Caribbean Beat Magazine

Island Beat (Autumn 1993)

Barbados triumphs at the Chelsea Flower Show, St Lucia launches a new arts festival, St Maarten stages an October fashion fest, Trinidad and Tobago prepares for the Pan Jazz festival, Antigua moves to protect the frigatebird nesting site in Barbuda

  • Nests with baby Frigatebirds: they cannot yet fly so it is easy to approach them - but the mother may well fly off, breaking the egg if there is one in the nest. Photograph by Sharon Almerigi
  • Two Foot Bay Beach. Photograph by Sharon Almerigi
  • Ace pannist Robbie Greenidge will be among the stars at this year's Pan jazz Festival. Photograph by Pan Jazz Festival
  • Barbados's cricketing superstar Sir Garfield Sobers with members of the Society and the new variant of heliconia named after him
  • A traditional chattel house was the centrepiece of the Barbados exhibit at the 1993 Chelsea Flower Show in London

BARBUDA IS FOR THE BIRDS (AND YOU)

When visitors ask tour guide George Burton what side of the road people in Barbuda drive on, he says, “the best side.” I could see why. You won’t find paved roads on Antigua’s peaceful sister island. Burton feels the good Lord planned it that way to protect Barbuda’s small population and their way of life. It wouldn’t do to have people speeding around. “I lost a good horse that way, once.”

Barbuda is a 62-square-mile coral atoll that lies 27 miles north of Antigua. About a third of its dry scrub woodland supports mangrove, which is a haven for bird and marine life, and there are miles of sandy beaches favoured by nesting sea turtles. The largest nesting colony of the Magnificent Frigate

Bird lies at the north end of a large lagoon on the eastern side.

It’s an easy 18-minute flight from Antigua. Burton was waiting for me; the first thing he wanted to know was, “Do you want chicken or lobster for lunch?” He sent me off to the frigate rookery with a boat driver called Tyrone. We motored over the lime-green water of Codrington Lagoon past endless thickets of green mangrove. In the distance I could see a flurry of activity at the nesting site.

Tyrone turned off the motor and stepped into the shallow water, pushing the boat inside the tangled mangrove. Among the rocks and low vegetation were about ten nests, each holding one furry bird. The baby frigates seemed unafraid as I moved close to take a photo, though an adult female lifted softly and took flight, leaving a small deposit on my shirt.

I could see hundreds of nests among the mangrove. The sky above was filled with the coming and going of the huge glossy black adults, their wing span up to eight feet. Tyrone pointed to a male busy with the mating ritual, puffing up his brilliant red pouch like a balloon.

I had expected the rookery to be noisy, but it seemed serene. The air was filled with trilling and smacking sounds and the flapping of wings, and the sound of Tyrone wading through the shallow water. He walked carefully to avoid the pulsating jellyfish, large and round as dinner plates.

The frigate rookery has not been officially designated a bird sanctuary. According to Barbudan teacher and environmentalist John Mussington, funding and the blessing of the local governing council are needed to create a protected sanctuary. He and others are working to create a park that would include an information centre and an observation tower placed some distance from the nests, to allow visitors to view the entire colony without disturbing the birds. Bird watchers will also see other species that nest in the mangrove, like the West Indian Whistling Duck and the Brown Pelican.

Barbuda’s mangrove system, seven miles by two and a half, is still intact and unpolluted. The idea is to keep Antigua’s lovely sister island wild and beautiful for those interested in untouched nature. And for those who don’t mind which side of the road they drive on.

Sharon Almerigi

Sharon Almerigi’s tour was arranged by Wadudu Travel & Tours Ltd; St John’s, Antigua; tel. (809) 462-4489

WHEN PAN MEETS JAZZ

“What is likely to put Pan Jazz on the international jazz festival map … is the melding of the steel pan and jazz traditions, a marriage that can work beautifully in proper hands … “wrote jazz critic Williard Jenkins in Jazz Forum magazine of the Panjazz Festival in Trinidad and Tobago. Jenkins isn’t the only one who feels that way.

The fifth Pan Jazz Festival will be staged in Port of Spain from November 11 to 13. What sets this festival apart from others in the Caribbean is that it does not merely import music. It highlights Caribbean jazz and local pannists as well as guest performers. The underlying intention, according to festival manager Georgie Masson, is to encourage existing jazz ensembles from around the world to include a steelpan in their lineup.

Jazz artists who have already come to Trinidad for the festival include Wynton Marsalis, Dizzy Gillespie, Ellis Marsalis, Tania Maria, Hilton Ruiz, Frank Morgan and Courtney Pine.

In the other direction, several virtuoso Trinidadian pannists have turned their talents to jazz: Rudy Smith, Annise Hadeed, Robert Greenidge, Len “Boogsie” Sharpe, Ken Philmore. Smith has taken pan music to Russia; Greenidge is noted for his collaboration with Eddie Murphy (there is pan accompaniment on the soundtrack of the movie The Distinguished Gentleman).

The festival is a great place to hear pan as well as jazz. Rich Palmer began his Jazz Times review of the 1992 event by noting that “the first pan act (a band called Vat 19 Fonclaire) at the festival set a high standard. Maybe too high … I thought first that the trap set was responsible for the jazz feeling, but a closer listen revealed it to be the steel bass players.”

The festival is steadily building a reputation. Paxton Baker, producer of the St Lucia and Aruba jazz festivals, was so impressed by Pan Jazz that he volunteered his services for the 1992 event and will be retained, budget permitting, to market this year’s festival.

Listed to perform this year are Ronnie Scott, Stanley Turrentine, Tommy Flanagan and a star lineup of pannists.

Raymond Ramcharitar

Information: The Pan jazz Secretariat, tel. (809) 627-6228

BARBADOS STRIKES GOLD IN CHELSEA

A typical Barbadian flower shop appeared in London’s Chelsea in May: it was the Barbadian entry at the annual Chelsea Flower Show, a traditional island chattel house with peaked roof and shuttered windows, set in a colourful garden full of Barbadian flowers. The judges loved it: the exhibit won the highest award of the Royal Horticultural Society, the Gold Medal.

The Barbados Horticultural Society’s display featured a wide array of island flowers, especially philodendrons, anthuriums, heliconias and ginger lilies. One striking feature was the world debut of two small varieties of heliconia, pink and orange, named after two towering Barbadian personalities – the Governor General, Dame Nita Barrow, and Barbados’s all-time cricketing great, Sir Garry Sobers.

A NEW FESTIVAL FOR ST LUCIA

St Lucia is hosting a new regional arts festival in December: the Caribbean Arts and Cultural Festival (December 10-12). Designed as a celebration of regional arts and music, it is being held during the National Day weekend, a national holiday, and will showcase the work of Caribbean, African and African-American musicians. It will also feature a marketplace where artists and craftsmen from around the region can display and sell their work, and a Caribbean food fair.

The idea is for the musical emphasis to shift year by year to highlight the Caribbean’s different musical styles and traditions. In the second year of the festival, several new elements will be added to the festival programme, including children’s events, storytelling, music workshops and art and craft workshops.

December will also see the finish of the annual Atlantic Rally for Cruisers in St Lucia, with lavish partying and celebrations on shore and at sea. About 100 yachts took part in last year’s race, which started in the Canary Islands, and many participants flew their families to St Lucia for an early December holiday on arrival. Non-participants are always welcome to join in the fun.

Caribbean Arts and Cultural Festival

December 10: Film and lecture series, National Cultural Centre

December 11: Reggae, pan, calypso and zouk performances, Pigeon Island Causeway

December 12: Cadence, gospel, blues and African music, Pigeon Island Causeway

SHOWCASE FOR CARIBBEAN FASHIONS

If you’ve been enjoying the Caribbean fashion spreads appearing in BWee Caribbean Beat, you’re not alone. They have aroused such interest in St Maarten, for example, that a major regional fashion exposition is being planned for October under the title Vision. According to the promoters, “BWee Caribbean Beat has served as the catalyst”.

Caribbean fashion designers and international buyers are being invited to St Maarten’s Maho Beach Hotel for a six-day fashion fest (October 11-16). Organised by Ken Jones and Anita Hartl, the event is to be filmed and presented as a one hour TV show across the Caribbean. Participants have already been signing up from Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago, the US Virgin Islands, St Lucia, Antigua, Jamaica, Guyana, Guadeloupe, Aruba, Dominica, St Barth’s, Curacao, St Kitts and Miami.

“The Caribbean is a hotbed of fashion design,” say the organisers, its “arresting and flamboyant apparel frequently made with hand- coloured textiles, vivid colour and a daring use of handpainting, silk-screen, appliques and batik”. Designers like Carol Cadogan in Barbados, The Cloth Homework Alpha and Meiling in Trinidad and Tobago, Pat Wright of Wright Fashions and Mijan of Caribbean Clothing in Jamaica (all featured in specially commissioned features in BWee Caribbean Beat), have loyal followings both at home and abroad.

Information: Vision 1993, tel. (5995) 43315, fax (5995) 433 319.