After many years of debating the merits, the Carnival Committee in St. Kitts & Nevis has finally taken a firm decision to introduce an All-star Band to back all calypsonians participating in the various competitions for Sugar Mas 50 and beyond.
“This will help us to deliver a better quality of music, enhance the production of the show, and will certainly save a lot of time that is often wasted, when we have to change over from one band to another, on the final night of competitions,” said Carnival Chair, Shannon Hawley.
The concept of having one band, packed with experienced musicians, as the “house band” for major competitions, is not new, given that this has been the practice in many Caribbean islands for decades.
The good news is that some of the musicians who have been selected for the band, have not only played in similar All-star groups in other countries, but they have in fact been the leaders responsible for harmonizing the skills and talents of the musicians drawn from multiple islands.
The decision, however, came only after careful consideration and was only arrived at, after consultation with leaders of bands that have been involved in providing musical accompaniment for calypsonians.
“Actually, the decision was really that of the bands themselves, who took the initial action, and we, the Carnival Committee, endorsed the new way forward because we agreed that it was also in the best interest of the artistes,” explained Chairwoman Hawley.
The joint decision has been welcomed by former two-time Senior Calypso Monarch, De King Astro, who said, “I welcome the move in that direction.”
“I find that during the competition stages of the seasons, the change overs add tremendously to the length of the shows. This All-star Band, therefore, should impact that aspect in a positive way,” continued Astro.
The task of leading the band has been given to one of the country’s most experienced and celebrated musicians, Wingrove Hicks Williams, who has been the leader of the Grand Masters for over 30 years, and whose band has been the anchor during the carnival season, along with the Legends Band in more recent years.
“The carnival All-star Band is necessary right now in these unprecedented times, due to the curtailed and innovative calypso activities,” opined Wingrove Williams.
Wingrove, as he is mostly known, revealed that the band’s musicianship, features a number of present and former band leaders like his brother, Captain Nigel Williams, (who once was the music director for the Legends Band, and is head of the Defense Force Band), and Cliffette Isaac, who has led such All-star groups in Anguilla and elsewhere.
This top-class musicianship is what Astro likes about the move to an All-star Band, saying, “I also feel, and this is probably the most important aspect of the move, that we will get a higher quality of music from the cream of the crop of the musicians playing in the same band.”
“This can only translate into a high-quality product. So, I say kudos to the Committee for pursuing this option,” said the former Monarch.
The musicians, assured Wingrove, “Are experienced, knowledgeable and multitalented.”