Donille Blackmoore with her Golden Drum Award
Donille Blackmoore with her Golden Drum Award

An avid lover of local music and traditional dance; a pageantry promoter extraordinaire; a musical genius; an educator in the field of visual and performing arts, as well as a group known for their rhythmic songs were among those honoured for their outstanding service to Dominica's art and culture for the past 20 years.

On June 28, 2023, nine people and one group received the country's highest cultural distinction, the Golden Drum Award, under the patronage of His Excellency President Charles Savarin.

Mrs Marie Jno Phillip, also known as "Ma Wyyam" of Hagley Grand Bay, was the first to receive the Award for contributing to the Promotion of Traditional Culture.

She attended and participated in Independence competitions for many years as an ardent lover of local music and traditional dance.

Ma Wyyam, who loves the stage and entertaining people, also enjoys wearing Dominica's National Wear and would wear it regularly; therefore, it was no surprise that she was crowned National Madam Wob Dwiyet in 2011.

The Award for preserving traditional music was bestowed to Mr. Thomas Mc Noelly Gasper, a former active member of the Humming Birds String Band led by Francois Bannis, which was legendary during the Independence Celebration and Competitions.

Mr "Zen", as he is known in Castle Bruce, continues to render his services at funerals, church services and activities in his district.

Mrs. Romualda Hyacinth was honoured in the Development & Promotion of Pageantry & Performing Arts category for her exemplary role in various facets of Dominica's culture spanning over 25 years.

She has served as the National Queen Show Chairperson from 2007 to 2020; Road Parade Secretary for over 13 years, Director of the Miss OECS Pageant, Chaperone; Judge of various Pageants, locally and regionally, and continues to play a role in preserving and enhancing the various art forms she has been involved in over the years.

Mr. Peter Letang received the year's accolade for the Promotion and Development of Contemporary Music and Music Composition.

He demonstrated his passion for music at a young age, progressing from the clarinet to the saxophone and the piano/keyboard. With his family's encouragement and influence, he was the youngest musician in the Music Lovers Government Band at 14.

He is a multi-talented musician who performs with artists and works as an arranger, composer, and producer.

For her impressive track record as a coach and producer, having mentored a long list of successful competitors in various pageant competitions since 1994, as well as her work as the former Deputy Chairperson of the Road Parade Committee, a member of the National Cultural Council, Afrikulture Stilt Walkers Executive, Konmite Pou Etid Kwéröl (KEK) and Choir Director of the St. Alphonsus Junior Choir; Mrs. Charlene White - Christian has been awarded in the area of Development & Promotion of Pageantry, Creative Arts & the Kwéyòl Language.

Mr. Alixon Laronde, a self-taught musician, was among the evening's honorees, receiving recognition in the Preservation of Jing Ping & Sewinal Music category.

Under the leadership of Laronde, who is the accordion player of the Bann Akayo Jing Ping Band from Atkinson, for the past 30 years, the group has achieved tremendous accomplishments, including the production of an album and participation in several independence celebrations,

Ms. Donille Blackmoore, one of Dominica's prominent household names in the field of Theatre Arts, was this year's recipient of the Golden Drum Award in the category of Theatre Arts Promotion. For the past 20 years, her command of the stage and remarkable local and regional performances have made her one of Dominica's top actresses.

She has been a member of the New Dimension Theatre since 1991. She has acted in over 15 productions of the group as the lead or supporting actress.

This year, The Award in the Preservation & Promotion of the Lapo Kabwit Tradition has been bestowed on the Sakis Lapo Kabwit.

The band, founded in 1997 in Dominica's cultural capital, South City-Grand Bay, can be seen at practically every event on the island, including church processions, public meetings, home parties, wedding receptions, and, most lately, funerals.

From a tender age, Mrs. Athlene Douglas - Murdoch has long had a passion for the arts and culture and has used that love for the visual and performing arts to be involved in groups such as the Movement for Cultural Awareness and the University of the West Indies, Mona Campus Steel Pan Orchestra.

As a result, it is not surprising that she has been recognised for her contributions to the development of visual and performing arts.

She encouraged her students to participate in the arts as teacher and principals. She later served as the Director of the Dominica Institute for the Arts (DIFA), which allowed students to be accredited by regional and international performing and visual arts organisations.

Mr Pellam Jno. Baptiste, another musical prodigy who began his career in the sector three decades ago, was this year's recipient of the Golden Drum Award in the Promotion and Development of Contemporary Music category.

The Salisbury native is well-known for his work with bands and artists like WCK, Ophelia Marie, and Midnight Groovers, and he has toured extensively across the Caribbean region and beyond.

His distinct drumming style incorporates Cadence drum forms into Bouyon Music, and he is recognised for reintroducing acoustic drumming into the live band environment following its decline due to the introduction of drum machines.

On the occasion, two individuals and three groups received Special Recognition Awards for contributing to Dominica's culture.

Charles' Sour Sour' Isaac in the field of Calypso music; Eezee Side Cassava Delicacies for their preservation of the indigenous Kalinago Cuisine; the Grand Bay Cultural Group for the promotion and development of traditional dance; Lewis Valerie for his role in the development of traditional music; and Pan in Harmony for the preservation and development of steel pan music are among those honoured.

-By Ronda Luke