BY JELANI GRANT
To celebrate its 50th year of independence, the culture of Barbados could be heard and smelled, blocks away from the Harbourfront Centre. Over the final weekend of May, Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc. organized Barbados On The Water to commemorate the independence of Barbadians.
Barbados, located east of the other West-Indian islands in the Atlantic Ocean, became a British colony on May 14th, 1625, until achieving independence from Britain on November 30th 1966. Since then, the most-eastern island of the Caribbean has embraced tourism of their beautiful coral beaches as well as offshore banking that generates one of the Caribbean’s highest per capita incomes, according to the Heritage website.
The festival began Friday, on a beautifully humid weekend, with a mature crowd of Bajans, Lakeshore citizens and venue managers. A. Marsene Newton Maloney, a swimwear designer said she loves Barbados because the people are much calmer and friendlier than in Toronto.
Maloney, who moved from Barbados more than twenty years ago, spoke nostalgically of Barbados, saying “All of your neighbors know what’s going on with you”.
Chef Creig Greenidge, who prepared a special fish cake recipe over the weekend, said cooks in Barbados use all variety of meats such as beef and pork despite Oistins world-famous Fish Fry being presented at the fair. Greenidge, born in Barbados, was scheduled to compete with a Canadian chef, but instead provided a cooking tutorial for fish cakes.
Each night, Dj Niterider provided musical entertainment with the accompaniment of Biggie Irie, Lil’ Rick and D’Enforcas. Road tennis was played by Bajans clearly familiar with the game under a tent to avoid the heat. Originated in Barbados in the 1930s, road tennis is played similarly to the traditional tennis, though the court is much smaller and the net is shorter.
Spice and Company performed for a fairly large crowd, considering the 1,300 seat capacity, filling the seats, rows in between and any surrounding area on Friday night. Alan Sheppard and company brought the waterfront to life, performing immortal songs such as Lift Ya Leg Up, Aware Africa, Make Noise, and Rastaman, a mellow Soca jam not listed on any of their albums. Spice and company, originally based in the late 80’s and 90’s, are a high energy band that had the crowd on their feet and for the small audience capacity, they managed to elevate to an unimaginable level, pushing each section of the crowd to lift their legs and make noise. They also performed ‘Bobs Song’, dedicated to Bob Marley and ‘I Love Barbados’. The crowd loved them so much, an encore performance was a given. They didn’t stop yelling until spice and company came back on.
Saturday felt more family-oriented, as food lines were backed up with elders, children and every age in between. In addition to the food and music was the, Know Your BIM quiz. The test was a way for guests to test their knowledge of Bajan culture and history. Laff it off, a comedy group based in Barbados, provided hysterical skits to ticketed guests. Though there was constant laughter bellowing from the Brigantine Room, the sold out show contained dozens of jokes that could only be comprehended by the mature members of the audience as a lot of skits were about adultery and violence.
Allison Hinds performed all of her hit singles like “Roll it Gal” and “Brace and Whine” and the audience absorbed the high-energy performance, whining and grinding next to complete strangers, almost as an example of the unity of the Bajan community. “This performance was ridiculous with people…I could not believe it.”
Hinds said she performed at last year’s Caribana, but she felt like performing at Barbados On The Water was an even more incredible vibe. “The great thing about it was there was a ton of Bajans, but also just people who love Caribbean music and love the culture and it was a beautiful day so everybody was out and in a great mood”. The full interview of Hinds can be found on the Toronto Caribbean Facebook fan page.
On Sunday, there were a number of musical performances as well as a fashion show displaying swimwear, casual attire and outfits for kids by Barbados Haute Couture. The early afternoon presented a short film for Barbados Independence. Following the theme of ‘Pride and Industry’, the festival’s guests and performers illustrated such all throughout the weekend.