Mama Creole Sizzles
Bravo to Ophelia and show organiser Wadix for an entertaining weekend at the Strip. Even as great as the artiste's performance was the behavior and discipline of a predominantly mature audience. It was all clean, respectable fun as husbands took out wives, guys their girlfriends and ladies and men came alone to bask in two wonderful evenings of music powered by a clean-pounding Arden Soundz.
The award winning Wadix Charles, with more than four decades in the music business as a DJ, proprietor and promoter, is at the pinnacle of his career as the main promoter for the WCMF, JAZZ AND CREOLE and as manager of the new and dynamic Val Ferry, he is even more strategically positioned to facilitate not only the movement of passengers and cargo among our French neighbours and St Lucia, but for festivities staged there.
Well, maximum promotions preceding the "Mama Creole" weekend ensured that all knew that Ophelia was now 40 years in the music business and the Nation was duty bound to celebrate this milestone with her.
Swinging Stars began the two-day activity last weekend with a most energetic, well-rehearsed and orchestrated performance; the best I have seen from the band in a decade. Although one could argue that they have of late been reduced to a back- up band for calypsonian but not this time, flashes of their days at the Grotto were evident as they rolled back the years much to the delight of the fans who long adopted the Alex Bruno title as the "World's Best Dance Band". For an hour and 45 minutes Horsford serenaded with his oldies and even ventured and, I dare say, mastered, some of Staphan Ravor's most recent hits.
The Man-With-the-Golden-Voice, after peals of approval for his vocal exhibition, gave up for the more youthful Tasha and Daddy Chess and it was Showtime. A popular array of 'Famalay' hit-after-hit became incessant and irresistible; there were Farma Nappy, Marshal, Bunji, Afro Caribbean as well as their own popular renditions. Peter Letang kept the musical stems well lined up, and the Stars seem to be saying "if you can't beat them join them" and even belted out a couple Bouyon classics such as "Still standing" and "Bi yo Love." For sure nothing local could come close to the Stars that night.
The lady of the weekend who inspired all this, Mama Creole, the Notre Dame of Song in the region, Ophelia, stepped on stage twenty minutes later with a star-studded team of musicians led by the ferocious guitar licks of Andrew "Bird" Belony on guitar, Fred Nicholas on Bass, and excellence of hired professionals from Martinique on guitar and violin.
This was Ophelia at her best and the audience responded in heightened appreciation. The vocal excellence was something to behold as she sustained her note and the Webb back up duo blended in nicely.
The Serenade team of horn players exercised precision as well as the keyboard player of the band and must also be complemented as husband/ manager Mark Marie drilled them into what he wanted, and thus, the execution.
Quite appropriately Ophelia started with the Alwin Bully composition the 'Magnificat' paying tribute to God and even ventured into a standout Reggae number 'Jerusalem' and a couple ballads displaying the dexterity of her voice, before she stormed off with 'Lamou Lamou'- massive. In appreciation, gifts were showered on her, even from the Council General of Martinique who made the trip to offer his words of thanks and love for a living legend. I looked in vain but did not see a member of Dominica Festival Commission of the Ministry of Culture.
Then Cool Session Brass from St. Johns, who boasts of some five Dominicans, took the stage to express their brand of what I refer to as Soca-Zuke- a bouncy crossover of the two genres that commands feet to move.
They too added to the musical frenzy, most notable was their female vocalist who exercised powerful and controlled vocals whether in her Kassav pieces or the covers of the oldies. In fact, Kool Session Brass is to Soca and Zuke what UB40 is to Reggae music- exceptional at covers.
It did not end there as the weekend for mothers and lovers continued on Sunday, Mother's Day, with Staphan Ravor ably backed up by the First Serenade who warmed up things with their energetic Front-man, Lloydie. The much-anticipated 'Love Zuke' maestro drew lovers closer as they sang to their heart's content. It was obvious that everyone knew his songs, but what was also obvious was that he only rehearsed enough to stage an hour concert and he kept repeating popular tracks.
Nonetheless, the members of the audience who were starved for music they can 'dance cole' to did not mind knowing that such opportunities don't come often in Dominica these days as the music has degenerated to prancing.
Again, maybe I am wrong and that dance fans will not have too long to wait to hold their lovers and embrace face-to -face as already there are moves afoot for a Papa Creole show featuring Gordon , Exile One, Chubby and Harley. Now that is something to look forward too. Thanks Wadix.