Local Vibes
January 30, 2009
Crowds flock to Bequia Mount Gay Music Fest

Huge crowds attended the four-day Bequia Mount Gay Music Fest, held from January to 25. This was the Bequia Tourism Association’s 6th annual Music Fest, which this year welcomed Mount Gay Rum as headline sponsors.{{more}}

Ticket sales soared to over 3,000 as music lovers came from Bequia, the mainland, the Grenadines, from neighbouring Caribbean countries and from all over the world to enjoy four days of top-class musical entertainment.

Over sixty musicians performed at this year’s event, which attracted high praise from all sides for its excellent production and organization. Minister of Culture René Baptiste attended all three events at De Reef in Lower Bay as the guest of the newly-opened luxury Bequia Beach Hotel and the Bequia Tourism Association. The minister was joined on Friday night by Miss SVG and Miss Carival Ronique Dellimore, and declared she was delighted with the event: “There was wonderful music on the weekend… the atmosphere was one that cannot be described,” said the Minister, afterwards.

“The hospitality was at its very best … (and) visitors proclaimed it to be a wonderful festival. What a great cultural project! The Bequia Music Fest after six years has even more potential for growth and development,” she said.

After Thursday’s opening night at the Frangipani Hotel when the Elite Steel Orchestra from St. Vincent played to a record crowd, the event moved to the main venue in Lower Bay, where the event organizers and the management of De Reef and Dawn’s Beach Café had created an impressive entertainment venue with high-tech, all black stage, informal outdoor dining and a huge projection screen relaying the acts live to those who preferred to sit under the stars.

Friday night was “Mustique” night with the Mustique Blues Festival, led by Dana Gillespie and her London Blues Band returning to Bequia Music Fest for the sixth time. A series of outstanding sets from all the performers, including the unique guitar and percussion combo The Two Timers, blues maestros Ian Siegal and Joe Louis Walker and the incomparable blues and soul singer Ronnie Jones, brought the house down with cheers for encores lasting well into the early morning hours. Basil Charles’ Mustique Blues musicians generously volunteered their performance in Bequia in exchange for a substantial donation by the event organizers to the Basil Charles Education Foundation.

Saturday was the turn of Bequia musicians to wow the crowd, and the people of Bequia turned out in force to support their favourite musicians who entertained the 800-plus audience with their wide range of musical styles. These included The Kings of String (traditional Bequia string music), The Country Relatives (Country & Western, Bequia style), both of whom won a whole new fan base with their unique performances, singer/songwriter and acoustic guitarist Amanda Gooding, award winning vocalist Kyron Baptiste and Colin Peters with his Jamaican friends. The Music Fest’s co-director “Uncle” Louis O’Neil took to the stage on keyboard and directed an international “All Stars” band comprising Rick Bamford, Andre Wallace, Fred Absalom, Steve Salfield, Michael Boothman, Jim Coleman and Jan Smith.

Top billing on Saturday night was left to Toby Armstrong and his Blues Explosion from Barbados who had the crowd in raptures till nearly 2 o’clock in the morning with their unique brand of rock and blues. The line-up included Barbadian Jazz Musician of the Year David “Ziggy” Walcott who gave a virtuoso performance on steel pan and percussion, Garvey Griffiths on guitar and vocals, Jamal Browne on drums, Philip Archer (vocals) and Marius Charlemange on bass.

“Music Fest Sunday” kicked off with a Musical Breakfast at CantRememberTheName restaurant in Lower Bay, where over 100 people crammed in to hear Syl McIntosh and the Denzil Bacchus Band from St. Vincent perform. The final afternoon of entertainment took place back at De Reef, where New Orleans Jazz Band VSOP entertained a delighted crowd with their unique, old-style jazz, followed by a second appearance by All Stars musicians led by Louis O’Neil and joined for a guest appearance by Trinidadian singer Caroline Mair. As the sun went down, The Bequia Blues Band with Bob Berlinghof took to the stage and had the audience going wild when guitar legend Toby Armstrong joined them on stage.

The closing act was left to The Mount Gay Blues Band from Barbados who gave an electrifying performance of blues, reggae rock and soca, with guitarists Garvey Griffiths and Scott Zimmerman dueling together with Toby Armstrong in their

final set.

“So good I couldn’t believe I was in Bequia!” said one Bequian visiting from his home in Canada. “Just amazing!” “Fantastic shows and superb organization!” These were just some of the comments to be heard from people attending the shows, including showbiz professionals and other musicians.

Many of the visitors to Bequia had come especially for the Music Fest, flying in from all over the world. Attendance was noticeably up across the four days of events and there is no doubt that the event has become a major tourism attraction and has earned its place in the St. Vincent and the Grenadines calendar alongside Carnival, Bequia Easter Regatta and Nine Mornings.

The four-day event was covered live by both Nice Radio and Cross Country Radio, bringing the music and atmosphere to an even wider audience.