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Musical marvel

by Latoya Burnham

Even Minister of Culture, Stephen Lashley and other officials were determined not to be left out of the enjoyment.

This comment made by a patron as a large crowd was heading through the gates at Ilaro Court last evening adequately summed up the excellent evening of music that was the First Citizen’s sponsored Pan Fusion 2012.

One of the most superb Crop-Over events held yet this season, Pan Fusion was the perfect blend of calypso, jazz, R&B and even back-in-time music that there has ever been. In short, this was what a Barbados Music Festival should sound like and most of the artists that graced the stage for the evening were local performers.

And to boot, it was not just about pan, it was about sax, bass, keyboard, drums and horns as well in a combination that surpassed sublime. If this review seems a bit gushy it is because I could find only good in Pan Fusion. The National Cultural Foundation’s Karen Pestaina who has organised the pan events for the last few years should take a bow for a wonderful start to the other pan-centred events that will follow.

The evening began with a warm up by the Stefan Walcott-led 1688 nine-member band, which played selections like Sugar, Dingolay and Make Noise. As an opening to the evening, there could perhaps been none better because this group of Barbados Community College graduates gelled completely and by the time they had played the last number, the wonderful groove helped the growing crowd settle and get in the mood of a night of Pan Fusion.

They were followed by the Arturo Tappin-mentored quintet, The Golden Apple Project. The young musicians who debuted at the Tobago Jazz Festival, with vocals by Rhesa Garnes and colleague, rendered a smooth and melodic interpretation of popular tunes like Krosfyah’s Wet Me Down, Ras Iley’s Spring Garden Ah Coming and Gabby’s Hit It, to name a few.

They had the audience rocking, clapping and singing along, whether they were seated on the grounds, around the VIP tables, or on folding chairs and blankets on the grassy knolls of Ilaro Court.

Equally impressive was the Pan In the Plaza group, from the Central Bank pan camp. While patrons were mingling and grabbing a bite during intermission, this group of youngster was jamming in the “band-stand”. They were rocking to the rhythms, while pounding out melodies that had them laughing, grinning and all but break-dancing to their own sounds, and so were sections of the audience.

Once the show got going again, Terry “Mexican” Arthur and Friends took to the stage for the penultimate performance of the evening. By then, the night was thick with euphoria but Arthur and his pals turned up the heat on what should have been a slightly chilly open-air event.

When a performer pairs with equally legendary artists like Willie Car and Arturo Tappin, and then throws stalwarts like Red Plastic Bag, Biggie Irie, Gabby, Blood, Alison Hinds and Kellie Cadogan into the mix, what you have is a diabetic coma-inducing, music sugar-rush.

RPB got the crowd pumped with a pan-infused version of Something’s Happenin’, while Biggie Irie did the same with Nah Going Home, even as Alison Hinds added vocals to a Car/Arthur Redemption Song tribute to the late Clifton Glasgow.

While RPB got the crowd up and dancing, even on the sidelines, Gabby had others screaming in their seats on an evening that was incomparable to anything else on the Crop-Over calendar. Even as he ended, a male voice high in the hills yelled “Let the people say, yeah!” to which the crowd loudly and aptly responded in the affirmative.

Tappin returned with a sax version of Smoke Gets In Your Eyes, then to the total astonishment of the crowd, several of whom gasped audibly, he added vocals to the song. It was indescribably, the reaction of the crowd when he successfully belted out a few of the higher notes, and when he left to be replaced by Kellie Cadogan singing At Last, the evening could have been complete.

But there was more to come – to be specific, there was Trinidadian Ken Professor Philmore left to come. Just saying the man’s name is enough to remind me of the goosebumps I felt when, bouncing on his toes he rode the pan hard for almost an hour with everything from calypso, to R&B, jazz and back to calypso. Miss Independent by Ne-Yo, John Legend’s Green Light, were just some of the selections that had the mysterious man in the hills screaming, “Do it again”, and others joining in their approval.

When he brought Arthur and Arturo on the stage for a jam session and ended with a rendition of Tempted to Touch, the encore demanded was well deserved. When the trio got down to playing September by Earth, Wind and Fire, it cascaded into an electric slide movement to the right of the stage by the party-minded among the crowd.

In all, it was a night that will be hard to top certainly, but hats must go to the artists, both local and Trini, as well as the organisers of this marvel of an event. Can hardly wait for next year!

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