By Melissa Rollock
BRIDGETOWN, Barbados (BGIS) -- Musical icon, Dr Anthony "The Mighty Gabby" Carter has been credited for piloting a course towards world heritage long before Barbados ever received the UNESCO inscription for Historic Bridgetown and its Garrison.
The assertion was made by Barbados Minister of Culture, Stephen Lashley, as he addressed a dinner ceremony for the renowned calypsonian last Wednesday night. The event was held to celebrate the honorary doctorate that was bestowed on him by the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus.
He described Carter's popular song Emmerton as a "fitting tribute to what Barbados should do to preserve its heritage," noting: "Emmerton is certainly a master stroke of a song. To my mind, it is not only a song but it is, in fact, a historical reflection of that time in Barbados when a village called Emmerton was threatened and not only recognised that Emmerton was one of those Barbadian villages that was about to disappear, but the song itself reminds us of our historical past, [and] our treasures of Barbados.
"Of course, within the context of what has happened to Historic Bridgetown and its Garrison, now a World Heritage Property, those songs sung and penned by Gabby remind us of the heritage that we have. I certainly feel that this phenomenal calypsonian will be remembered for perhaps, piloting the course towards world heritage status because that song Emmerton, was a fitting tribute not only to those stalwarts who developed inner Bridgetown, in terms of the village life of Bridgetown, but it was a fitting tribute to what Barbados should do to preserve its heritage."
The culture minister also presented the musical maestro with a wooden sculpture in honour of his doctorate. Lashley pointed out that The Mighty Gabby's songs were not just enjoyable, but were "historical repertoires of significant events in the history of Barbados". He added that popular renditions such as "Jack" and "Boots" not only reflected important political events but would redound to the development of Barbadians as a people.
"His song ‘Jack' certainly was Gabby's phenomenal statement to the fact that our beaches should never be privatised. I believe that has sounded a warning bell throughout the Caribbean where other countries are faced with the spectra of beaches becoming private. So, after that song was sung by Gabby, I don't believe that anybody would make any beaches in Barbados private.
"‘Boots' [which was banned], was and still continues to be a very serious calypso. It was a song that had to be sung at that time. The thing about most, if not all of Gabby's songs is that while they were sung at different times in his development as a calypsonian, they all resonate even today. They are all relevant," Lashley explained.
He challenged the guest of honour to do a remake of Boots that would include a music video involving young people, as a way to inspire them.
In response, Carter said that his life and career were influenced by a number of individuals but it was music producer Eddie Grant who had the greatest impact on his development as an artiste.
"Eddie always used to say ‘Gabberts, you are not making the music for today. Ten, 15, 20 years from now, unless I am wrong and I've never been wrong, these songs are going to be played'. I couldn't see it at the time, of course ... but he saw something different and something that was more visionary and it proved that he was correct.
"I want to thank everybody in the arts not just calypso, because they encouraged me and told me I could do it. I felt honoured even for the artistes I had the opportunity to write for. I had great experiences with people like Super Blue, David Rudder, [and] The Lion. I am eternally grateful for the chance and the opportunity that Barbados afforded me. Sometimes the songs got banned; so what?
Eventually [the bans] were lifted. I will never forget people like Tony ‘Admiral' Nelson and all the other DJs that made sure that this music got played on a consistent basis. Roy Byer, the National Cultural Foundation and all of my tent managers and the fan base -- I want to thank all of you," Carter acknowledged.