 1983 by Joseph Charles, SFI is a multi service agency catering to the needs of youth and adults. The agency provides a comprehensive, holistic strategy to youth and community development with culture art at its core. Recognized as one of the top eight youth community programs in New York City, Sesame Flyers International schedule of programs includes academics support, recreational programs, counseling services, cultural events, summer youth employment, computer literacy and job readiness.

Over the past 28 years the organization has enriched its name and recognition in the New York cultural community by winning the “Band of The Year” title in the West Indian American Day Carnival Parade for the past 12 times in the last 13 years. (There were 11 consecutive wins from 1999-2008). Their steelband orchestra has also been a force in the annual Panorama competition and has performed at some of the most prestigious concert venues in New York City.

For original report: Burglars rob camp, not spirits of Carnival’s winningest band • Caribbean Life.

Lord Kitchener steps off the Empire Windrush

Lord Kitchener. Photograph: Popperfoto

When the Empire Windrush docked at Tilbury, a new Britain was born. On board was the first wave of West Indian guest workers, answering a British government advertisement for cheap transport to the mother country to fill the postwar labour shortage.

The seeds of multicultural Britain were duly sown. Further down the line lay the Notting Hill riots of 1958, Joe Harriott at Ronnie Scott’s, the Notting Hill street carnival, the Equals singing Black Skin Blue Eyed Boys, the Clash singing Police and Thieves, football fans throwing bananas at black players, black players becoming international captains, Lenny Henry offering to be repatriated to Dudley, Paul Gilroy’s There Ain’t No Black in the Union Jack, the Brixton and Toxteth riots of 1981, Janet Kay trilling Silly Games on Top of the Pops, Courtney Pine’s Jazz Warriors, the London Community Gospel Choir, the Reggae Philharmonic Orchestra, Benjamin Zephaniah turning down an MBE, pirate radio, natty dread, funki dred, drum’n’bass, dubstep, grime, Dizzie Rascal. All this was to come.

First, though, first came Kitchener. The Windrush, a former German liner popular with the Nazi naval elite, included onboard Lord Kitchener and Lord Beginner, Trinidad’s top calypsonians. Remarkably, when Kitchener disembarked, Pathe News caught the “king of calypso” on camera. Pathe was documenting “The Great British Black Invasion”. Asked to sing, Kitchener didn’t miss a beat. “London is the place for me,” he crooned, “London, this lovely city …” He had yet to experience smog-bound austerity Brixton, whose labour exchange was first port of call for many of Kitchener’s 500 fellow travellers.

“Kitch” worked his own passage, in clubs and pubs. Soon he, Beginner and others were passing comment on national life on record; the 1950 England-West Indies test match was celebrated on Cricket, Lovely Cricket. The 1951 general election and the 1953 coronation followed while closer to home was My Landlady and her demands for rent. With its wit and side order of double entendre – “Oh mister, don’t touch me tomatoes” – calypso fitted easily into the national psyche.

The musical history of multi-racial Britain is usually elided to omit the 50s, jumping to the Jamaican insurgency of the 60s, but in London at least there was a vibrant scene, ranging from the big band swing of Jamaica’s Leslie “Jiver” Hutchinson to the steel band of Trinidadian Russ Henderson. It was a diverse, global mix drawn to the mother country from different parts of the Empire, with jazz providing the lingua franca.

Little documented, the scene was caught by Colin MacInnes in his 1957 novel City of Spades, whose hero is a West African hustler called Johnny Fortune. MacInnes gives us a glimpse of a secret London of nightclubs and shebeens, petty criminals, prostitutes, corrupt cops, outsiders by race, sexuality or choice. It’s a parallel world to the starchy conformism of drab, respectable Britain.

Black America, of course, played its part, but a new, cosmopolitan fusion that spoke specifically to black Britons was under way. More than bananas had come off the banana boats in London’s docks. It was The Banana Boat Song, a Jamaican work chant, that broke calypso to an international audience.

As the 50s teetered into the 60s, calypso was still popular. Like much else, it would be swept aside by pop, R&B, and folk. In particular, there was soul, whose confident, civil rights-tinged modernism offered a new model to black people across the globe. When Sam Cooke sang A Change is Gonna Come, the racial rulebook changed.

Jamaican music was quickest to pick up the new mood of black America, and add its own innovatory ideas to create reggae. When the Notting Hill carnival moved onto the streets in 1966, it was a Trinidadian, calypsonian celebration, though reggae and its sound systems would come to define the event in the 1970s, when the story of Reggae Britannica takes off. First, though, there was Kitch.

For original article:  Lord Kitchener steps off the Empire Windrush | Music | The Guardian.

Celebrating Freedom: Caribbean People commemorate Emancipation.

For the last quarter century, during the last week of July and the first of August annually, celebrations and commemorative events have been hosted in recognition of the Emancipation from slavery, which was proclaimed in the Caribbean in 1834 and fully enforced from August 1, 1838. These contemporary events are held throughout the region in many of the islands, such as the US Virgin Islands, the Bahamas, Jamaica, Anguila, Antigua, Dominica, Barbados, Grenada, St. Vincent, Montserrat, and Trinidad and Tobago. The South American mainland Caribbean nation of Guyana also bear witness to the emancipation festivities.

The 2011 Emancipation festivities a particularly significant in the context of the declaration of 2011 as ” The Year of People African Descent” by the United Nations. This declaration was made in recognition of the millions of people worldwide, whose ancestors came from the African continent, and especially in recognition of the horrors experienced during the near 400 years of slavery and the continued discrimination and racial abuse faced since. In making this declaration it is the hope that efforts to end discrimination on the of race would be redoubled.

The last half of the 19th century saw the coming in to being of emancipation celebrations akin to those of today. In many of the islands at the time, freedom from the shackles of slavery was celebrated in that first week of August. Many of these celebrations eventually became subsumed by the various Carnivals that emerged then and are still held to this day around this time of the year. An example of this is the Cambulay that was held on August 1 in Trinidad but was suppressed in the famous Riots of 1881. The procession, masking, music, and other performance forms associated with this events eventually becoming incorporated into the pre-lenten Carnival. However, the Carnivals of places such as Barbados, Antigua, and Grenada continue to be hosted during the last week of July and the first of August, close to the August 1st proclamation of freedom.

In 1985, Trinidad and Tobago became the first country to declare a public holiday annually in recognition of this historically significant event in the history of the “people of African descent” and indeed, the history of the world. The acceptance of this holiday by the Government of Trinidad and Tobago came after the ground was laid by the Emancipation Support Committee in the years prior. The committee was then spearheaded by the late Lancelot Layne and included leading members such as, Ella Andell, the late Brian Honore – Commentor, John Cupid, in addition to some of the members that hold the fort today.

The commemorative activities initiated by this early committee included processional visits to historic areas and sites, significant to the experiences of the enslaved and their descendants in Trinidad and Tobago. Some of these included: Lopinot, Aranguez, the Lavantille and Picton Hill area, and the Gonzalez/Belmont community which was a former slave village. Sites of cemeteries for the slaves; trees on which hangings and beating were carried out, were pointed out to participants in these processions, which served an educational function in addition to the celebratory. These emancipation commemorative activities have developed to include an extended Emancipation village in which performances and speeches featuring local and foreign guests (especially from African countries) are delivered, and it culminates with a procession on August 1.

Similar types of celebratory events and activities are hosted in other parts of the Caribbean region. In Jamaica the day is recognized as a national public holiday. An Emancipation Park was opened in Kingston in 2002,
and festivities are held in many different parts of the country. For instance in Spanish Town, St. Catherine there is a reenactment of the reading of the Emancipation Declaration. This town was the seat of Parliament for the colonial government when the abolition of slavery was proclaimed in 1838. Other towns, such as Morant Bay, St. Thomas, host celebrations that feature cultural forms such as mento, and kumina among other cultural activities. In 2011, the community in St. Anns hosts activities that culminate on July 31 with festivities entitled “Let the drums talk”.

In Guyana the occasion of the emancipation anniversary is observed throughout the country and is marked by road and cycle races, the distribution of hampers to the poor and elderly, and essay writing competitions. Additionally, church services are held in some areas and there are performances of dance and song. Groups from neighboring Brazil and Suriname are invited to participate and contribute to the events, particularly in some of the border towns. And, processions are held in which the participants adorn themselves in West African print and march along to the strains of African music.