Silence of the bands

Oh happy day.

That’s my reaction to the great news that Zion Trybe, that tough reggae band led by Rebel Bailey, will be on stage again on September 21, at 11 p.m. at D Marina, formerly Bump and Wine Cafe.

It’s been quite a while since the group dropped its heavy vibes and to say that I’m looking forward to it is quite an understatement. It’s really food for the soul. Nothing takes away the cares of wondering why Government is acting the way it is in the Garcia matter, or who stole the CLICO report, like a night rocking to the sounds of Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, Bunny Wailer, Culture, Dennis Brown and Jimmy Cliff.

It’s good to see, too, that another entertainment space has opened up again. As noted before in this column, such spaces and opportunities are becoming like Grandma’s teeth — few and far between. Unless you check the hotel circuit, live bands performing often is becoming a thing of the past. Unless groups get together and do their own thing, they have few chances to strut their stuff.

Whatever happened to Barbados becoming the entertainment capital of the Caribbean? Has no one in Government realised that the pickings are slim on the live band scene? Just a few years ago, it seems, one could visit the Gap and in the course of one week, hear top bands night after night. Apart from McBride’s now and the Reggae Lounge spasmodically there seems to be little going on.

And doesn’t this have implications for tourism? I have witnessed visitors so blown away by a local band that they have turned out to see them every possible night. Doesn’t this count for something? I know one local band that has a faithful fan who comes from the UK on every possible opportunity and now her parents come often, mainly because of one band. There’s no underestimating the value of word-of-mouth advertising and music is one of the things that can create a profile for a country.

Sad to say, though, we are just muddling along, with no apparent vision. The fact alone that bands are shrinking on the scene and that when they do get work it is often for less than bands played for in the 70s should make someone at least ask a question, one would think. But no, what we have instead is a blissful ignorance and nuff grandstanding.

Question of priorities

The question of priorities can either amuse you or drive you crazy. I’m choosing the former. Is it just me, or does anyone think it strange that, while the Empire stands in ruins and the Daphne Joseph Hackett Theatre is a home for vagrants, Government is planning a $350 million facility for cruise ships? I thought it had been established that the cruise industry was waning and that ever-increasing fuel prices made it even more dicey?

Perhaps I was dreaming or something but i could have sworn that was the case. Why not spend a whole lot less money and facilitate the release of creative energies that can have significant impact on the same tourism? There has been so much talk about the creative industries being the way forward and how they will provide employment and empower our people. Still, the two edifices mentioned above remain a mocking reminder that talk is cheap.

It’s not that I don’t understand the political game; I do. I understand that there is much more political mileage to be gained by a multi-million venture with pretty-pretty artist’s drawings than by just refurbishing spaces so that artistes can make a living. It’s just that I can’t help but wish that people would do the right, and obvious, thing.

I notice that all the talk about the multi-purpose arts centre has gone quiet. Is it a victim of economic circumstances and did it ever really have a life at all? Call me cynical if you like but I’m tired of the lotta long talk.

Listen, there is one thing Government can do without breaking a sweat, which is instantly mandating at least a 30 per cent component of Bajan music on all radio stations. As everyone knows, I am in favour of a station dedicated to Bajan music alone but until such a time, 30 per cent would be a start. All it takes is the political will, or at least the faintest interest.

What such a situation would mean is that, instantly, Bajan artistes would get more air play and, once their works are protected, make more money. Is that such an offence? It seems as though it must be, since there is no sensible argument against it. Here is one easy way to back up all the talk. Empower the artistes!

Then again, I’m not surprised, having encountered a former Prime Minister shopping for James Last records just before he went on a trip to Europe. James Last, yuh! Yuh dun know I didn’t leave the shop til he bought one of my records, which I even autographed for him.

One of the things I hope to live to see is a Barbados where artistes are empowered to the point where they can live by their craft. I’m not asking for Government to spoonfeed artistes. What I hold fast to, though, is the conviction that a Government’s job is to create the environment in which its people can prosper.

As far as the arts are concerned, look around and tell me if that’s the case now. Like everyone else, I am aware of the current financial situation but I feel we can do better. It’s a question of priorities and I think we need to get ours straight. We need to do some of the comparatively small things that will keep the engine running instead of going for the big, flashy grand design that often falls far from the mark. Not before some people benefit, of course, and there’s the rub.

Whose interests are really being served? We can do better and we the people deserve better.

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