November 20, 2009
Vincy style Ivory and Steel excites Havana


SVG raised the bar! Excellent! Oh thanks for a wonderful evening!

A few of the comments coming from those who witnessed SVG at its best as Pan and Ivory reigned on a warm Havana evening Independence Day. The occasion was the Embassy of St. Vincent and the Grenadines organized celebration of 30 years of Nationhood.{{more}}

For a bit more than an intended 30 minutes, pan twin Rodney Small and Reajuan Baptiste, superbly anchored by the equally brilliant Sean Sutherland on piano, rendered a joyous performance that more than a week later still evokes positive review.

The trio had been invited to perform by Ambassador Dexter Rose, continuing a trend of exposing the best Vincentian talent to a very diverse and discerning audience in Cuba to celebrate SVG’s Independence. The audience included members of Havana’s 103 Diplomatic Missions, Cubans Government Officials, Vincentian and other West Indian descendants born in Cuba, and students.

The Ivory and Steel trio, married for this occasion with four excellent Cuban musicians led by university percussion lecturer Alex Major on drums, Jorge Gonsalez, bass, Isael Santana, congas and assorted percussion, and Ira Jova on maracas, wooed their audience through a repertoire which included Vincy standards such as Beckets “SVG My Homeland” and Rasum’s “Perseverance”, in what Ambassador Rose has described as a major triumph.

The Ambassador told the audience that merging the talents of Vincentian musicians with the schooled prowess of Cuban musicians had long been a dream of his. And this concert proved just how powerfully effective that combination could be.

Reajuan and Rodney, as they interchanged on their tenor and double second pans, held the audience, many of whom had never seen this instrument before, spellbound as they graced through well known Latin standards – and to the Havana audience- unknown Vincy /Caribbean numbers.

The set began with “Girl from Ipanema” before Sean Sutherland majestically keyed through a classically inspired introduction to “SVG, My Homeland” before Rodney Small’s explosive entrance to the verse. People who had never heard this number before were grooving along. So it was with the second calypso, the old standard “Ole lady walk a mile and tillaylay”. Who ever doubted kaiso’s appeal to international audiences?

Bob Marley’s “Redemption Song” played in mid tempo reggae rhythm followed and was accompanied by Rasum’s classic “Perseverance” before going into the Jazzy “Summertime” played in aggressive funk idiom. This was followed by a mellow interpretation of the Michael Jackson classic “Human Nature”.

The Vincentian Diaspora was ably represented when Ambassador Rose invited onstage Vincentian descendant Sidney Campbell, a university professor of violin, along with his teenaged music student daughter Janet, also on violin, to interpret “My Way” accompanied by maestro Sean Sutherland on piano.

Other Vincentian descendants including Triple Olympic boxing champ Teofilo Stevenson and sculpter Rosendo Ash and their families cheered from the audience as they were being represented, welcomed back to SVG, albeit for now, from a Havana base.

The concert ended on a high note with an interpretation of Kevin Little’s Turn Me On, chorus sung by two gorgeous female singers Idania and Susana who, for a few brief seconds, were joined by the Vincentian Ambassador on vocals.

Ambassador Rose was full of appreciation for the National Commercial Bank and the National Insurance Services for facilitating the airline tickets for the musicians and to the trio themselves for giving up study time at the Jamaica School of Music (Reajuan and Rodney) and at McGill U (Sean) to come celebrate and this way spread Vincy talent abroad in this Homecoming year.

A church service featuring Pastor George Frederick from SVG as featured preacher and a student association organized weekend retreat and congress were also major features of the SVG Cuba Independence celebrations.