The curtains came down on the performing arts component of Artreach on Sunday. The attendance: poor to say the least.
Artreach, which is a national arts festival, is organized and produced by the Cultural Development Foundation (CDF). And, a recently rebranded CDF was hoping for the best from the event, which is wedged between Saint Lucia’s Independence celebrations in February and the Saint Lucia Jazz & Arts Festival in May. But despite great pieces at an arts exhibition two weeks ago and wonderful performances in poetry, film, composition, song and dance last week, there has been no public frenzy or fanfare over the event.
During the launch of Artreach in February, Director of Events and Production at the CDF, Drenia Frederick quoted Mahatma Gandhi, who said “a nation’s culture resides in the hearts and in the soul of its people.” She went on to boldly proclaim: “Artreach is a representation of our nation’s soul…”
However, following Sunday’s Music Night at the National Cultural Centre, organizers may wish to consider some soul searching of their own. Sunday’s event saw two Saint Lucian music icons and another trailblazer being celebrated. The three were noted for their sterling contributions and tireless efforts to the development of music in various forms in Saint Lucia and indeed the region.
Among the three was Joyce Auguste, a music supervisor for schools and music tutor at Teachers Training College in Saint Lucia in the 70’s and 80’s. She was also a founding member of the Hewanorra Voices in 1979 with whom she arranged, sang and recorded a number of folk songs that went on to become Saint Lucian standards.
The Royal Saint Lucian Police Band, Hewanorra Voices, Elra Ermay and pannist Gregory “Shining” Emmanuel all paid musical tribute to Auguste with some of her own compositions. Calypsonian Lady Lyn also delivered her song “It ain’t easy” with much gusto not to be ignored. Her passion, she later said, was drawn from the influence and guidance of Joyce Auguste over the years.
Gregory Piper was the second honoree on Sunday night. The former bandmaster of the Royal Saint Lucia Police band is an accomplished musician whose early foray into music involved the steel pan. He is credited with forming the group Mixtures in the 70’s, which later evolved into the Saint Lucian party band, Reasons Orchestra, in 1979. The band recorded several songs and toured extensively throughout Europe and the United States. Reasons, featuring the likes of Davis Felix and Rob Calixte on vocals, was for many years, the most prominent band in Calypso and carnival here.
Piper is also credited for arranging some of the best calypsos the island has produced over the years. And on Sunday Herb Black, some of whose songs the arranger helped craft in past, was one of the featured performers. The calypsonian flawlessly executed “It’s All In Me” and “One Day’s Work,” two of the more potent calypsos Saint Lucia has seen in years.
The RSLPB also performed a symphonic version of “Rally Round The West Indies” arranged by Piper. On the night too, the arranger himself conducted the bands “Fanfare and Postlude,” a rendition built on the old 100th hymn. Glowing in praise for Piper, Robbie delivered Reasons’ “Pou Lajan Mwen” and “We Rule,” reminding of the popularity of the group’s Zouk infused Soca back then.
The finale on Sunday was dedicated to Derek Yarde, founding member of the band Apex. The keyboardist and vocalist who is now with his latest creation the Derek Yarde Project (DYP), co-wrote and performed on Square One’s Alison Hinds monster hit “Aye aye aye.” In 2006 he shared the road march title with his song “My pressure up” which tied with Ricky T’s “Container.”
Incidentally, Yarde co-wrote and produced Ricky T’s break out hit “Manjay Mamanw.” He has performed at many carnivals in the region, London and the United States and showcases his versatility with Barbara Cadet on the folk song “Ziwa.”
On Sunday, Ricky T performed “Manje manmaw” while Yarde’s DYP band-mate Daniel Edmunds performed “Apex in town” and “Pressure up,” to raise the temperature at the NCC. The infectious “Masquerade Rhythm” arranged by Yarde was brought to life on the drums by Swayne Jn Baptiste and Yarde himself joined the band on stage for the performance of “Ziwa” which he was able to get the small yet appreciative audience into.
The three celebrants will at the end of Artreach 2014, be formally honoured in what is expected to be a gala event.
Before that, however, Artreach will move into its Community Festivals component. This will include arts exhibitions, a variety of performances and entertainment followed by the Artist Market on May 3rd at Rodney Bay.
Artreach 2014 closes on Saturday 17 May with a Gala Night, celebrating the participants of the festival and persons who have contributed significantly to creativity and culture in Saint Lucia. Hopefully this event wont see a major church activity or men’s retreat at the Cathedral stealing art hopeful souls and taking the blame as was the case Sunday night. Then again maybe Artreach will truly reach out and touch those it is trying to attract.