Awards ceremony heats up New York
by Clevil James
Monday, November 7, 2005
NEW YORK, USA:
New York City, the most vibrant Caribbean metropolis, was
smothered in radiant Caribbean sunshine to mark the occasion of the
17th Annual Sunshine Awards, held on October 29 at the New York
The event, which some have dubbed "The Caribbean Music Grammyís",
is the brainchild of Trinidadian-born Gilman "Gil" Figaro Sr., and
is dedicated to paying tribute to the great innovators and
contributors to Caribbean art forms.
This year's edition of the Sunshine Awards brought together a
galaxy of Caribbean stars, including the youthful Kevin Little of
"Turn me on " fame, and the grey-bearded "Chalkdust" ( Hollis
Liverpool), the reigning monarch of Trinidad and Tobago calypso; and
a diverse and appreciative audience showed up to pay tribute to the
makers of Caribbean music. This year's awardees included Cyril Shaw,
Earnest Ranglin, Bernadette Scott, Oliver Bromes (Lord Radio), Leo
McDonald (The Mighty Gryner), Habeeb Khan, Kevin Little, Rupert
Clarke (Rupee), Earnest Galloway, Carl "Jazzy" Pantin, Nathaniel
Crichlow and Kelvin "Zuzie" St. Rose.
The first Sunshine Awards program was staged at the Brooklyn
Academy of Music in Brooklyn, New York on June 24, 1989. The theme
of the first awards program was "A Reflection on the History of
Calypso and Steelband Music. Gil wrote the script for the program
and the world renowned Roberta Flack was co-host for the evening.
On that historic night, twenty (20) awards were presented. Some
past awardees include the the Mighty Sparrow, Rita Marley, Calypso
Rose, the Mighty Duke, Tabou Combo, Machel Montano, Andy Narrell,
Lord Kitchener, Nydia Caro, Lord Ziegfield, David Rudder, Winston
Spree, Roaring Lion, Walter Chieftain Douglas, Frankie McIntosh,
Desperados Steel Orchestra and numerous others who have contributed
to Caribbean art forms.
The Sunshine Awards is an extremely important cultural event that
encourages Caribbean integration. Musicians and artistes play a
vital role in bringing Caribbean people together. New York has
always been an important centre for the growth, development, and
dispersal of Caribbean music, including rumba, calypso, cha-cha-cha,
salsa and kompa. Manuelita, a 1912 recording by George Baillieís
band, Loveyís String Band, has been included in the US Government's
inaugural 'Top-50' list of recordings. The city has also hosted
icons like Wilmoth Houdini, Perl Primus, Connie Williams, Lord
Invader, and The Mighty Sparrow. Hence New York is an appropriate
location for The Sunshine Awards. The 17th annual awards ceremony
duly recognized some of the great contributors to Caribbean music.
The honourees were as varied as their countries of origin and
Among them were pannist, calypsonians, a guitarist, a choir
director, and more, hailing from Trinidad, Guyana, Barbados,
Jamaica, St Vincent, and more.. The four hour, black-tie event was
professionally scripted and executed, with appropriate punctuations
of musical interludes and comedy.
Before the awards ceremony began, we were ushered into a
spacious, dimly-lit room to start the evening activities with
cocktails and finger foods. Guests and hosts were all very polite,
with everyone smiling and quietly greeting each other. However, out
of the corner of my right ear, I heard a woman whispered to her
friend about a gentleman she recognized "But eh eh, look at Johnny
nah, who ever tort he could ah dress up so". Her friend promptly
replied "Girl hush yuh mouth nah, yuh like commess eh? Dis is not de
time and place". Meanwhile Iím shaking in my chair, trying to hold
in a laugh while pretending that I wasnít overhearing the reassuring
conversation. Reassuring because I knew then that I was among the
innovative, creative, satirical, imaginative and witty Calypso
Chalkdust (Dr Hollis Liverpool) was the only person not dressed
in formal attire. He was clad in casual slacks and jean jacket,
sporting his trademark bushy white beard. All due respect to
Chalkie, one of the few remaining masters of the calypso art-form
today, a story-teller who excels in using metaphors, imagery and
double entendre in his lyrics.
The cocktail hour was extremely enjoyable. I had wonderful
conversations with many people. Permit me to add that there was no
wining during cocktails. After cocktails we were again politely
ushered, this time to a concert hall, where the stage was set for
the eveningís main event, The Sunshine Awards ceremony.
Do you know that some West Indians brought some of the rum and
wine from the cocktail area into the concert hall? . We were seated
in very tightly fitted, impermanent, cushioned chairs, about 15
double rows of 10 chairs each, with an aisle down the middle.
The house lights were dimmed the stage was spot-lighted, the huge
TV screen located on our the right side of the stage started
displaying pertinent information of the proceedings, and the show
began with the melodious performance of the five member steelband
called NFM Pantasy Orchestra of Trinidad. The calypso music was very
innovative and jazzy, with lots of creative improvisation. They
played about three numbers, all of which were well received by the
Next on stage were the co-hosts for the evening, Nikki Crosby and
Errol Fabien. They went through their vintage comedy routine to put
the audience at ease. Errol said that he was overjoyed when he saw
quiche on the menu, because all day long he was feeling for quiche.
You have to say it out loud to get the effect.
The Sunshine Awards then paid tribute to prominent people who
died since the last awards. The voice-over together with the screen
reminded us of Lord Blakie, Frankie Francis, Ibrahim Ferrar, Compay
Segundo, Lord Melody of Grenada, Johnny Carson, and many more. This
was a very moving segment indeed.
The first award was for Friend Of The Arts, and it went to Cyril
Shaw of Guyana . Mr Shaw "used his talent to promote performers from
across the globe ". The program stated that he worked with the
Mighty Sparrow, Louis Armstrong, Johnny Mathis, Sammy Davis Jr.,
Byron Lee, Jimmy Cliff, Percy Sledge, Sam Cooke, Lord Kitchener,
Calypso Rose, Denyse Plummer, Miriam Makeba, Mahalia Jackson,
Latonia, to name a few. Accepting for Cyril Shaw was his grandson,
Receiving the Special Recognition Award for Music was Lord Radio
(Oliver Bromes) of Barbados. Lord Radio, known in Barbados as the
"King of the hotel Circuit" has been performing calypso for the past
55 years. He performed with greats like Spoiler, Roaring Lion,
Viking, and Director.
The next award was presented to The Mighty Gryner (Leo McDonald
Blenman) of Barbados. A Special Recognition And Award For Music. He
has spent over 40 years performing calypso music. He has toured
Canada, Europe and The United States. I found it amazing how Gryner
was so shy when he gave thanks for the award, but was so extroverted
and energetic when he later performed a lively and gyrating calypso.
A well deserving recipient indeed.
At this moment there was a fascinating performance by Guyanese
Moses Josiah , who played some soothing ballads on very unique
instrument, the handsaw, a bow, and a hammer. It was announced that
he was so good last year, hence they brought him back for yet
The Mighty Chalkdust, reigning Calypso Monarch for 2005, then
came on stage to announce the Hall Of Fame Inductees for this year.
He sat in a low chair with a higher chair in front of him on which
lay a sheet of paper containing his script, and with guitar in hand,
but not playing it, he inducted the following: Prince Galloway
(Earnest Galloway) of Archie Buck Them Up fame. The Prince has been
performing since the early 1950s with well-known bards such as
Melody, Destroyer, Invader and Cristo. The Prince later performed
some examples of smutty calypsoes, accompanied by Chalkdust on the
Carl "Jazzy "Pantin, for his involvement with the calypso art
form as singer, musician, promoter, calypso tent manager, calypso
judge, and above all, father figure to many calypsonians. Jazzy
managed Lord Kitchenerís Calypso Revue Tent from 1963 to 2004, the
year of his death.
Nathanial "Natty" Crichlow, a member of Casablanca and City
Syncopators steelband orchestras in the 1940s and 1950s. He was the
Vice President of the newly establishment of the T&T National
Association of Steel bandsmen, now Pan Trinbago. Natty was also a
respected Trade Unionist and the leader of the National Union of
Government and Federated Workers.
Kelvin "Zuzie" St. Rose, a professional pan tuner who started his
career with the Crossfire Steel Orchestra in the 1950s. He was
highly respected not only in Trinidad, but also in Grenada, Barbados
and St. Vincent.
Gil Figaro then took the stage for a special presentation of the
works being done by the International Red Cross and Red Crescent,
with special emphasis on the help they provide to hurricane victims
in the Caribbean.
Jamaican Earnest Ranglin was then given a Special Recognition and
Award for Music. Earnest is he arranger of Millie Small's world wide
hit, "My Boy Lollipop". He also contributed to hits like "It Hurts
To Be Alone" for the Wailers, and Rivers of Babylon for the
Melodians. Earnest Ranglin is rated as Jamaicaís greatest jazz
guitarist, and he was instrumental in the development of ska music.
Earnest performed about four songs for us, one of them being the
memorable Toots And The Maytals hit, 64-46 Thatís My Number. I
traveled back to the hotel in the same taxi as Earnest and his wife
Joan. They are just simply wonderful people.
A musical interlude followed here as a dramatic performance by
pannist Dave Gulston, backed by Charles Doherty And His Circle Of
Friends. The crowd soaked it up. Special Award for Music and Dance
was given to Bernadette Scott, the founder of The Love Movement
group of Trinidad and Tobago. Bernadette founded the group in 1972,
and they did their first full performance at the Holy Name Convent
Hall in 1973. On Saturday night the group put on a costumed and
animated song and "danse" performance to the total delight of the
audience. They sung hymns, calypsoes, and original "national
building" songs written by Bernadette. They were the highlight of
I was fortunate enough to be present at the earlier group
rehearsal at which time I spoke to Bernadette, who was open and
polite enough to tell me the history and philosophy of the Love
Movement. She said itís not just a choir, itís a ministry of love.
She started the "ministry of love" in order to help children who
resided in institutions. in Trinidad and Tobago. She said that the
most important element of any member is attitude and spirituality,
and if they happen to have a good singing voice, then so much the
merrier. There is no doubt that Bernadette Scott is totally
fulfilled with her contribution to the betterment of people all over
Special Awards were also given to Kevin Little of St. Vincent and
Rupert "Rupee" Clarke of Barbados. The 17th annual Caribbean Awards
was a huge cultural success. Everyone present had high commendations
for the organizers, especially for the industrious, humble,
insightful and congenial Gil Figaro, Founder and Chairman of this
important organization. A job well done.
Iím looking forward to next year.