Our musicians have toiled without reward
Over the past 50 years we have seen Dominica's most eminent bands. They are the Gaylords, Swinging Stars, Midnite Groovers, Belles Combo, WCK, First Serenade , RSB, Black Affairs and of course Tipple Kay. Of course Exile One and Grammax would distinguish themselves in another category as they have been two of Dominica's greatest groups that were really based overseas.
Sure, some people would want name others such as Ignitions, Stylee, Explosions, African Stalwarts, Naked Feet, who were a force in Dominica's dance halls, but they can't really boast of many studio recordings; hence, their legacy has been stunted and save for one or two songs on record (an album at most) we don't have much on record, save for our memory.
I recall as a youngster that Gaylords were indeed a phenomenon in the mid to late Sixties with prominent names like Greg Breaker, Bingo and blind wonder the late Starrett Francois. One is also well aware of the metamorphosis of Swinging Teens to what has developed over the past 50 years to the Swinging Stars.
When the Seventies came around we saw the birth of Cadence music; then Dominica stood head and heels over the other islands of the Eastern Caribbean as far as music was concerned. Dozens of groups using the French Creole and the markets of Guadeloupe and Martinique as their hub, really stamped their authority.
The bands came were fast and furious: Mantra, Liquid Ice, Naked Feet, Black Blood, Black Roots, Black Affairs, Belles, Combo, Groovers, Explosions, Ignations, Milestones, Wafriki, just to name a few. In addition to the bands, there were prominent names such as Pato, Super L ,Gordon Henderson, Fitzroy Williams, Ti –pam, Jeff Joseph, Chubby & Co, Vivian Wallace, Streachers, Natty Wayne, Bolo, Julie Mourillon, Janet Azzouz, Ophelia, Harley, Mike Moreau, Big Six, Glen John, Avril Henderson, Fred Nicholas and scores of others.
Then in the mid to late Eighties in the mature years of Cadence, a new generation was in search of a new sound and found themselves patterning most of their rhythms on the Virgin Islands. There were 17 Plus, Imaginations Brass, Eddy and the Movements and the most impacting by far, Burning Flames of Antigua.
Dominica's music was to change forever from the early Nineties as a music genre called Bouyon took centre stage propelled by the drum machine and Cornel, Rah and the WCK. It must be said that RSB band of Canfield did not follow suit and tried maintaining the Cadence beat but could not refrain from having a heavy Leeward Islands repertoire.
About three bands dominated the landscape- First Serenade, WCK and Roots Stems and Branches. New personalities now became household names: Archie, Powell, Carlti, Boogie, Jacko, Bardouille, Cornel, Jerry, Rah, Keith, Rohi, Pelam were known by most music fans. Soon Effects, Seramix, Partners in Kryme came on the scene but their impact did not go beyond two albums.
There was an era when it was just the Serenade and WCK with their new brand of Bouyon which heavily feature the pop and rap combination of Dice (now seven-time Calypso monarch) and most notably Wayne " Skinny" Robinson aka Shadow Flow whose innovativeness led to some dominance for some six years.
A new generation was then taking note and now in the hands of Benji, Tarzie, Clint, Nayee, Little man, and others Bouyon music lies. The musical genius of Wayne, Martindale, Eddy Angol, or even gospel greats as Herbie Jack or the late Dalrymple no longer exist.
In part while Cornel, Keith and Rah (the godfathers of Bouyon) still maintain a strong presence and WCK (the originals, who just came back home from a successful tour of St Lucia) while Triple Kay were a sensation in Guadeloupe, our system is yet to produce a Rihanna or a Montano.
Michele Henderson –Delsol is in a class of her own, particularly in the Francophone countries, but one can't help feel that by now something should have happened to further augment her music career.
So, the struggle continues as musicians toil through the vineyard in search of that elusive deal that can catapult them to another level but it just has not happened despite the influence of our musicians in the region. We had a lot to do with the creation of Soca music; our Bouyon rhythms are utilized by many other artistes in the region who ironical earn more success from their trade. We seem to be good at creating but not maintaining.
Imagine almost 50 years since Cadence was born and its grandfather Gordon Henderson is only now being honoured. Yet cricketer Shivnerine Chanderpaul scored a century and our Government gave him citizenship and property. Doesn't Chubby deserve a similar gift after 50 years of music and well over 40 albums?
A massive crowd gathered to see Alkaline who has produced just two mediocre albums and a tattooed eye. But how many will come to a Michele Henderson concert? Most sadly our young artistes will reach the big 40 only for reality to hit them smack in their faces – yes, they have toiled but have nothing to show for it. Is it due to a lack of marketing, professionalism, support by private sector and Government, short sightedness, or all of the above? Your guess is as good as mine.