Exile in '15
World Creole Music Festival 2015 to honour Cadence-lypso giant Gordon Henderson
For Gordon Henderson and Exile One, the song, "Nous Travail Pour Ayen" (We Laboured in Vain)- a song about slavery- was a huge hit in the 1970s. For several years the group laboured tirelessly, creating music genres, influencing contemporaries and future performers and taking Dominica to all corners of the earth through their music and their performances.
Even before Exile One, Henderson had been revolutionizing Caribbean music and raising his homeland's profile as the lead singer of the Guadeloupean band, Les Vikings. And today, nearly half a century later, he continues to create music.
"I'm approaching 50 years in entertainment…(and) my greatest achievement in this career is as a songwriter," Henderson, 65, told The Sun in a telephone interview from Paris, where he resides.
The Dominica Festival Commission, the organizers of the World Creole Music Festival (WCMF), plan to make it clear that Gordon Henderson has not laboured in vain by conferring a distinction on him during this year's edition of the festival.
"For the past four years we have identified the artiste we'd like to honour and this year we have decided to honour Gordon Henderson," Leroy "Wadix" Charles, the chairman of the WCMF band selection committee, revealed to The Sun.
The two sides are still talking but "everything should be OK," Henderson said, a suggestion that he and his group will perform at the 19th festival which runs from 30 October to 1 November.
The key point of discussion between Henderson and the commission is the composition of his supporting acts. Songs written by the "Godfather of Cadence-lypso") have been performed with varying degrees of success and in various languages by artistes from around the world. Henderson believes that having some of these artistes perform at the festival will be an invaluable addition to the event, the DFC is worried it might not have the budget to achieve this.
"Recently, one of my songs was recorded by a Brazilian artiste and he sold over two million copies, and as a songwriter this is good…So one of the things I wanted to do was invite some of the stars from other markets that perform some of my songs," Henderson said. "That would help the show. But (because of budgets) I might not be able to do that."
Whatever happens, his former Exile One bandmate and close friend, Fitzroy Williams, along with "a steady group" with whom he has travelled in recent years, will perform with Henderson at the show.
Henderson has performed at the festival twice before, therefore, he wants to " bring in something new" this year by introducing some of his songs that have been hits in other markets but with which the Dominican audience might not be too familiar, along with some of the old favourites.
He said he was "elated" that he was being honoured but felt his past appearances were ample recognition.
"I have mixed feelings because I have been honoured personally and with Exile One twice before by the same festival committee. I am humbled, I am honoured, but I don't want it to look like I am the only person who is worthy of an award," Henderson explained. "I am happy, I am elated, but I am wondering, is it too much?"
With funding still a major concern, the DFC is currently seeking input from Dominicans before finalizing its list of potential acts. The process has already begun on social media and will soon turn to the airwaves, Leroy "Wadix" Charles told The Sun.
"We have a mandate to bring it (back) to French Creole because of the origin of it, and we will keep it as French as possible but we must have the recommendations from the general public before we can decide who we can afford," Charles said.
"We have a master list that we normally have, so what we have…and what we get from the public we will narrow it down and see who we can afford. But we want to leave it up to the public, we want to make it as transparent as possible so everybody can feel a part of the festival."
Charles said this year the DFC plans "to try to keep it as fresh as possible" by including artistes who have never performed here before, a decision that Henderson has endorsed.
"I don't think that it's a good idea to be there too often," the "creole father of soul" said in his interview with The Sun, unaware of Charles's revelation.
Of course, freshness is something Henderson is familiar with, "Fraiche" (the French spelling) being among his long list of hits. It's not yet clear whether he will perform it or Nous Travail Pour Ayen at the festival. However, by honouring him, the organizers seek to demonstrate that Gordon Henderson did not Travail Pour Ayen.