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The Naniki Caribbean Jazz Safari Blazing Through The Islands

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“Caribbean Jazz Shines Brighter”

Initially conceiving the idea some twenty years ago Barbados Businessman/promoter Tom Hinds saw his vision of more than 20 years become a reality last month at the debut of the first of a series of Caribbean music festivals titled The Naniki Caribbean Jazz Safari. His concept was to take a simple plan that worked for many years at his Naniki Amphitheater/Resort and expand it throughout the Caribbean islands, particularly those islands that have not hosted music festivals in the past.

Endorsed by the Caribbean Tourism Organization and sponsored through the cooperative efforts of the Barbados Tourist Authority, Liat Airlines, Hilton Hotel and many others opening night kicked off the inaugural show at Charles Fort (The Hilton Barbados Resort) in swinging style with a dose of European vocal styling’s from Barbados born Patricia Lowe (now residing in Italy) followed by headliner T.S. Monk’s Quartet with special guest R&B/Jazz vocalist Alyson Williams created “a Jazz Paradise” with a sprinkling of spicy solos from Helen Sung on piano, Willie Williams on sax, and Erik Privet on bass.

On the grounds, where canons still lay, the fireworks provided on the drums by bandleader who was mentored by none other than the late great legends Art Blakey and Max Roach were a sure indication of the rest of the Safari would be like. After sensing the crowd’s pleasure in the abilities of Helen Sung Monk promptly turned it over to her for a solo where she performed her own original medley of well-known selections showcasing her ability to play stride mixed with swing and classics with a twist. After her plastering pace Sung slowed it down and then lit a fire at the end, much to the crowd’s delight. Willie Williams (formerly of TSOP - The Sounds of Philadelphia) was an added featured guest who blew the audience away with his solos. The bass assignment was held down by a young and aptly seasoned Erik Privert. He provided the swing keeping up with the stick and beautiful brushwork of T.S. The night was completed with the jazz vocal stylings of Alyson Williams better known as the R&B singer discovered by music mogul Russell Simmons (founder, Deff Jam Records.

After an opening night like this one would think nothing could top it… wrong! The second night was “Heaven on Earth” with a birthday celebration for NEA Jazz Master Pianist Cedar Walton. At Frank Collymore Hall the island’s premier concert hall with acoustics likened to that of New York’s Allen Room (Jazz at Lincoln Center) and St. Louis’ Sheldon Memorial, MC (Mistress of Ceremonies) Caribbean Radio Network personality Carol Roberts opened up the night by honoring the jazz master who appeared as a special guest with Barbados native David “Happy” Williams’ Quartet. On sax the amazing Antonio Hart was the perfect pearl to add to the compositions performed that night.

During the break Barbados legendary musician Ebe Gilkes was awarded the Naniki Caribbean Jazz Safari Legend Award. On hand to present the award was promoter Tom Hinds, former Chief Justice Sir David Simmons and Chief Justice Sir Marston Gibson. As the “Father of Barbados Jazz” Mr. Gilkes displayed the graciousness of a Count giving further proof to their selection.

After a brief intermission, the audience returned to a special treat. If a stellar performance by NEA Jazz Master and special presentation was not enough, the night was capped off with Nnenna Freelon’s band. The six-time Grammy Award-Nominee conducted her band including Brandon McCundon on piano, Wayne Batchelor on bass and Adonis Rose on drums through precise and fluent movements with her inimitable elegant style. Ms. Freelon’s superb repertoire began with the classic “God Bless the Child” followed by “Close Your Eyes”, “Balm In Gilead”, “The Very Thought of You” and ended with a stirring rendition of “Moon River”, executed in a Caribbean styled rhythm, which had a few fans swaying and swooning.

Day three brought us to a memorable and gorgeous venue at the Harrison’s Cave. The concert at this exotic site showcased top local attractions displaying delightful helpings of jazz fusion, Cuban salsa, Trinidadian Steel Pan Rhythms, as well as representatives from Martinique who satisfied the hardy appetites for great music in an equally unique setting. Featured during this presentation of a blissfully, tasty music gumbo were Peter Bernard, Relator, Shakura S’ Aida and Mario Canonge, to name a few.

The fourth day was unprecedented simply in the fact that for the first time ever anywhere in the Caribbean a Prime Minister opened the grounds of his home to host a music fest beyond anyone’s dream… except that of Producer Tom Hinds. In talking with him after opening night he admitted “I have always had a unique rapport with those artists I love and have worked with in the past. This time when I told them what I needed they did not hesitate helping out with this first effort”. It shows the credibility this Barbados born former Cricketer from Combermere School has with the highest officer of the island. He is gracious, warm and engaging when exposing his dream to unite the islands with a special series of music festivals.

This plan gives an entirely new meaning to the term “Island-hopping.” This music lover put together the perfect day on the lawn featuring gigantic balloon slides for the youngsters, along with food and souvenir vendors. This played right in hand with a stellar musical treat starting off with Soul/blues/rock guitarist/vocalist Derek McKeith (featuring Van Taylor on keyboards and Brazilian (pandairia) drummer Gilson Silveira, followed by the smooth jazz San Antonio, TX native violin master Michael Ward. Barbados native son Elon Toutman took stage late in the afternoon and kicked it up a notch with his alto and soprano sax as he played tunes from his upcoming CD and a special song about his beloved Barbados and Boston “Beantown”. He was aptly supported by his good buddy and special guest Jeff Lorber. But hold on to your seats, as the night went into high gear as the stage changed once more.

Well after 7pm once the back-up singers for a Los Angeles-based native of Toronto, Canada who is co-managed by Jay-Z’s Roc Nation entered with her “MF Life” program… Grammy-Award Winner, R&B/Pop singer Melanie Fiona delivered her popular repertoire with electricity and high energy while the fans sang along and responded to her call every command. She had the audience moving to the funky sounds and rhythms delivered by her sensational band and background singers. Like a Queen Bee, Ms. Fiona drew the crowd to the stage like bees drawn to honey as she held a dance party that went on for two hours.

The final day, Errol Barrow Day, took the attendees to the grounds of Tom Hinds’ property nestled in the mountain overlooking the stunning vistas of St. Joseph with the fresh east coast breezes cooling you gently with sweet music.

At his famous outdoor Naniki Amphitheatre the crowd began to settle in for a full day Jazz picnic. Celebrating the birthday of the Father of Barbados, the lineup once again was a mind-blowing experience not to be outdone even by the intermittent sprinkles. After a full day of performances the final two performers were the Barbados’ First Lady of Jazz Cici and the King of Calypso Dr. Anthony “Mighty Gabby” Carter.

Present at the event was Nnenna Freelon who gave a surprise impromptu acapella version of “Skylark” so warmly received by the Mighty Gabby that he chimed in for the final two bars and hugged her in total appreciation. Earlier in the afternoon he was interviewed by two local teens participating in the Film Documentary workshop conducted by Jaris Reed Group. Danielle Jones 17 years old and Jalissa Marshall 16 years old interviewed Festival promoter Tom Hinds as well as “Mighty Gabby.” who shared his life experiences and offered expert advice regarding the business of the music.

Following this initial workshop as co-anchors for “Jazz: Backstage” part of the “Backstage Series” produced by the Jaris Reed Group a non-profit organization, these students will continue their training sessions with a local production company. Dressed in his beautiful green suit he took the stage backed by the Barbados Community College Nonet and gave the crowd the most magnificent musical treat ever. His presentation included hits like “Summertime”, “Riots” and the popular “Emerton”. For this local musical treasure to close the Safari was truly a sign that the rest of the safari will be as equally great as the launch event in Barbados.

Since you missed the first don’t miss the rest… the next stops which travel to the islands of Antiqua March 1-2, featuring David “Happy” Lewis, and Harlem’s own Danny Mixon. Please utilize the contact information below for your trip to the next Naniki Caribbean Jazz Safari where the only thing that bites you will be the greats sound of sweet music in the cool nightly breezes!

Part II Naniki Caribbean Jazz Safari – Antigua

Naniki, which gets its name from an Arawak word meaning “full of life", travels taking the sweet sounds of music and education to eager fans and students. If you have never been on a cruise or a safari and great music is your passion then you can get both for the price of a ticket to any event at the Naniki Caribbean Jazz Safari. The inaugural event promoted by Barbados businessman Tom Hinds is a dream of a lifetime. After a successful beginning in Barbados in January he took to the sea and air to land his musical extravaganza this time on the beautiful island of Antigua in March 1 through 2. The talent pool he pulls from is lineup of varied group in all genres as well as hit makers.

On the Friday night at Dean William Lake Cultural Centre in St. John the smooth sound from Archie Alleyne & Kollage were enjoyed to the huge crowd but the night closed with the fireworks provided by Harlem legend Danny Mixon and his quartet of Lyle Atkins on bass, George Ray on drums and James Steward on Tenor and soprano reeds.

Danny being the true showman that he is played to the crowd with Bobbie Shorter type serenades occasionally looking over his right shoulder to flash that boyish smile. He had already won the crowd over with his apt selection of tunes opening with “Sugar” followed by “Chelsea Bridge” and Freddie Hubbard’s “Up Jumped Spring”. When he stood to explain the next piece he captured the audience with the heart rendering story of performing on the date of his mother (deceased) birthday. Explaining her favorite song “Misty” was a hit the way he performed it and whenever company visited he was commanded to perform it.

Well after he sat to perform it not only did he do so in a transindental like manner but referenced several musical phrases within to make this version truly his own, certainly one never heard by this writer before. After the completion of this performance he rose to a standing ovation. He finished the evening with “All Blues” from Miles Davis songbook and a bossa nova tempoed “Recorder Me”.

He then introduced St. Louis vocalist Denise Thimes to the stage for a set which included ‘World on A String”, “Sentemental Mood”, “My Romance” and closing out here set was “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore” and finally “Route 66”. Danny closed the evening with a Caribbean party tune playing his piano imitating a Tin Pan rendition of “Fungi Mama”. Later after the show he signed autographs, did an interview with a local television station and took photos with those new fans that remained after the show.

DAY 2

The Traveling Guitar Foundation along with Van Taylor Productions and the Jaris Reed Group conducted music and film workshops for secondary school students in Antigua. The programs were sponsored by BulLion Entertainment in conjunction with the Naniki Caribbean Jazz Safari Festival series.

Soul/blues rocker Derek McKeith and his Trio opened the second show of the festival at Antigua’s Shirley Heights outdoor venue. McKeith (Director, West Coast School Programs, Traveling Guitar Foundation) danced to his rendition of Michael Jackson’s “Rock with You” literally kicking off his shoes, also ventured into the crowd. He spotlighted a group of students who were present from the musicians' workshop he co-hosted with Tim Webb, Van Taylor, and Anre' DaCosta (Director of Business Development, TGF) earlier in the day. That program included a presentation of brand new acoustic and electric guitars to four schools.

The instruments were donated by TGF Founder Damon Marks, Schecter Guitars and BulLion Entertainment. Judging from the smiles on the student’s faces when playing the electric and acoustic masterpieces the workshop was a smashing success. Promoter Tom Hinds was on hand for the presentation. Later that evening he was interviewed in a workshop hosted by Jaris Reed Group promoting Film Documentary Production for Teens by student Lizelle Roberts. “You should not be surprised if before the year ends you hear the safari has touched down in Antigua again," said Tom Hinds, festival executive producer.

“The kind of support that we have been getting is really overwhelming." He is considering the proposal by Minister of Tourism John Maginley that the festival be hosted during the September/October lull in the tourism season.

After interviewing Tom Hinds she promptly sat down with Winston Anthony Bailey recipient of the Naniki Caribbean Jazz Safari “Legends Award” to get his view on the future of the music business in the islands, his ideas on the youth of the day and their interests in his type of musical heritage and overall feeling of having a festival of its type in Antigua. Stating “I have never done anything like this before” the young 15 year old displaying now shyness at all says she has a new outlook on being visible.

After a brief intermission the crowd settled back to prepare for more smooth sounds and tasty harbor breezes. The next act to take the stage happened to be a son of Antiguan soil and a fine Flugelhorn master. Happy Lewis and his quartet wowed the raining crowd into the wee hours.

Next up on the musical radar are the islands of St. Vincent April 26-28 and Grenada in late May. The Naniki message of great food, fun for the family sultry soulful sounds of music in unbelievably gorgeous scenery plus education for youth will fill the island and stay on the lips of those lucky enough to see long after it moves on.

Once you get a taste you will never forget!

For more information: [email protected]
Tel: 246 844 7970

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