Musicians of Class
Bassy - Love Vine
November 17, 2023

Musicians of Class

My best days serving on de Carnival Development Committee was scouting foh folklore material. My fair-foh-it group was our unique four or five piece String band wid locally made Guitar, Cuatro, Banjo, Bamboo Flute (Picollo) and Maracas (Shack Shack).

De lead instrument was either Bamboo Flute, Saxophone or Violin. De Rose Hall Strings of Pearl was led by de late Leopold “Anto” Anthony and he was ah local Maestro who played Flute, Sax and Violin and mastered dem all. He made Bamboo Flutes and sold dem wid ah book of instructions on “How to Play the Bamboo Flute” by Leopold Anthony. Ah have ah copy of dat lickle treasure some-way in de house. Of course he was ah Headmaster and community leader, played music all over North Leeward. . He led ah Nah-shun-all String Band from SVG to Carifesta and later in 1986 was leader of de Nah-shun-all String Band to ah Commonwealth Folk Festival in Wales, playing all over de UK.

Anto was full ah fun. Dey’s de time when he was to go to Cuba to have his eyes treated. He happened to have been in town when he heard dat de Plane wid de first batch of Vincy Eye Patients to Cuba was leaving, he boarded de plane wid only his flute, dat is what his son-in-law told me, no name no warrant.

But de high point of dat trip, was when he landed in Cuba dey was ah Cuban Orchestra welcoming de visitors. And de Maestro immediately pulled out his flute and started to play de Cuban Nah-shun-all- Song ‘Guantanamera’. He was invited by de Band to join dem on stage, and de rest of his VIP Treatment in Cuba is His-story. He was my long standing personal friend, he was con-fee-dent some would say ah bit boast-fulll! Had promised dat de records will one day say he lived to one hundred. At 95 he went too far down de wicket and was stumped. Anto would ah bin 101 years ole last September.


My other fair-foh-it String Band Personality is Leslie “Boy-ee” Roach, better known to all his Choppins Village family as “ Uncle Bar-ye.” He was ah member of de Young Island String Band and later ah member of de Nah-shun-all String Band dat represented SVG at Carifesta B’dos and de Commonwealth Folk Festival in Wales. He had ah rough childhood being de eldest of nine siblings. He had to join Mom in de garden planting food to sell and mek sure his younger siblings got ah decent Eddy-care-shun. Den he worked on de road gangs where wages were better in dem days.

Ah missing instrument in de local String Band is de Bass. Some bands use ah drum from which only one note is played. Some bands use ah player blowing ah piece of PVC or ah conch shell, but getting just one note.. Boo! Boo! Boo! But when ah met Uncle Bar-ye, he was blowing ah piece of Bamboo, dat he called de Baha. Three joints or three feet long, getting ah Bass sound. Except when Uncle Bar-ye played he was able to extract several notes, de full C-scale, ah tremendous technique. He played so good dat he was selected to play wid de Nah- shun-all band.

Two weeks ago ah met his niece Samantha at de Independence Exhibition and surprisingly she said he was eating and drinking heartily and so on. Yuh could just imagine Samantha called yesterday to tell me Uncle Bar-ye had finally gone to meet his saviour, he was 97 years ole .

Uncle Bar-ye is some where in Heaven playing his Baha in Heaven’s Nah-shun-all String Band.

May he rest peacefully. And wid dat is gone ah gone again.

One Love Bassy.


Bassy Alexander is a land surveyor, folklorist and social commentator.