Consistently high standards of musical excellence
That’s what music fans here in Barbados and abroad have come to associate with Troubadours, a leading Barbadian group which debuted in the mid-1960s around the time when the island gained political independence from Britain.
It was well known Anglican priest, Canon Ivor Jones, who gave the name to what was then a fledging group of young musicians, some of whom had developed their love of music at the then Boys’ Foundation School. Canon Jones, incidentally, turned 100 a few months ago.
With a potent combination of talent, determination and studied professionalism, the band has made its mark as one of the pre-eminent exponents of Caribbean music on the scene today. The journey really began when the legendary Barbadian music pioneer, Jackie Opel, introduced the band to a new rhythm called spouge.
Together, they released a spouge version of the Jackie Wilson hit Higher and Higher which became a monster hit in the Caribbean. From then, there was no stopping the band. Their fetes at the Drill Hall, YMPC and the Marine House became the stuff of legends and their tours across the Caribbean helped to build a fan base that remains loyal to this day.
Troubadours released their first full-length album Find Away in 1972 and their music became standard fare on the radio waves and in the dance halls across the Caribbean. With local success came the need to expand their horizons and the group undertook a journey into, what was for them, the uncharted waters of the North American music scene.
Their success continued. They were well received wherever they performed – from The Tradewinds-owned We Place in Toronto, to the Ramada Inn chain across Canada as well as night clubs in New York, Montreal, Ottawa, Winnipeg and London (Hammersmith Palais).
They became the first Caribbean band to perform on the main stage at the venerable Ontario Place, taking their place alongside other luminaries such as Tom Jones, James Brown and Gladys Knight to name but a few. The rigorous touring schedule eventually took its toll, however, and the group quietly disbanded in 1982.
Fast-forward to Crop Over 1992 and what was supposed to have been a one-off reunion in Barbados. The Troubadours hit the stage at Sunset Crest for Bajan Bacchanal and the sold-out audience was treated to an extravaganza of hit after hit that kept them rocking even as the skies opened up and drenched the revelers.
But there was to be no dampening of spirits that night as the band played nonstop for an unprecedented four hours. The fans wanted more and Bajan Bacchanal became an annual event at Crop Over. Now called Troubadours International, the band was back in full force and new hits started coming as well.
In 1995, the band teamed up with producer Nicholas Brancker and released Nice Time, its first full-length recording since the reunion, and struck gold. The title track, along with Ripe Plantain took Crop Over ‘95 by storm and that was just the beginning.
The album was released in Trinidad just before Carnival’96 and generated an unprecedented four Top Ten hits. The biggest surprise was the band’s reprise of the instrumental tune Talk which became one of the biggest hits for Carnival ’96 and is now the band’s signature tune.
They followed up with the albums Moving in 1996, Feels Good in 1997 and Special in 1998. In 2000, Troubadours released two new songs on a Nicholas Brancker Crop Over compilation and closed off another successful year with a New Year’s Eve performance for the Cayman Islands’ quincentenary celebrations.
For the island’s 50th Anniversary of Independence celebrations, expected to peak over the coming days, Barbadians will have an opportunity once again to see Troubadours in action and to be treated to their delightful music.