Finding their roots

Jeisyl Martinez Castillo in a jam session with Adrian Boo Husbands.

by Kimberley Cummins

Two Cuban sisters are in Barbados retracing their heritage.

Jemma Rivas and Jeisyl Martinez Castillo, came to Barbados on August 2 with the hope of finding more information on their great grandfather.

He was Clarence Agard and was believed to born on the island and lived in Christ Church. The sisters said that through stories from their grandmother, they were informed that some time between 1920 and 1924 he left Barbados in route to Panama to work on the canal. Later he travelled to Cuba where he took up residence until he died.

Though the Castillos were unable to obtain Agard’s birthday or learn more about their ancestor, they were able to gain new relationships with several Barbadian.

One such Barbadian was musician, Adrian Boo Husbands. Before they arrived in the country, Husbands received a call from a friend in Cuba who asked him to look after the women. Coincidentally, when they arrived he learnt that they were trained musicians and that was when the relationship blossomed.

When Barbados TODAY visited the Venezuelan Institute in Rockley, Christ Church last evening, the three, as well as Willie Kerr of The Merrymen fame, were busy in a musical session. They were laughing, speaking in their native tongue and carefully going over the music to a piece which was constructed by Kerr and Husbands.

Through the translation of Lorin Brathwaite, 25 year old Jeisyl said she was a trained flautist and had been playing for 15 years. She said growing up, her mother would often tell stories of when she was a baby and how she fell in love with the instrument.

She said that as a little girl she watched a soap opera called Pretty Lady and was captured by the background music from a flute. After she showed interest, her parents bought her a harmonica and later she started to study ballet and at the age of ten she started to study the flute.

In sister’s footseps

Younger sister, 18 years old Jemma, said she took a violin as a way to follow in my sister’s footsteps. She started studying her instrument at eight and still continues.

In Cuba, they explained, music is seen as a very serious career.

“The person who decides to study music must know it is very difficult and you can’t play around,” Jemma said, noting there was a level of esteem associated with it.

This trip was the first the sisters have taken together and their performance at the recently held the Diaspora Conference was another first. They performed a fusion of Barbadian folk music and Cuban songs to create a different version of the classic Nutseller and Jumbelly Mama.

Last night at the opening of Como Lovemos, a retrospect exhibition of art and photography involving Venezuelan and Barbadian artists, they also performed and were well received.

Jeisyl said that regardless of the genre they performed they intended to give of their best because of their admiration for the art.

“I don’t know how to say it; I just love music, I can’t put it into words. Music is a blessings, if you don’t have music there is no life — everybody, the whole world needs music. For happy moments, for sad moments, that is what music is for,” she said.

2 Responses to Finding their roots

  1. Shirley August 19, 2012 at 6:44 pm

    I was at the Diaspora conference where the sisters performed and I loved it. They played very well together. It was a pleasure to hear them play and you can tell they love what they do. Coodoos to the sisters.

  2. kerry May 7, 2013 at 12:01 pm

    The sisters are awesome, please keep up the good work. May god continue to bless both of you.


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