Tag Archives: music

Carib Plus Lit (Mid February 2020)

brooklyn book fest 2020

Caribbean Reads – sponsor of the 2020 Wadadli Pen Challenge Schools Prize – at the Brooklyn Book Fair in 2019. The sub-regional independent publisher will be giving EC$600 worth of books to the winning school in this year’s Wadadli Youth Pen Prize Challenge, some from its own booklist. Which may include pictured books like Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure by yours truly.


On the subject of Wadadli Pen, I wanted to share that I am thrilled that this project has survived since 2004 – it’s always touch and go. Also, though it mostly manifests as a competition, it’s not about winning prizes. It’s about encouraging creativity and all of the reflection, imagination, and expression that comes with that.

In one of the targeted direct mailers I sent out, I noted that participation “can be purely fun and about self-discovery; it can also open a portal to expressing and coping with challenging feelings and experiences. Encouraging youth creativity also promotes mental growth, potentially improving academic performance and emotional maturity. Encouraging youth creativity gives young people an opportunity to try new things, new ways of seeing, new ways of thinking, and new ways of problem solving. The ‘Imagine a Future’ special prize in this year’s Wadadli Pen Challenge, for instance, will create an opportunity to explore the potentials of action or inaction on climate change – the existential challenge of our day – do we survive and how. This may emerge as a dystopian shadowland or a bright sci fi future. Who knows? As small islands, we are on the front lines of climate change; it’s an opportunity for young people to think through what will be the first major battle of their life time, for bad or good. If you are a youth in Barbuda, you have been in the headlines at least since 2017 and hurricane Irma, the trauma of which you may not have fully explored even as you grapple with historical and political realities beyond your understanding, where is your voice in this, what’s your story? ‘The Wa’omani Prize’ is an opportunity to remember that there are no small stories, that every experience matters – from fishing with your dad to being in the path of a storm to end all storms. The Wadadli Pen Challenge is not fixed on a theme – tell any story you want, about anything you want, however you want – but it is Caribbean, simply because we must centre our own imagination in our own stories. Storytelling is an opportunity to explore us. At the same time, it is an opportunity to experience our reality from a different perspective – where did the frigates go when they flew away …from the perspective of a frigate. For people working with young people it’s an opportunity to ask what if… allowing the imagination to zig from reality to fantasy and back again. The 3-strip comic panel is a challenge for those better at expressing themselves using visuals than words because visuals too can tell a full story filled with drama, humor, warmth, etc. Writers and artists can even collaborate for full expression of an idea. The thing to remember is that there  is no wrong or right, only the urge to write, to draw, to create, and the freedom to be on the page.” Time will tell if this and the other media (thanks to Observer Media Group, Antiguanice.com, 268 Antigua, ABS TV, Crusader Radio, and others for helping us get the word out) and social media, and direct pushes we made to encourage young people in Antigua and Barbuda to submit by February 16th 2020 moved the needle at all.

For full guidelines and submission form, visit https://wadadlipen.wordpress.com/wadadli-pen-2020 Shout out to our patrons Juneth Webson, Frank B. Armstrong, Lawrence Jardine, Brenda Lee Browne, D. Gisele Isaac, Caribbean Reads Publishing, Hermitage Bay Antigua, Adventure Antigua, Cindy’s Book Store, Floree Williams Whyte, Paradise Vision Centre, Jane Seagull, and others.


You’ll notice that the art category is back for Wadadli Pen but framed this time as a comic strip challenge. Here’s hoping we’ll see lots of entries from the winners of this other art prize, the Halo Christmas card competition, which has been one of the more enduring art initiatives – albeit under different headings, Halo in recent years – in Antigua and Barbuda. Shout out to my alma mater Christ the King High School from which winner Tiffany Dunnah hails. Here’s the report via 268.


We join the Caribbean and the rest of the literary world in bidding well done and farewell to the late Barbadian scribe Kamau Brathwaite who died on February 4th 2020 (at age 89). He’s been covered a time or two here on the blog but the various tributes should provide a sense of the scope of his work and influence. Also, the Bocas Lit Fest reported “Just days before he died, Brathwaite agreed to accept the 2020 Bocas Henry Swanzy Award for Distinguished Service to Caribbean Letters, presented annually by Trinidad and Tobago’s Bocas Lit Fest. The award pays tribute to Brathwaite’s landmark work as a critic — the author of many seminal essays on Caribbean literature and culture — literary activist, and editor, and was also intended to honour him in the year of what would have been his ninetieth birthday.” The award will now be presented to a member of Brathwaite’s family on March 5th 2020 at the University of the West Indies Cave Hill in Barbados during the annual KamauBrathwaite Lecture.

Peepal Tree publisher Jeremy Poynting said in his tribute (among the various tributes linked above): “Maybe there’s a room somewhere where Kamau, Derek and Wilson are talking together. Now wouldn’t that be some conversation to hear?” He is, of course, referencing Nobel Laureate Derek Walcott and acclaimed Guyanese writer Wilson Harris, the statement an indicator of the company in which Brathwaite sits.

In his influence on and shaping of Caribbean poetry, West Indian Literature, Nation Language (a term he coined as a descriptor of Caribbean ‘dialect’), Africa-infused experimental linguistics in his creative expressions,the work of the UWI, the writers he’s mentored or influenced, the many he’s educated, Brathwaite is remembered as a literary lion and his legacy will surely endure.

For more on Brathwaite, read this editorial in Barbados Today


Also via a Bocas mailing, the second year of the Johnson and Amoy Achong long list has been posted. It is, per usual, dominated by Trinidad, Jamaica, and Guyana (after being won last year by a Jamaica born, Barbados based writer). The developmental prize for emerging writers (this year focused on non-fiction) will go to either Amanda Choo Quan (T&T), Melissa Doughty (T&T), Ruel Johnson (Guyana), Otancia Noel (T&T), Kim Robinson-Walcott (Jamaica), and Amílcar Sanatan (T&T). Congrats to them.

Speaking of Bocas, check out some of the activity forthcoming at Writers Centre, described as an arts friendly, collaborative, enterprising space.


New Books –

British Virgin Islands author Eugenia O’Neal’s latest book is March 2020 release Obeah, Race and Racism: Caribbean Witchcraft in the English Imagine (via University Press of the West Indies) which sounds very interesting (wonder if I can get a review copy). Here’s a partial synopsis from its Amazon page:

“In Obeah, Race and Racism, Eugenia O’Neal vividly discusses the tradition of African magic and witchcraft, traces its voyage across the Atlantic and its subsequent evolution on the plantations of the New World, and provides a detailed map of how English writers, poets and dramatists interpreted it for English audiences. …O’Neal examines what British writers knew or thought they knew about Obeah and discusses how their perceptions of black people were shaped by their perceptions of Obeah. …The English reading public became generally convinced that Obeah was evil and that blacks were, at worst, devil worshippers or, at best, extremely stupid and credulous. And because books and stories on Obeah continued to promulgate either of the two prevailing perspectives, and sometimes both together until at least the 1950s, theories of black inferiority continue to hold sway in Great Britain today.” Interesting, right?

Also coming soon is Trini-Bajan Ingrid Persaud’s Love after Love which landed with Faber and Faber after a bidding war because she’s dope like that. It’s due in April but this interview she did with Audible about her BBC and Commonwealth award winning short story The Sweet Sop and her writing journey to date is up now.

Excerpt: “Plot. You know how many times I wake up all two in the morning wondering if I will ever find a plausible plot? Or sometimes I have a plot, and I dream of all the black holes readers are going to find. One day I hope to create a story with a plot so exquisitely crafted that the reader is barely aware of being led through it.”

Finally, in new books, this one is already out I believe, Dominica’s Celia Sorhaindo writes I believe the first post-Irma book of its kind, Guabancex: “On 18 September 2017, a category 5 hurricane, the worst in recorded history, hit the Caribbean island of Dominica. Hurricane Maria destroyed lives and land. Nothing would be the same again. Guabancex explores the complex mix of experiences and emotions, both during and after the event. The collection is named in recognition of the ancient indigenous peoples of the Caribbean. One of these groups, the Taino, called the supreme female spiritual entity associated with all natural destructive forces, Guabancex.”


Here in Antigua and Barbuda, we can also report that the Cultural Development Division has announced plans for a National Music Awards. It is not, as touted the country’s inaugural music awards (we’ve had the National Vibes Star Project Awards, which was a private/community-driven Grammy-style venture which actually had an even broader range of categories) but it is good to see an initiative to boost one aspect of the arts in Antigua and Barbuda. Lit arts still out here waving its hands but we’re not going to begrudge another category of artists getting a deserved boost. The NMA, per a release, is meant “to highlight and motivate practitioners in the field of music, in Antigua and Barbuda.” The person behind the initiative seems to be new deputy director of Culture, also a very talented, award winning musician and composer, Khan Cordice. As we’ve always said here on the blog (see reference to Barbara Mason) artistic disciplines benefit from having advocates who are passionate about the particular disciplines being in a position backed by the resources of state (limited though they may be) to move the needle. The announced awards categories, each with its various sub-categories, are Vocal, Instrumental, Steelpan, Recording Artiste, DJ, and Special awards. See breakdown.The announced NMA date is April 16th 2020.


Culture has also unveiled the team behind Antigua and Barbuda’s staging of CARIFESTA. via Antiguanice.com “Leading the charge as Chairman of the Board of Directors will be the Honourable Daryll Matthew, and Senator Shenella Govia as Deputy Chairman. The other members of the board will include Dr. Hazra Medica as Executive Secretary to the Board, the Director of CARIFESTA, and representatives from the following entities, namely the Ministry of Tourism; Ministry of Foreign Affairs; Ministry of Finance; National Festivals Office; Ministry of Health, Cultural Development Division; Environment Division; Immigration Department; Security Forces, and the Legal Department.” The announcement coincided with the launch of the new CARIFESTA logo selected from a competition in which Gamal Goodwin emerged victorious. You know what I’ve written about literary Antigua-Barbuda being written out of past CARIFESTAs but I think all of us in the arts community (including writers) still look forward to what may come.


Another local government agency announcing an awards programme is Gender Affairs. Women of Wadadli is a people’s choice awards recognizing the contribution of “extraordinary work” by “ordinary women” in Antigua and Barbuda. 

(they’re out of order but I’m tired).

Here’s the link.


Via the Daily Observer, we’ve learned of a film production webinar series, in progress, thanks to the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States’ Business Development Unit. Facilitators so far, according to the report, have included St. Lucia’s Davina Lee and Antigua and Barbuda’s Howard and Mitzi Allen of HaMA Films. The series is reportedly aimed at “sensitizing filmmakers in the region to modern (and best) practices in film production.” FYI, Mitzi Allen is also one of the advisors, along with Shakirah Bourne of Barbados, Juliette McCawley of  Trinidad, and Kareem Mortimer of The Bahamas on the Commonwealth Writers Caribbean Voices project targeting filmmakers (writers, directors, producers) from the region. Apply by February 24th to participate in the May workshop and be in the running for funding for your film project. Details here just in case I don’t get time to add it to the Opportunities Too page in time.


We’ve covered Dadli Hack before though it deals with tech, not arts, because it seemed a creative enterprise in the way it challenged participants to use technology to troubleshoot and innovate around the issues of our day. This year’s winner is also no stranger to the blog – Team Antigua Island Girls. Remember them? The first all Black all female team to row across the Atlantic. Per the Observer, Dadli Hack 3.0 is part of the United Nations Office of Project Services Global Innovation Challenge. Team Island Girls have won, from among a field of 10 from various Caribbean islands, US$5,000 towards the development of their project to improve eco-tourism via their youth ocean rowing project. The Hackathon includes a week of training and then the ideas pitch. It was held at Antigua and Barbuda’s Science and Innovation Park.


U.S. based Haitian author Edwidge Dandicat is one of three finalists for the Story Prize for book length short story collections published in 2019 from among 94 submissions. The other two finalists are Zadie Smith and Kali Fajardo-Anstine. If she wins for her book Everything Inside, Dandicat will win US$20,000 and if she doesn’t, she’ll win ‘just’ US$5,000. The winner will be announced on February 26th 2020 at the New School (co-sponsor of the prize) in NYC.


Have you read Jamaican Marlon James’ A Brief of Seven Killings. Much of the world has and as such Entertainment Weekly, as reported by Jamaicans.com, has dubbed it one of the best books of the last decade. The multi-award, including Booker Prize, winning was an obvious choice for this list and it’s cool to see the Caribbean represented.

Another writer who would make any one’s best of list is Nigerian writer Chimamanda Adichie who, per AllAfrica, was named ThisDay’s Woman of the Decade. I know she’s not Caribbean but she’s still amazing so we won’t hold that against her.


Also from the Observer…


The NAACP Image Awards nominees have been announced and while attention has been on the film and TV categories and Bajan daughter Rihanna being tapped for the President’s award (go, Bad Gyal Ri-Ri!), I have been particularly interested in the book nominations. I am delighted to reveal that New Daughters of Africa which includes some 200 writers, yours truly repping Antigua and Barbuda among them, is a fiction nominee. The anthology is edited by UK-based Margaret Busby (pictured left below with two of the book’s contributors ahead of a panel at the Sharjah International Book Fair in November 2019) who has African and Caribbean roots.


“Trinida­di­an born po­et and au­thor, Ian Williams has won Cana­da’s rich­est lit­er­ary award for fic­tion, for his nov­el Re­pro­duc­tion. Williams was named as the 2019 Sco­tia­bank Giller Prize…beat­ing out five oth­er au­thors for the prize. The first time nov­el­ist, who is an as­sis­tant pro­fes­sor of po­et­ry in the Cre­ative Writ­ing pro­gramme at the Uni­ver­si­ty of British Co­lum­bia, said he was shocked to earn the prize. ‘It’s a to­tal sur­prise, I mean there’s no prepar­ing for it. Even in your wildest fan­ta­sy like you imag­ine it and there’s noth­ing like it. Maybe it’s what pro ath­letes feel like or when ten­nis play­ers win Wim­ble­don or the US Open. Like we don’t write books for this mo­ment and then it hap­pens and you’re to­tal­ly off guard as a hu­man,’ he told the Cana­di­an Broad­cast­ing Cor­po­ra­tion. He said the win made him re­flect on his past, in­clud­ing his time be­ing raised in Trinidad and To­ba­go be­fore his fam­i­ly mi­grat­ed to Cana­da.” Read more.


Another award winner, this one with Antiguan roots is lauded children’s book writer and illustrator Ashley Bryan who picked up another Coretta Scott King award for Infinite Hope: a Black Artist’s Journey from World War II to Peace. Released last October, it is described as “a deeply moving picture book memoir about serving in the segregated army during World War II, and how love and the pursuit of art sustained him.” The story offers a reminder that though some have dubbed the WWII generation the greatest generation, it really depends on who’s telling the story. And here Bryan finally tells his own: “In May of 1942, at the age of eighteen, Ashley Bryan was drafted to fight in World War II. For the next three years, he would face the horrors of war as a black soldier in a segregated army. He endured the terrible lies white officers told about the black soldiers to isolate them from anyone who showed kindness–including each other. He received worse treatment than even Nazi POWs. He was assigned the grimmest, most horrific tasks, like burying fallen soldiers…but was told to remove the black soldiers first because the media didn’t want them in their newsreels. And he waited and wanted so desperately to go home, watching every white soldier get safe passage back to the United States before black soldiers were even a thought.” Read more about the book and the other nominees, at AALBC.


Another Caribbean writer, another accolade. ‘Toronto writer M. NourbeSe Philip has been announced as the 2020 recipient of the PEN/Nabokov Award for International Literature. The $50,000 U.S. ($66,445 Cdn) award honours a writer whose body of work shows “enduring originality and consummate craftsmanship.”‘ Philip is from Tobago. Read about her at CBC.


There’s more; I’m always gathering stuff to share. But I have to stop for now. So, til next time.

As with all content on Wadadli Pen, except otherwise noted, this is written by Wadadli Pen founder and coordinator Joanne C. Hillhouse (author of The Boy from Willow Bend, Dancing Nude in the Moonlight, Oh Gad!, Musical Youth, With Grace, and Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure which has a Spanish language edition). All Rights Reserved. If you enjoyed it, check out http://jhohadli.wordpress.com Please note that, except otherwise noted, images on this site also need to be cleared if you wish to use them for any purpose. Thanks.

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Carib Plus Lit News (Middish January 2020)


We begin with condolences to the friends and family of Victor Chang, and the community at the University of the West Indies. He actually died some weeks ago, in 2019. This Jamaica Gleaner article described Dr. Chang as a former lecturer in the Department of Literatures in English at UWI.

“Chang’s academic career is characterised by his involvement with the wider community and beyond, having served as a visiting lecturer at the University of Hull, England in 1981, carried out assignments with the Ministry of Education and Jamaica Festival. The noted academic was a contributor to the National Association for Teachers of English Workshops for some 20 years and was assistant chief examiner in English Literature with the Caribbean Examinations Council …(in addition to) service to the West Indian Association for Commonwealth Language and Literature Studies (WIACLALS).” There were many expressions of condolences being shared among the Caribbean literary community including my own memory of him as head of my department during my time at UWI (Mona, Jamaica) and this one (unknown) “He gave brilliant conference papers about Caribbean writers, and his sense of humor was wicked.”

Trinidad Poet wins the T. S. Eliot Prize

We move to celebratory news with Trinidad and Tobago poet Roger Robinson’s win of the T. S. Eliot Prize, the only major poetry prize judged solely by established poets. He won for A Portable Paradise about which judges said: “Roger Robinson’s characters bear witness to a country where ‘every second street name is a shout out to my captors’. Yet though Robinson is unstinting in his irony, he also gives us glimpses of something that his chosen protagonists also refuse to surrender – a taste, through the bitterness, of ‘life, of sweet, sweet life’.” A Portable Paradise was published by Peepal Tree Press in the UK. Robinson receive a £25,000 cheque.

Wadadli Pen 2020

The Wadadli Youth Pen Prize Challenge is back for 2020 with several new categories to stimulate artistic expression among young people in Antigua and Barbuda. …The Wadadli Pen Challenge is open to any resident aged 35 and younger. Entries – fiction, poems, creative non-fiction –1000 words max. must be original. Beyond that entries can be as creative or tonally diverse as the artist desires; as long as it retains a Caribbean sensibility (i.e. feels Caribbean). Young Antiguans of all ages are encouraged to try – there will be, as usual, age category prizes, with a slight adjustment to the breakdown (six and younger, seven to 12, 13 to 17, and 18 to 35) – in addition to an overall top three. All entries require completed submission forms (2020 WADADLI YOUTH PEN PRIZE SUBMISSION FORM). Incomplete and plagiarized entries will be disqualified.

Special Prizes

Imagine a Future – A special prize will go to the story which per the sub-head ‘Imagine a Future’ best illustrates either the consequence of inaction (dystopia) or action (futopia) on climate change. This is an opportunity to venture in to speculative fiction (including science fiction). What does the future look like through your eyes? Be creative.

Art Prize – Visual artists can also tell their story, solo or in collaboration with others by creating a comic strip – telling a complete story using visual art and (optionally) words in three horizontally-aligned art panels of equal size, fitting on to a single sheet of paper. Art entries can be hand inked and coloured (per standard comic panels) or electronically created. No collages. Winning collabos get a single prize.

The Wa’omani Prize – Eligible Barbudans are also invited to write a story or poem, or create a comic strip (telling their complete story using visual art and, optionally, words in three horizontally-aligned art panels of equal size, fitting on to a single sheet of paper). This prize is designed to encourage greater participation from Barbuda and create a space for Barbudans to tell their unique stories.
An entry can be considered for more than one special prize (indicate with entry), and everyone vying for a special prize will also be considered for the main prize and for their age category prize. There will also be a prize for the school with the most submissions. Submit by 16/02/20 with ‘Your Name Wadadli Pen Challenge Submission 2020’ in the subject line.

Some early patrons have pledged their commitment and will be announced in a subsequent release. Other businesses or individuals wishing to contribute, contact wadadlipen@gmail.com To keep up with all things Wadadli Pen follow the blog. For all things Wadadli Pen 2020, check https://wadadlipen.wordpress.com/wadadli-pen-2020

Sharma Wins

Sharma Taylor, Jamaica born, Barbados based, inaugural winner of the Johnson and Amoy Achong prize in 2019 starts 2020 with another win – first prize in Barbados’ 22nd annual Frank Collymore Literary Endowment award for an unpublished collection of short stories called Hollow Calabash which one judge described as “unputdownable”. She wins $10,000 (I’m not sure if this is US or BDS but either way).

Sharma credits the support of Commonwealth Writers (CW) through initiatives like the short story prize for which she was shortlisted, a 2018 fiction writing workshop in Barbados, and the individual mentoring the CW provided in 2019, as well as encouragement from other writers.

Congrats to her (pictured below, second from left).

‘Second place went to Claudia Clarke, who was awarded $6,000 for her “CircleSquare.” Anderson Lowe’s “Inside the Blackbelly Sheep” secured him third place and prize money of $4,000. Lowe also received the Prime Minister’s Award. Ingrid Persaud and Sarah Venable received honourable mention for “So it Go” and “The Tropic of Sweet and Sour” respectively.

In his remarks at the ceremony, Central Bank Governor Cleviston Haynes spoke of the importance of Barbados having a strong literary tradition, saying, “seeing your culture reflected and celebrated in print is a powerful and validating experience.”

The Frank Collymore Literary Endowment Awards was started in 1998 to support and develop the literary arts in Barbados. In addition to the annual competition, the programme includes outreach to secondary schools and technical workshops for writers.’ Read more.


The 2020 Anthony N. Sabga Caribbean Awards for Excellence have been announced. They are:

Arts & Letters: Mr Jallim Eudovic, Sculptor, St Lucia
Entrepreneurship: Mr Andrew Mendes, Energy Services Entrepreneur, Guyana
Public & Civic Contributions: Dr Olivene Burke, Community Activist, Jamaica
Science & Technology: Dr Shirin Haque, Astronomer, Trinidad & Tobago

The Anthony N Sabga Caribbean Awards is the only programme in the Caribbean which seeks out and rewards outstanding nominees in Arts & Letters, Public & Civic Contributions, Science & Technology and Entrepreneurship. It has been in existence since 2005, and has named, inclusive of the current inductees, 43 Laureates from throughout the region.

The 2020 ceremony will be staged on April 25, 2020 at a venue to be announced in the near future. Here’s the press release: 2020-Laureate-announcement-Press-Kit

Impac Dublin Caribbean

I first became aware of the Impac Dublin award back in 2012 when I was researching possibilities for which my novel Oh Gad! could contend. I bring that up because I wondered then and I still wonder now which books have been nominated by our local library service with which I’ve shared the Impac Dublin information. The latest Caribbean author to be nominated and longlisted for the Impac Dublin prize is Viviana Prado-Nunez, the Puerto Rican author of the Burt award winning The Art of White Roses which the nominating Jamaica Library Service describes as  “a striking debut novel with a cast of engaging characters. Told through the eyes of a 13 year old who lives with her family in Marianao, a quiet suburb six miles away from Old Havana, the novel gives an intimate view of the struggles of the working people fighting for independence fuelled by a burning desire to end corruption. It is a sharp-eyed study of power, community, questioning values and the contradictory messages of adults.” The Art of White Roses is published by Dominica’s Papilotte Press.

Also nominated by the Jamaica Library Service, also long listed, another Burt Award title Kevin Jared Hosein’s The Beast of Kukuyo. This is published by Jamaica’s Blue Banyan.

Congrats to them and to the library service for nominating them. See the entire long list. The prize is €100,000 which is awarded to the author if the book is written in English. If the winning book is in English translation, the author receives €75,000 and the translator, €25,000. The winner also receives a trophy provided by Dublin City Council. Nominations are made by libraries in capital and major cities throughout the world – libraries interested in participating can contact the organizers.

The shortlist for the 2020 prize will be announced in April.

Publishing News

Papilotte press, of Dominica and the UK, continues to make major moves with the acquisition of UK based Trinidad author Lawrence Scott’s Dangerous Freedom, a novel described as “radical and moving”. Said the author, “In Dangerous Freedom I am trying to redress what I see as the romantic portrayals of Dido in art, film and literature. I wanted to question the sketchy history we have of Dido and, through fiction, to alter the psychological and political perspectives. I hope that the novel can add to our understanding of a pain that remains just below the surface of contemporary life.” I’ve seen at least one of the film adaptations, Amma Asante’s Belle which starred Gugu Mbatha-Raw as the daughter of an Englishman and an enslaved African who lived with her aristocratic uncle, none less than Chief Justice Lord Mansfield at a time when he was adjudicating a critical case in the anti-slavery movement. Papilotte publisher Polly Pattullo bought world rights, excluding translation, for Dangerous Freedom from Johnson & Alcock. It will be published in May 2020 and distributed by NBN International.

New Music Awards for Antigua and Barbuda

You might remember that there was a music awards held in Antigua and Barbuda some years ago. It was produced by a private person and called the National Vibes Star Project Award. It was a  great Grammy-style event that I truly enjoyed covering. But it was a one-time event. And while I will always wish we weren’t reinventing the wheel, the announcement of a national musical awards by the Culture Department is, on the surface of it, a welcome development.


Deputy Director of Culture, and accomplished musician, Mr Khan Cordice described the awards, to be held on April 16th 2020, as a “Grand Celebration’ to recognize the work of all musicians and music practitioners alike to include vocalists, instrumentalists, pannists and DJs for the work they would have contributed to music over the years, but more specifically, throughout the year 2019.”

There are six categories: ‘Vocal Awards’; ‘Instrumental Awards’; ‘Steelpan Awards’; ‘Best Recording Artiste of the Year’; ‘DJ of the Year’ and ‘Special Awards’. In the vocal awards category, the breakdown includes:
Junior Soca Artist of the year
Junior Calypsonian of the year
Junior Reggae Artist of the year
Junior Gospel Artist of the year
Soca Artist of the year
Calypsonian of the year
Reggae Artist of the year
Gospel Artist of the year
Choir of the Year

At a glance, one difference between this and the NVSPA is that the latter also included hip hop and artists that didn’t fit in to the usual boxes.

For the Steelpan Awards announced categories include:

Steelpan Awards
Junior Pannist of the Year
Pannist of the Year
Arranger of the year
Junior Steelband of the Year
Steelband of the Year

The rebirth of pan continues – you love to see it.

The Instrumental Awards include:
Junior Instrumentalist of the Year
Instrumentalist of the Year

Two young Antiguans and Barbudans having recently featured in the finals of the Commonwealth International Composition Awards, as reported in Carib Plus Lit News in November 2019, it makes sense to continue to encourage our Musical Youth in this way.

Happy Birthday

Happy Birthday month to one of my literary icons Zora Neale Hurston who LitHub informs me was born January 7th (two days after me) 1891 (so not exactly the same century).  

Another reason I’m shouting out the late Harlem Renaissance writer, she has a new book coming with a foreword from Tayari Jones (whose book, the Oprah’s book club pick An American Marriage I’m currently reading after absolutely loving her previous book Silver Sparrow). Hurston died in 1960 – and while she had published significant work like Their Eyes were watching God – had slipped in to obscurity until resurrected by Alice Walker in In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens, the title piece in the latter’s 1984 essay collection. Hurston has been a staple on university lit syllabuses since then including my African-American lit courses at UWI, which is where I discovered her and, in her, a literary model. Hitting a Straight Lick with a Crooked Stick is Hurston’s second posthumous book (after 2019’s Barracoon: the Story of the Last Black Cargo) in three years.  Can’t wait.

As with all content on Wadadli Pen, except otherwise noted, this is written by Joanne C. Hillhouse (author of The Boy from Willow Bend, Dancing Nude in the Moonlight, Musical Youth, With Grace, Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure/Perdida! Una Aventura en el Mar Caribe, and Oh Gad!). All Rights Reserved. If you enjoyed it, check out my page on 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.

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Dame Yvonne Maginley (a short note)

Copied from my facebook page where Antiguan and Barbudan playwriters and screenwriters was the Wadadli Pen Blog Post of the Week:

I had hoped to write something more but time is not on my side so I’ll just say here that for all her Tourism related accolades, the recently deceased Dame Yvonne Maginley, had a hand in the development of the arts in Antigua and Barbuda as well. … touching on her contribution to theatre and the folk music tradition, the Antigua Community Players has been at the forefront of this performing arts tradition since 1952. Their play Priscilla’s Wedding, written by the players, is always listed as a benchmark in the development of local theatre. Dame Yvonne Maginley took on the role of musical director in 1957, guiding the Players’ development into a choral group renowned for performance of international musicals and Antiguan and Barbudan folk music productions, and composing many folk/national songs over the years. For more on the Community Players and Antiguan and Barbudan playwrights follow the link. Thanks to the Dame who was laid to rest this past week (Rest in Peace to her), it is Your Wadadli Pen Blog Post of the Week. 

Also the Community Players entry on the playwrights and screenwriters page has been updated. (Edit: And, FYI, a publication of Maginley’s is also recorded at Antiguan and Barbudan Writings and Antiguan and Barbudan Non-Fiction Writings.).

Dame Yvonne Maginley died on January 27th 2019. She had been knighted in 2003 and, also, received a lifetime achievement award from the Caribbean Tourism Organization, after serving as Tourism Director General for many years (and, before that, executive director of the Eastern Caribbean Tourism Association). Maginley who received broadcasting training at the BBC and was programme officer at ABS (making her also a media contributor – as you know, I’ve been tracking the development of media in Antigua and Barbuda) on her return, and tourism training at the University of Surrey, also served as Governor General’s Deputy of Antigua and Barbuda; chair of the first children’s carnival, Queens committee chair for many years, and secretary of the Carnival Steering Committee – all this in the early years of the national festival; helmed the National Public Library re-building project; taught music; and, of course, all her work with the Community Players. (source: guest editorial by Sir Dr. Rodney Williams in the Daily Observer 12th February 2019)

As with all content (words, images, other) 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,  Oh Gad!, Musical Youth, With Grace, and Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure). All Rights Reserved. You can also subscribe to and/or follow the site to keep up with future updates. You’re also invited to follow me on my author blog http://jhohadli.wordpress.com Thanks. And remember while linking and sharing the links, referencing and excerpting, with credit, are okay, lifting whole content (articles,  images, other) from the site without asking is not cool. Respect copyright.

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Mailbox – Cher

This is an Antigua-Barbuda lit-arts centric site but we routinely share things beyond the borders of the literary arts, Antigua and Barbuda, and even the Caribbean. We’re not able to share everything and reserve the right to share what we choose – within whatever window time allows. This email comes from Barbados but we’re sharing it primarily because it penetrates the borders of the socio-historical as relates to African people and centers a woman more of us need to know about, Saartjie Baartman. Hey, maybe you already do, but for those who don’t. And also to say congrats to Bajan scribe and artist Cher-Antoinette as she prepares to launch her inaugural solo-exhibition. Bajan-peeps, check it out; Cher, best of luck and send us some pictures for the blog.12af77c3-97b3-43da-b499-e69a1d62f296

Cher-Antoinette is a scientist, writer and visual artist. Her inaugural solo-exhibition is being planned in association with the Errol Barrow Centre of Creative Imagination (EBCCI) at the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus for the month of March 2017.

The theme of the exhibition “Just Call Me Sarah: The Colours of a Woman” was conceived in part by the unfortunate circumstances surrounding the last days in the life of Saartjie Baartman (Sarah). This KhoiKhoi woman of South African descent was made to believe that she would have a better life in Europe in the 1800’s, with wealth and prosperity, if she agreed to showcase her attributes – her ability to sing and dance and more importantly, her physical characteristics which were never before seen by the white Europeans.

The story is short, Sarah was ‘stolen’ from her homeland and sold for display in London as a “Phenomenon”. She was ridiculed and objectified and died a lonely, painful death having been placed into a life of abuse and prostitution such that we may not be able to comprehend. Five years she lived and died in Europe, a life filled with ridicule, abuse and objectification – all because she looked different with large breasts, spreading hips, an ample buttocks (a genetic condition called Steatopygia) and an elongated labia.

Her objectification was imposed upon her. Her hyper-sexuality was bestowed on her and her bodily shape was used to signify (albeit incorrectly) the close relations between black people and animals (orangutans) and also to stand as proof of ideologies regarding black female primitivism.

“The history of her exploitation touched a raw nerve in me, maybe because I also am a full figured woman, with possibly a similar genetic situation. But more importantly I am very concerned in the manner in which this present generation is embracing such self-objectification and in my mind tainting the beauty of the full figured woman. Many have chosen to initiate or be comfortable with their socially imposed objectification and in some instances have ridiculed themselves and participated in setting a stage where their perceived value is diminished. The lines of sensuality and sexuality have been blurred significantly. The Colours seen in my portfolio speak to the wholesomeness of womanhood, the joy of being a woman and the fact that beauty and strength come from within with the guidance of that which the Universe in its Divine Order has presented to us.” (Cher)

There are 25 pieces to be displayed with the primary media being singularly and a combination of watercolour, pen/ink, and charcoal, acrylic inks on paper and acrylic on canvas.



If, like us, you’re not in Barbados, you can still check out the artists’ work (though not this collection just yet) online.


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…when it hits you… #feelingthemusic

I’ve covered Jus Bus on this site before; don’t call this overkill but I’ve been listening and listening and listening to J. Nation, his debut CD (as an artiste; he already has extensive creds as a producer) since Saturday and (granted I was already primed given I’ve been stuck in an emotional sandpit of late; but with heartfelt lyrics, an interesting mix of musical choices, creative production, inspired collaborations, and a searching soul at its centre it had all the right ingredients anyway and…) I’ve been feeling the feels.

“Sometimes, I…Sometimes, I…Sometimes, I…feel alone…” (from Sometimes, I)

“Look at what we’ve done/the savages we’ve become/we laugh at each other’s pain/point fingers and blame” (from Savages)

“All this hard work/all this sacrifice/you don’t give a damn what lays beneath” (from Hard Work)

“…and the stress got me drained/I’m trying to live a life without going insane…and the strain seems everlasting…and this is why we’re blasting away” (from Blasting Away)

“…even though I’ve shed a few tears/I keep fighting…” (from Kings)

“Let it out/Let it out/Let it out…whatever’s bothering you…” (from SOS)

“shout and yell/tell them that you’ll take your freedom…” (from New Rebellion)

“I’m talking to you but you ain’t hearing me…” (from I don’t wanna talk to you )

“gonna keep on reaching higher/cause you know I’m breathing fire” (from Inferno)

-N.B. the next track is Say It Ain’t So…but every time I tried to pull lyrics, I couldn’t as I was too caught up in the experience of the song itself…unusual for someone who tends to hone in on lyrics…but the atmosphere of this particular song was kind of all consuming…that’s a good thing; a song should be an experience…but alas the upshot is that I have no reference/sample lyrics to share-

“I’m no clown/but this circus got me going round” (from Vertigo)

“There’s a girl who sits there on her own/takes everything for her to keep holding on/through the valley of her broken dreams/so it seems…give a little love/don’t be afraid/and just leave all your worries in yesterday/give a little love/don’t be ashamed/of the walls that surround you/just break away…” (from Give a little love)
“I must confessed/I’m feeling depressed…” (from Mental Battle)
“Are we connected/or disconnected/are we alive/or living a lie…” (from The Walking Dead)
“Lately, they’ve been trying to break me…I’m gonna keep on running/fighting for my spirit to fly” (from Without Fear)

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Well, lookah here, lookah here!

The Cushion Club Wadadli Pen Reading Challenge just got real!

flyer final

This is part of the larger Challenge. So, yes, if you’re taking the Cushion Club Wadadli Pen Reading Challenge you’re eligible for this prize. You’ll note that if you’re outside the window of people (5 to 15) eligible for the Cushion Club Wadadli Pen Reading Challenge you may still be eligible for this prize. You just have to be resident in Antigua and Barbuda. I gotta admit I’m psyched to see what you guys come up with in response to this challenge, which really is a challenge to your creativity.


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Flyer for the Brent Birckhead Quartet Public Concert in Antigua 4-26-15The U.S. Embassy to Barbados, the Eastern Caribbean, and the OECS will host the Brent Birckhead Quartet for a four-nation Eastern Caribbean tour to Barbados, St. Lucia, Antigua, and Dominica from April 24 to 27, 2015.

The leader of the quartet is accomplished American saxophonist Brent Birckhead, and he will be accompanied by jazz pianist, Mark Meadows; percussionist, Carroll Dashiell, III; and bassist, Romeir Mendez. These gifted musicians will perform progressive interpretations of works of American jazz that will leave audiences with a greater appreciation for this genre of music.

The U.S. Embassy is hosting this series of public concerts to underscore the excellence and diversity of American music, as well as to highlight Jazz Appreciation Month. Initiated by the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, Jazz Appreciation Month helps highlight the timeless legacy of American jazz singers, composers, and musicians. The Brent Birckhead Quartet’s performance will showcase how celebrated American composers have significantly shaped and influenced jazz. This concert series will appeal to a wide audience, specifically jazz enthusiasts, established and emerging musicians, and music students. The Brent Birckhead Quartet will conduct a master class with a group of young music students in Antigua to help them improve their technique and execution through individualized feedback.

The U.S. Embassy remains committed to facilitating cultural exchange and promoting music as an educational tool and will continue its support of the arts in Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean through dynamic cultural initiatives and programming.


This is the text of a media advisory sent out by the US Embassy in Barbados. Shared here to inform jazz and really all music lovers and students of music (see the note re the masterclass).

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Large Up – Jus Bus

“Whether it be for the beaches, food, great weather, or the people, the Caribbean has an energy that immediately makes visitors feel good, and at home. Those beautiful aspects of each island, however, come at a price. As Justin Nation (aka J. Nation) sings on his new single “Hard Work”: I bet you think its paradise, coconut trees, and rum on ice, but everything round here not so nice, its an up-and-down kinda life.

Hailing from Antigua, Nation knows more than most about the struggles of Caribbean life…” Read More.

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Samantha’s Last Independence Concert

She hadn’t been to an Independence show in years but she was always up for an opportunity to see the big Three – Obsti, Short Shirt and Swallow – back on stage. To her, cut ‘way all the fat and that was Antigua music right there, and, with her at least, the sight of the three of them on a poster still had drawing power.

Different posters and different ads had been done for different demographics – one to lure the Party Monarch crowd, one to attract the church people, and then there was the one for people like her, a pensioner on paper but in her heart of hearts, somewhere way past her aching bones and slower gait, still a young woman who remembered pulling all-nighters from calypso monarch to j’ouvert, home to pick up the kids who would have been waked and prepped by her mother, God rest her soul, then back to j’ouvert where once the music hit them sleepy eyes would open fully.

Her daughter, Jolene, was with her, and her daughter’s daughter, Gemma, and the three of them being here together like this felt like the start of a new tradition. They had only just settled into their seats and before the teen could disappear into her cell phone and said teen’s mother start to gripe about Antigua time, the show started, right on time.

No announcement or anything either. Just, the lights went down, and from behind them somewhere, a voice that had Gemma perking up next to her, thank God because she wasn’t in the mood for annoyance and agitation this good night. Claudette Peters, voice gentle as a lullaby, sang, “God Bless Antigua, land so dear to me, where first I held a mother’s hand and learned to bend a knee…”

Upfront, on the stage, draped in all the colours of the flag, a choir, what looked like the Cathedral Youth Choir, joined in on the next line, and you know they never came at a song straight on, so there was something like blues and flavouring as they sang, “…where land and sea make beauty let every man be free…”

The concert had begun. Just so. And just so a still fell over the audience as the lyrics of the Bobby Margetson classic touched something essentially Antiguan and Barbudan in all of them. It wasn’t something Samantha could name but it was a feeling that made her want to laugh and cry at the same time and made her feel full like she’d just had a daddy-sized helping of fungee and snapper.

CP was on the stage with her old choir by now, the soca embattled voice a revelation on something requiring a gentler touch, and the crowd hummed along, dipping in and out as the memory of the words from many-a-childhood came and went.

“Please stand for the national anthem…” someone said over the PA system as the song ended, and there was shuffling and only some minor grumbling as they did just that. A section from the National Youth Pan Orchestra, off to the side, was their accompaniment as they sang first the first…then the second…wait, the third verse too?… with decreasing confidence from one verse to the next except on the last two lines “ever striving, ever seeking, dwell in love and unity…each endeavouring, all achieving, live in peace where man is free….never failing, all enduring, to defend her liberty.”

If they were feeling restless again by the end of the anthem, which recalled the rigidity of morning assembly, they were soon moving in their seats, some already on their feet as El A Kru siren, Tizzy stormed the stage, flag, as ever, in hand, singing the soca group’s super hit, Antigua Nice.

“Whoever programmed this show understand pacing,” her daughter leaned over and whispered but Samantha didn’t have time for analysis just then; the music was too sweet.

Like a whirlwind, Tizzy was gone, and the audience was re-settling when a choir, a huge choir made up of what looked like every choir on the island, entered singing, getting into position on stage, to the strains of an organ – the kind of instrument that called to mind cathedrals with their high ceilings and stained glass windows. They did a medley of songs perfect for voices broken into parts – descant to bass – Where land and sea make Beauty, Antigua Land – she kind of liked that one, the way the voices skipped like a child at play over the lines “thy hills and vales, thy flowerets in the dell”, even if the lines did take her back to reciting lines of English poetry in primary school.

Just at the point where it might have begun to overstay its welcome, the choir began its exit, and another unlikely voice sounded. Not that Tian Winter’s presence was unexpected given the posters and other pre-publicity paraphernalia, and, if there was any doubt the sound of screaming girls now filling the auditorium served as a reminder. He was probably the only reason some of  them were there. Old folks digged on him too…she just didn’t see the need to scream about it. But who could resist the way his smooth vocals wrapped themselves around Island in the Sun like the folk classic was an old lover. It was a welcome reminder that though he was now a favourite of the rambunctious soca crowd, he was a crooner at heart. And boy did her old heart melt as he wandered through the crowd, pausing to hold her hand, on bended knee, staring into dimmed eyes like he was proposing. If she was only 50 or so years younger, I-sah, she’d be one of those screaming girls. He had something of Harry Belafonte about him in truth.

“Oh land of peace, haven of rest…”

The sound of the classic King Obstinate tune, Believe, one of her favourites, drew all of their attention back to the stage where a group the big screen announced as Sanctuary was now in place. Like the earlier youth choir, they didn’t come at the song head on, and though Believe was special enough to her that she didn’t like it being tinkered with, she had to admit they were good tinkerers. She was smiling and teary-eyed by the end, and the hush around the room told her she wasn’t the only one. There were some songs that just made you want to forget all the partisan BS and do better for Antigua and Barbuda, and Believe was one of them.

“…believe in yourself most of all as one people, marching together …”

If only.

They next sang, Baba Blaize’s Antigua is My Home, a song that at first used to feel to her more like a tourism jingle than a calypso but which had wormed its way under her skin and into her heart. It was a love song to Antigua, and she realized now that her initial rejection of the song was her failing, a reflection of this idea, fuelled during the halcyon days of black power and Antiguan calypso, during tumultuous political times, when calypso was the voice of the people before there was such a thing as Voice of the People, that calypso had to be anti-establishment and combative. Maybe she had mellowed in her old age because the song’s chorus “in Antigua, we wake up to the sun…” felt like a spiritual salutation to her these days, an affirmation that she had lived to see another day, in a time of her life when, she couldn’t do nothing but accept it, her days were numbered.

The arrival of a dashiki wearing Fiah, singing “if progress is a must, let the nation come fus’”, was a signal that the programme was changing tide, and a reminder that calypso might have matured enough to wax poetic about the land that birthed it, but it was still bold enough to hold the powers that be-perpetually-messing-up-the-country’s feet to the fire.

When he left, pre-recorded music stepped into the gap, pumping Antigua Nice – what ah lively song, eh – and she wondered if Tizzy was coming back? But it was the old El A Kru that followed, the El A Kru of Lethal Batty and Helicopter days, or at least a recording of them as Antigua Dance Academy brought Africa to the auditorium dancing to “Born in Wadadli” “uh, nobody go, uh nobody go, uh nobody, nobody go run me”. Oh she hoped Short Shirt did that classic later in the show – one of those hip producers should do a mash up of that and this, old and new, that would be fun. They did it in America all the time, look at that Baby got Back-Anaconda mash up that was so popular with her granddaughter, Gemma, these days. She smiled to herself that she even knew that, and found herself wishing as the dancers leaped like gazelles and wined like they had wire in their waists that Gemma hadn’t lost interest in dance …and everything …as soon as she’d become a teenager. She missed her. Physically, yes, but also the way she used to jump into life with both feet, now she lounged around with her ears plugged, ever distracted by a virtual world when her real world was right there.

Samantha noticed her perk up again though when Onyan hit the stage with his usual spark and high pitched wail – “ah yah me baaaaaarn!” Burning Flames she mused to herself as she, like everyone else sang the chorus of the Stand up for Antigua song that had won him one of his still heavily debated calypso monarch crowns, was truly generation-less. She remembered that first year rocking left to right, her daughter with her, because she never left her behind, as the crush of people around them danced on weariless feet behind the band that had more magic than the Pied Piper. She’d lived to see both her daughter and granddaughter seduced by the music as if the jam band existed in some musical bubble where time lost all meaning.

But then came the part of the programme that took her back to her time, and she was so excited she didn’t know what to do with herself. She might be old now, but when Swallow’s soaring voice, a voice which bore no comparisons, launched in to One Hope, One Love, One Destiny she felt like she was in her springtime again. It wasn’t just his sartorially splendour, or the way he moved; it was also the sense of promise and possibility the song ignited in her, taking her back to a time when the country felt young and uncorrupted. She knew it was the deceptive romance of nostalgia, at least in part, but the musical reminder almost made her weepy, again, for what her beloved country had become in the decades since. She knew it was inevitable, everyone lost their way in their youth, but, oh she wished, she so wished her country would hurry up and find its way.

And as if reading her thoughts, Swallow launched in to Dawn of a New Day, and in spite of herself, her heart lifted.

The oddest thing happened next, a dramatized reading apparently of King Obstinate’s Wet You Hand. It had them all cackling, to hear the melee rendered in such a cultured tone as though Crazy Ellie and Big Foot Maude were Jane Eyre or Janie Crawford, women on epic yet relatable journeys of self-discovery, which, she supposed, they were. She didn’t read much anymore with her eyes the way they were and she doesn’t think she’s had a story told to her, apart from neighbourhood gossip since childhood days of jumbie stories and anansi tales under the full moon, so it was nice to have the quintessential Antiguan calypso rendered in this way, a reminder, intentional or otherwise, that calypso, too, was literature. As a retired teacher, she could appreciate that.

But back to the music, and the arrival of the Undefeated himself. He was wheeled out to centre stage and the brass band, giving the young people a taste of the old Oscar Mason days of unparalleled live Antiguan instrumentation, struck up the opening bars of Antigua Independence. It had taken some time to get used to this stroke-slowed version of King Obstinate, a once vibrant showman, this year in pig tails and diapers, that year in an elephant suit, another year leaping from a coffin. But the voice was still strong and the measured presentation turned the performance into a history lesson – a history lesson punctuated by the “freedom forever” the audience couldn’t resist singing every time he returned to the chorus.

“Today, in memory of their task, we remove the colonial mask,” Obsti intoned and it took her back to to Independence Day, November 1, 1981, a time when tout monde sam and bagai had been exultant and purposeful in a way they probably hadn’t been since August Monday 1834. She sighed, Lord this show had her on a emotional roller coaster; she wasn’t sure she could take much more of this pensive introspection not when the reality had become so stark and depressing. But, what was it Jolene, had said about pacing, because here was Obsti, head nodding, foot shaking, as the music livened up and he prepared to lift everyone’s spirits.

And then he sang:

“Antigua and Barbuda ah wey me bury me nabel string

And at an early age in the cane field ah start to sing

I’m from a family of 13 and you know that’s a lot of mouth

So I decided to go away to help Papa out

But I’ll always come back to you

I’ll always come back to you

And if I can’t come back and cry

To nyam fungi

I’ll die

I’ll always come back to you

I’ll always come back to you”

She remembered now a Christmas spent overseas one year when Jolene was in New York studying. They’d stayed with her old childhood friend Hyacinth who hadn’t lived in Antigua since she was 17 and still sang that song like a promise every Saturday when she cleaned her apartment. In the cold and frigidity of winter in the frost bitten apple, Samantha supposed it was warm comfort, if a promise destined to remain unfulfilled. Hyacinth had in fact died in Uncle Sam’s country.

Long water was running down her face proper as she thought of her old friend, and she couldn’t even bother to be embarrassed anymore. They were all on some kind of journey in that room; music had that power.

Obsti ended with a sharp “you’re fuh me!” just after he was wheeled off, and she couldn’t help thinking that that was the point of the song: returning physically, like repatriating to Africa wasn’t necessarily to be taken literally, it was about claiming the space in the world where you belonged, in your heart and soul. Hyacinth had done that, and Obsti during his time away, and she could only hope that all of them in the room were doing the same.

The next song, by the artiste she’d been waiting for, felt like an extension of her thoughts.

“time for reconstruction in our little island…time to regenerate the morality of the state … no hatred no fear only peace and happiness” – a utopian ideal to be sure but Short Shirt’s call to “put our backs to the wheel” had the resonance for her in that moment of pre-first-term Barack Obama’s Yes we can.

“do a little more than your best is all we ask” indeed!

As with so many Short Shirt songs, she felt like dancing and deep thinking at the same time.

Short Shirt being Short Shirt paused, his signature towel around his neck, to grind one of his old rivals. “That one talking ‘bout he goin’ always come back,” he joked. “Some of us been here, all along. Nuh so?”

And though the dig wasn’t particularly sharp the audience roared, and propelled by that Short Shirt roared into Nobody Go Run Me, the entire audience singing along, no, shouting it, as though a dare to all the powers that be-malicious-and-down-putting-determined-to-squeeze-the-poor-man-for-the-benefit-of-the-rich, which, in modern Antigua could be red or blue depending on your leanings. Both camps were too fired up as they sang at the top of their lungs

“tell dem I say

I was born in this land, ah go die in this land

Nobody go run me from wey me come fram”

to see the irony.

Obsti was wheeled back as the song wound down, and he and Short Shirt mock sparred which was comical considering the circumstances. Then Swallow was there, the three men embracing and cameras flashing, nobody knew when it would be the last picture of them together so every outing was an occasion. Other performers from the night were also now filing back on to the stage but that wasn’t the audience’s only indication that they had come to the climax. That came in the form of the disembodied announcer, amped up like he was a hip hop hype man, or an emcee at a political rally, “on your feet! On your feet! For Antigua and Barbuda’s unofficial anthem.”

Before Samantha had time to wonder which song that could be, the music for Pledge sounded, and, oh yes, nobody needed prompting to sing, dance, salute, throw their arms around each other, celebrate Antigua and Barbuda after that.

“…if you really want to show your appreciation raise your voices with me and this pledge let’s sing along, we pledge to be good citizens from now on, casting away victimization, corruption will cease, nepotism decrease, throughout the whole nation, our country then will be not just a society, but a just society let this be our pledge!”

But though they said the right words, she couldn’t help thinking that somewhere along the way they had all lost the script.

“…please beware my country men of the trappings of false liberty”

Had they heeded?

“…for true liberation does not only lie in constitutionality”

Did they remember that?

“We have gained nothing if we all we do is pass from bondage to a subtler task

Where foreign sharks with their fangs exposed surround us with promises of a brighter world”

Were they not still falling prey to that?

But yet, even weighted by these questions, and she didn’t suppose she was the only one, she couldn’t stop dancing, as long as there was life there was hope, wasn’t there, and Antigua and Barbuda was still a-small-country-becoming in a big world. She might not live to see it mature into all it could be, but for now she could sing of the possibility.

“Gird up your loins

Ever vigilant be

To curb injustice, graft, and vagrancy

The rights of each one must be recognized

So that none will feel they’re ostracized

Equal opportunity for everyone

Each giving the other

A helping hand

We want no more exploitation

From either foreign or the local man

We need our land

For our children

Yet unborn

So Antiguans and barbudans lets pledge to maintain our freedom”

And they sang

“we pledge to be true, citizens from now on”

It was a nice dream.

A dream that followed Samantha into sleep, where she stayed, having lived the last independence concert of her life.

Jolene would later buy a DVD of that Independence concert, and she and Gemma would watch it every year on special occasions like her mother’s birthday, Independence Day, Heroes’ Day. Whether together or apart. It became a ritual of sorts; and every year, though the island was as hot as it ever was, they’d both swear they felt a chilly breeze blow through, pass between them just enough to raise gooseflesh and remind them that Samantha was still with them.

Author’s note: This is a rough draft of something I wrote on impulse as Antigua and Barbuda ventures into its 2014 Independence season. Song posts have become synonymous with Independence on this blog, probably because music is such a big part of my life. Always has been. And Antiguan and Barbudan music an intrinsic part of my childhood memories, especially so. I overheard part of a radio dialogue today, something about Antiguan and Barbudan artistes not being enough of a draw for a show, even during Independence season in Antigua and Barbuda. My brain sputtered at that and my spirits flagged because surely that couldn’t be true, and if it was surely we weren’t accepting it without a fight. Antigua and Barbuda may be a melting pot these days but surely our Independence should still be about us. These feelings prompted a post in the You Know You’re Antiguan… facebook group…a post that asked simply what’s your favourite song by Antiguans and Barbudans, about Antiguans and Barbudans. The responses came in fast and furious. I had hinted that I might do a blog post but I wasn’t sure what I’d be posting exactly. In any case, I recorded all the songs and determined to include them in whatever I wrote, assuming I wrote anything. Foreday morning this tale of a fictional concert came to me and I went with it. I enjoyed revisiting these songs through Samantha’s eyes – if any of your favourites are omitted don’t blame Samantha, blame me; I’m the one who either couldn’t remember or couldn’t find one or two songs. But most of them are here and with them a reminder of the beautiful and profound music that has come out of Antigua and Barbuda over the years. It took a few hours to write; it’s unedited (so blame me for any character inconsistenties, proofing errors or other flaws) but I was eager to share as my little contribution to our little island. It goes without saying that this is a fictional tale, any resemblance to persons living or dead is purely coincidental, with the exception of the artistes themselves who are, of course, real and belong entirely to themselves and in a way completely different no doubt than imagined in this tale. Finally, I would apologize for the length but ah aryu fault that with the ton ah song-song. And since me lub Antigua music bad sorry-not-sorry. Looocal!

As with all content (words, images, other) 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,  Fish Outta Water, 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 WadadliPen and my books. You can also subscribe to and/or follow the site to keep up with future updates. Thanks. And remember while linking and sharing the links, referencing and excerpting, with credit, are okay, lifting whole content (articles,  images, other) from the site without asking is not cool. Respect copyright.


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Island Vybes Christmas Volume 1

A Wadadli Christmas, anyone? Cool idea. Kudos to Roger Perry for pulling it off. Look forward to hearing the tracks by El A Kru, Jashan Hughes, Laurena Davis and others (folks known for singing soca singing Christmas songs) sometime this season. Read more.

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