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Culture dying


by William Smokey Burke

I may be wrong, and I usually am, but here I go again!

As recently as during the Crop-Over months I saw yet another reference to Barbados being the entertainment capital of the Caribbean. I was never sure what caused this misnomer in the first place but the media ran with it. Today I am aware of major entertainment figures here in Barbados with day jobs.

There is no sin in making a living however one can, as long as it is legal. However, this does take away from the above-mentioned opinion. I mean how can we be that purported capital when many of our major artistes are now on the 9 to 5 beat?

Is it then to be explained that we are the entertainment capital because of our love for foreign acts, especially those from the Caribbean? Maybe those said foreign acts were the ones who titled us with such an inelegant appellation considering the exorbitant fees alleged to be paid in Barbados, especially to the Jamaicans.

Brings me to another matter: what is to be done with the local entertainment scene now? The catch phrase “cultural industries” is still thrown out by politicians whenever they see fit. What do we really mean by that term? Is it what could happen if others find themselves in the same right-place-at-the-right-time situation that our international star Rihanna found herself just a few years ago?

There were other “can’t miss” names that were bandied about like Livvi Franc, Hal Linton, Vita Chambers and Dwane Husbands. Like Rihanna, the general public had heard little or nothing of these people prior to the predictions that they would be the new “Bajan stars” on the international market. Shontelle was already well known in Bim when she headed north.

I am not trying to berate or denigrate these individuals but to merely show the capriciousness of the business even at the highest level. The point is, with their prodigious talents they have so far been unable to make that breakthrough! So what or where are the cultural industries?

After a “lotta long talk” about the fact that the said cultural industries could be a boon to the local economy in the short-term as well as the long-term, now our major artistes, faced with an economic depression like everyone else in the developed world, have been forced to find other ways to make ends meet. After all, unbeknownst to most locals, entertainers have bills and families too!

One of the first actions by the present Government on coming to power was to turn the unfinished theatre at Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre into a car park, yet “cultural industries” rolls off the tongues of politicians. Of course the previous government never touched the theatre; allegedly because of the name of the location! They did put a roof on it to prevent corrosion and erosion caused by the elements.

I would like to use this forum at this opportune time to congratulate lifelong personal friend Gabby on becoming Dr. Anthony Gabby Carter for his meritorious service to the arts! However, can anyone tell me why Gabby is forced to go overseas to earn a living. Why can we not see him locally outside of Crop-Over – when Crop-Over is over!

Has anyone noticed that we have very few bands nowadays, if any at all? I mean lead singers are now being hired on their own as overseas promoters are hardly bothering with the full aggregations! Crop-Over is now definitely the mainstay of local artistes as there is very little live entertainment outside of the hotels; even that seems to be at an all time low as DJs and the ubiquitous one-man bands low-bid each other for work.

Like it is often said of our once beloved spouge, local entertainment seems to be dead or hurrying on its way. Woe is we! Solution? Ever heard of a 100 per cent local station? You would be amazed at the permutations that would redound to our benefit and not just to the artistes, if such existed! By the way, local artistes have been clamouring for such a radio station for years.

In cricket there is the term “match practice”. Explained, it means that players can practise in the nets all they want, but unless it is all put into play in an actual game, the practise is for nought/naught. How can we be international superstars with no place to put what we practise into actual gigs or be even encouraged in the first place?

I have an old school friend who has been telling me for years that he never calls me in the evenings because he knows that I am out working! I have never tried to correct him! Maybe he knows that I live near the Garrison!

2 Responses to Culture dying

  1. Mary Yearwood December 20, 2012 at 2:55 pm

    Great article Mr. Burke! I found your comments to be dynamic and insightful, and they provided some answers to questions I have had for some time. What a sad state for the entertainment industry in Barbados.

    I agree that many people take for granted the fact that entertainers in Barbados do have bills to pay. By the way, wasn’t there some talk a little while ago about a 100 percent local station to highlight local talent? Whatever happened?

    To the powers that be…Come on now! we can do much better. It only takes a good plan and sheer determination to keep it going.

  2. Al Wright December 21, 2012 at 10:19 pm

    A culture usually dies from lack of support and interest and as it is said “a king has no honour but in his country”. The sentiments told here reminds me of the late Jackie Opel who was very disheartened by the reception he got in Barbados when he returned from an extended stay in Jamaica. I saw that sadness in his eyes the night he performed at the Globe cinema. When the recognition finally came he did not have long to enjoy it because of his untimely death. The Barbados listeners all too soon reject the local talent for the imported and leave the local talent and culture to the visitor. They pay through the nose to see an international artists before supporting their own.


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