Local Vibes
January 31, 2014
Bequia Mount Gay Music Fest 2014: ‘The Best Ever!’

Bajan Band of the Year, Soka Kartel, Cover Drive, NJ30+ and Vincentian calypsonian Alston Becket Cyrus all rocked De Reef last weekend for the Bequia Tourism Association’s 11th anniversary Bequia Mount Gay Music Fest, which ran from Thursday, January 23 to Sunday January 26!{{more}}

Record numbers of visitors came to Bequia for the weekend, filling every hotel room and apartment to capacity. Over 200 yachts graced Admiralty Bay adding to the festive atmosphere, while hundreds of mainlanders traveled to Bequia for the weekend to join local Bequians in anticipation of a fabulous weekend of entertainment.

Indeed the 2014 Bequia Music Fest did not disappoint with patrons universally agreeing the three-day event was the “best ever” starting with sweet pan music on Thursday night, fantastic blues on Friday night with the “Mustique Blues Fest on Bequia” followed by the open air jam session with local and visiting artistes on Saturday afternoon. Saturday night saw the high voltage performances by Marius Charlemagne and NJ30+, with Cover Drive and Soka Kartel topping off the weekend on Sunday with the famous calypsos of the one and only Becket!

Minister of Tourism, Sport and Culture the Hon Cecil McKie visited Bequia for the festival.

Speaking at the official opening on the Friday night event before the Mustique Blues Festival took to the stage, the Minister expressed his pleasure at being present and welcomed visitors, yachtsmen and all attendees to the Bequia Music Fest – one of the many festivals that St Vincent and the Grenadines has to offer. The Minister gave thanks to the new director of the Bequia Music Fest Sabrina Mitchell and the Bequia Tourism Association for a job well done. Conceived by the BTA 14 years ago to create a much-needed boost to the tourism economy on Bequia, the Minister acknowledged that the not-for-profit Bequia Music Fest is now well established as a highly significant event in the national tourism calendar. Sabrina Mitchell also welcomed all patrons and expressed her confidence that the Music Fest has something for everyone, with a wide variety of music genres to please all musical tastes.

This year’s event kicked off Thursday 23rd at the Frangipani Hotel, when a record crowd packed out the world famous waterfront bar to hear the outstanding young talent of the 11- piece Elite Steel Orchestra from mainland St Vincent. Friday night belonged to the Mustique Blues Festival with record crowds turning out to see the legendary Dana Gillespie perform with her London Blues Band and guests. Basil Charles introduced the electrifying evening which included guest performances by British Blues guitar legend Ian Siegal, Dino Baptiste on keyboard, “Best New Blues Artist” Zac Harmon and the extraordinary “Queen of the Blues” Shemekia Copeland. With Jake Zaitz on guitar, Jeff Walker on bass, Mike Paice on saxophone and harmonica, pianist Matthew Gest, and drummers Enrico Morena and Jamie Little, Dana Gillespie and her band and guests gave truly sensational performances, leaving the audience hungry for more. Basil Charles’ Mustique Blues musicians graciously volunteer their performance in Bequia in exchange for a generous contribution by the event organizers to the Basil Charles Education Foundation.

Music Fest gold sponsor the Bequia Beach Hotel in Friendship provided the perfect venue on Saturday afternoon for a relaxing jam by the beach. Impromptu performances by a wide group of local and visiting musicians including Colin Peters, Honky Tonics Louis O’Neil and Jan Smith, trumpeter Jim Coleman, Bob Berlinghof and Dave “Wry Worry” on guitar, Ken Haltenhoff on bass, drummer Scott Mills, “Patches” Knights on piano, Thomas Richards on bass, “Flour” Haddaway on drums, and Hermus “Sugars” Nelson’s Band Solutions winding up the evening before sundown. The Bequia Beach Hotel was the perfect setting to draw the crowds, as hundreds of people gathered in the lovely hotel gardens by the beach to eat, drink and enjoy the music.

Down at De Reef, the massive crowd on Saturday night enjoyed a perfect evening, with some liming outside under the stars to watch the action on the 20ft live feed screen, but most in the packed nightclub atmosphere inside the venue. After an opening set on Saturday night from Bequia’s band Infinity, it was the turn of NJ3O+ who gave a thrilling, high energy performance, featuring super-talented bassist Marius Charlemagne, brilliant young horn players Joseph Callender Jr on sax and 19-year old Kweku Jelani on trumpet, Juanita Clarke on percussion, Marlon Braithwaite on keyboards, with guest appearances by silky smooth vocalist Philip Scantlebury, and Music Fest favourite Toby Armstrong, who won ever more fans with his extraordinary guitar skills.

Then it was the turn of Cover Drive, the young Bajan band who gave a great performance with the sexy vocalist Amanda Reifer mesmerizing the patrons with hit song “Explode” and setting the stage for the memorable finale, the last act of the night – Bajan Band of the Year Soka Kartel. The house went wild with their electrifying performance, led by Andy “Blood” Armstrong, the 2013 Sweet Soca Monarch Champion of Barbados. Blood and Mikey Mercer’s “Roll it” and “Ah Cant Wait” mash up De Reef as patrons put their hands up and partied the night away with soca to a fever pitch till after almost 3 a.m.

Sunday afternoon at De Reef in Lower Bay saw a varied crowd of tourists, yachtsmen, Bequia residents and visitors from the mainland enjoy the closing day with great performances by the Kids on Pan Steel Orchestra, The Country Relatives, The Bequia Blues Band, Denzil Bacchus Blues Band from mainland St Vincent, and an electrifying jam session which included Marius Charlemagne, Jim Coleman, Joseph Callender, Kweku Jelani and former Exodus guitarist Richard. Uthan and Carleen Mc Intosh’s Bequia band Infinity, and lead vocalist Juvell Leonard set the stage for the headliner on Sunday, probably the most anticipated performer of the weekend. As the sun went down, De Reef was packed to capacity as BECKET took to the stage with his famous hits like “Teaser,” “Small Pin” and “Nanny.” After 18 years of absence from Bequia, Becket’s performance was legendary! He had the crowd swinging and left them wanting more.

The visiting musicians were quick to offer their appreciation for the overall smooth running of the event, the hospitality – starting with the reception at Arnos Vale airport by a representative of the SVG Tourism Authority – and the unique relaxed and intimate atmosphere in Bequia for which the Bequia Music Fest is famous. “I am very satisfied with the event this year, the quality of the music and the incredible co-operation of all committee members and volunteers who worked so hard to ensure a well executed weekend for patrons, musicians and all involved’,” said director Sabrina Mitchell.

She went on to express her thanks to title sponsor Mount Gay Rum for their commitment to this festival for the past six years, and to gold sponsors LIME, and the Bequia Beach Hotel. Special thanks were given to Mrs Faylene Scrubb King and SVG Tourism Authority whose assistance is crucial to the Music Fest’s success. Mitchell also thanked silver sponsor the St Vincent Brewery, and additional sponsors Air Adelphi, Frangipani Hotel, De Reef, CRS Music & Media, (Barbados), Admiralty Transport, L’Auberge des Grenadines and Quik-Print (St Vincent). The Bequia Mount Gay Music Fest is also generously supported by Basil’s Bar Mustique, Nice Radio, Mountain Top Springs Water, Julie’s Guest House, Mac’s Pizzeria, Vintages Bequia (Agents for Mount Gay Rum), Bequia Technology Center, WAG Service Station, Nichols Garage St Vincent, Compass Publishing and Outhouse Graphics. Last but not least, thanks were given to all the musicians who made the 2014 Bequia Mount Gay Music Fest yet another fantastic event!