Antiguan and Barbudan cultural icon – Oscar Mason remembered

Oscar Mason is one of Antigua and Barbuda’s musical legends. I came across a picture I took back in the 1990s during my time at the Antigua Sun newspaper, covering a Mason family concert which I think may have been organized as a tribute by one of the hardest working women in Culture at the time, Auntie Esther Henry. Oscar Mason’s band at its height was way before my time, but when they got on stage en masse and jammed that night, it was electric. Finding this picture took me back and given that this site promotes Antiguan and Barbudan cultural arts (albeit with an emphasis on the literary arts and on Wadadli Pen in particular), I decided to share it. But I wanted to pull up some information on Mason to support it. My computer wasn’t an option thanks to the big computer crash of ’05 (or ’06, or maybe ’07, one of the 00s anyway). And searching online turned up woefully little. Which, coming on the heels of my online dig for the official citations on our national heroes, puts me back on my soap box about our need to create online content about us, by us. It is one of the challenges which this site though undermanned (or should that be underwomanned?) continues to embrace with our literary bibliographies and such. We really need to do better in this area; I mean, we’re giving out laptops and ipads to students here in Antigua and Barbuda and while the desire to bridge the digital divide is well intended, content creation seems like a natural intersection to me. *stepping off soap box* Anyway, I eventually found a google cache of the Carnival 50th anniversary magazine.

For copyright reasons I won’t produce the article here in its entirety but I will pull ten points of trivia:

  1. Oscar Mason was born on November 10th 1916 in the Point area.
  2. As a youth, he was captivated by the performances of the big musical bands from America – Glen Miller, Duke Ellington and the great Louie (Satchmo) Armstrong – and decided he wanted to play the trumpet.
  3. Hubert Edwards taught him to play the trumpet.
  4. Governor Fiennes, who was stationed in Antigua, bought him his first trumpet.
  5. In 1940, he formed his own band and called it the Antigua Glen Miller Band.
  6. He was jack of all trades, hence his nickname, ‘Jacks.’
  7. At Christmastime, Oscar would exhibit his skills as a stiltwalker (moco jumbie).
  8. Because of his musical and creative abilities, he made himself a stringbass, the first of its kind ever to be made in Antigua and Barbuda.
  9. He taught his children to play; his family band was called Sons of the Vibratones and one of his eldest sons, Tyrone Mason, is celebrated as one of the best tenor saxophone players in Antigua and Barbuda today.
  10. During the Carnival season for many years, his band would back-up all the calypsonians.

As with all content on wadadlipen.wordpress.com, except otherwise noted, this is written by Joanne C. Hillhouse (author of The Boy from Willow Bend, Dancing Nude in the Moonlight, and Oh Gad!). All Rights Reserved. If you enjoyed it, check out my page on Amazon, WordPress, and/or Facebook, and help spread the word about Wadadli Pen and my books. You can also subscribe to the site to keep up with future updates. Thanks.

7 Comments

Filed under Literary Gallery

7 responses to “Antiguan and Barbudan cultural icon – Oscar Mason remembered

  1. B. Mason

    My Grandfather! Loved greatly and missed dearly!

    • His prime was before my time so this concert (in the late 1990s) was a treat. I feel like I witnessed a piece of history seeing him and the kids and grandkids perform and capturing this moment…my photography is touch and go but this one was definitely a keeper. As one of his descendents, thanks for taking the time to comment.

    • V Mason

      My great grandfather will always be in our hearts and his music and legacy will live on forever. God bless his soul.

  2. kenneth

    Kenneth Watkins
    my great uncle was a musical genius

  3. Orneal Murraine- Formerly of Parham

    He was a great man… I thought of the family earlier this week when I heard Franco died.
    My Brother-in-law played the organ, Sidney Joseph also his brother Mussy.
    As a childhood classmate of June and Joan, Oscar Mason was a joy to listen too, had a strong personality and pride. I left Antigua more than four decades ago and the memories are fresh.
    The gentleman with the Saxophone, is one his sons, we called Big Boy. I stand to be corrected.
    I will be home for the first time since the age of twelve in three weeks.

    • Hi Orneale, yes, that’s Big Boi…in fact the show where I took this picture was a family affair. It was in the 1990s, a tribute show organized by Auntie Esther (I believe) and featuring all arms of the very musical family – the sons, the daughters, the grandchildren etc. doing their thing…and then, of course, the man himself front and centre. Was a great show. Thanks for stopping by and sharing your memories.

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