The much-anticipated National Independence Festival of Creative Arts (NIFCA) Music in the Square series is back, and throughout the month of Independence will pay tribute to three of the island’s musical greats.
James Millington, Jackie Opel and Sir Emile Straker will be celebrated when some of the island’s finest musicians come together for three free concerts dubbed Icons Night. The concerts will take place each Friday (November 3rd, 10th and 17th) beginning at 6 p.m. at Golden Park Freedom Park, The City.
As NIFCA celebrates its 50th anniversary under the theme, 50 Years of Excellence Remembered, Icons Night will be used as a vehicle to salute the dedication, service and contributions of these persons on the music landscape.
Cultural Officer of Music Education for the National Cultural Foundation (NCF), Kevin Moore, stressed that these three stalwarts were selected because whether directly or indirectly the impact they had on Barbadian musicianship, music education and Barbadian music performance was significant and far reaching.
In the case of Millington’s legacy, he was revered around the Caribbean for his eminence as an educator and was known for his development of the Combermere School music programme where he would have founded string and symphony groups.
During his time at Combermere, Millington directly influenced the likes of Dr Duncan Fletcher and Victor Pilgrim whose guidance would in turn have impacted prominent musicians including Arturo Tappin, Pernell Farley, Mark Husbands and Chris Allman. Millington was also the father of renowned musician Janice Millington and the grandfather of Miles Robertson, the former musical director of Multiple Grammy winner Adele.
Night 1 of NIFCA Music in the Square kicks off this Friday with James Millington Night entitled From the Classics to Jazz. It will feature the David Weatherhead saxophone quartet, Bajan Brass, Combermere Steel Orchestra, the Barbados National Youth Symphony Orchestra, Kweku Jelani, Paula Hinds, Shawn Layne and more.
On Night 2 will be Jackie Opel Night and held under the theme “Spouge and Reggae”. Some of Barbados’ biggest names in reggae, including Daniel Medford, Rhesa Garnes, Peach Bless and Biggie Irie will share the stage with aspiring young talent such as Jessica Hunte, Asanta, Mighty Bit Bit, the St Leonard’s Boys’ Steel Orchestra, Baje to the World winner Kyrique Alleyne and many more.
Moore stressed that while Barbados claims Opel, especially for his development of the indigenous Spouge genre, the Cry Me A River singer was highly respected in Jamaica’s music industry. In fact, top reggae stars on that island, including The Wailers’ Bob Marley, Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer, for example, have credited him as one of their major influences in their early music.
While Sir Emile’s impact on not just Barbados and Caribbean music, but internationally, will be celebrated on Night 3 when focus will be paid on his work in calypso and folk music.
Sir Emile’s group, The Merry Men, was at the vanguard of the promotion of Barbados music spanning from the 1960s and lasting for well over 40 years. They were the first Barbadians to be featured at The Super Bowl half-time show in 1979 performing calypso/folk music.
The Mighty Gabby will be leading a host of excellent talent in Sir Emile’s tribute with lineup that includes, St Leonard’s Boys’ Choir, the Ignatius Byer Primary School Choir, Arts in the North, Mylon Clarke, Alex Cage, the winner of the NIFCA arrangement challenge and others. NIFCA Music in the Square was built last year where the young talent of Barbados was showcased at after work limes on Fridays in the month.