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Youth light the way

The year 2012 has been a mixture of good and bad news on the gospel music scene in Barbados.

Perhaps the most unfortunate news that came to light this year related to our beloved godfather of gospel music, Joseph Niles. As you may recall, this paper broke the news to the wider public that Niles, the local icon who flew the Barbados flag on his performing travels all over the world, had developed dementia and was being cared for at a private nursing home in St. Lucy.

When I visited him at the home, it was evident that the illness had so affected his brain, he did not know who I was. Since then, his wife has removed him from the institution and is currently taking care of him at their own home.

To this day, Niles, who had made singing his vocation and profession, is unable to recognise people with whom he was closely associated for years. He was however, honoured this year by the Barbados Gospelfest Committee, which launched a lecture series in his name, as a permanent reminder of the exceptional contribution Niles has made to gospel music, not only in Barbados, but throughout the Caribbean and the wider world.

During 2012, the queen of gospel was also telling this newspaper of her troubles and her triumphs. Sister Margreta Marshall, spoke of her close brush with death when she fell ill and was hospitalised, but came through victoriously.

It was this sickness that forced her to quit the profession – selling snocones – which had allowed her to feed her family for many years. It was this year that she also produced her long awaited debut album on which her children were featured.

Despite of her past physical challenges, Sister Marshall still continued to perform at various events. At the time of compiling this article, she was preparing to accept one of the most prestigious awards from the Barbados Music Awards in January. That accolade, the Cornerstone Award for her outstanding contribution to the gospel music industry, was announced this year.

Another highlight of the year under review, was the emergence of a plethora of young and promising local gospel artistes. They included Neesha Woodz, Jody Smith, Sirrah, A Few Good Men, Patrick Ignite Brian, Nayan Warrington, Nicole Nicovia Blackman and Jamel Psalmist Newton.

The not-so-well-known Seventh Day Adventist-based trio, the Garden Girls were also discovered during the annual Silvertones of Barbados’ Super Gospel Concert at the Coleridge and Parry School.

This was the year that lead singer with the gospel band Promise plunged into the Crop-Over Festival through his debut participation in the Party Monarch competition at Bushy Park in St. Philip.

James Leacock, who is certainly no stranger to big stage moments, did creditably well with his original soca song Jump and Worship Yahwe. As we mentioned earlier, Gospelfest, one of the biggest events on the local gospel music arena, returned again, with innovations such as the Joseph Niles Lecture.

Another major happening was the Super Gospel Concert, which we also referred to briefly. That saw headliner Bridget Blucher from the United States performing here at both of the concerts that comprised the Super Gospel show. If I had to put my finger on the most pleasing highlight of the year, it would be the emergence of a large number of young people who are launching gospel music careers and producing their own music and recording it.

This, to me, bodes well, for the future of the ministry.

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