NASSAU, The Bahamas – As the musicians and performers end their week of involving themselves in Rake’n’Scrape on Cat Island in early October 2010, Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture the Hon. Charles Maynard applauded the partnership and exchanges of expertise that will culminate with a Paris performance of the Bahamian musical art form.
“This is definitely a wonderful opportunity for The Bahamas and we are very proud to be a part of it,” Minister Maynard said recently about the project.
The initiative, entitled the “Viva Rake’n’Scrape Paris Project”, is a partnership with the Ministry, the Ministry of Tourism and corporate sponsors, and was spearheaded by Project Manager Angelique McKay.
It entails Paris-based Bahamian singer and entertainer Diane Hamilton bringing French stakeholders to Cat Island to learn about the “birthplace of rake’n’scrape” and rehearse in anticipation of taking the collaborated groups to Paris for a marquee performance.
Ms. Hamilton and the award-winning Cat Island rake’n’scrape group Ophie and the Webbsites are slated to perform at Vibrations Caraibes (Vibration Caribbean) Festival in November. Regional cultural legend Calypso Rose is slated to also perform at the same event. The performance will be the first time Bahamian culture is showcased at the festival.
“Cat Island authenticated everything I knew when I was growing up in Nassau and San Salvador,” after the Cat Island rehearsals. “The way people were, the generosity, the simplicity, the tranquility, the children, everything was so perfect to me. I was in paradise.
“I was very happy and when we go back to the Festival, I will have nothing but praise for what you have done down here and the way we have been treated and welcomed,” she added. “When we there, in the ‘birthplace’ of the music, I suddenly realised that that was the best idea that could possibly be come up with.”
“I know something about Bahamian music; but I would know more about the singer/songwriters like Phil Stubbs,” said French photographer and visual producer Patrick Rouchon. “I was amazed by the energy and the natural aspects of this music.”
Ms. Hamilton, whose recent album is entitled “A Bahamian in Paris” also featured a collaboration with Bahamian recording artist Ancient Man, said she could not thank Ms. McKay, the Ministry and other stakeholders enough for the part they played in the project.
“I feel that it is important for people out there to know who we are and that we have a culture and that we have people who have given us a legacy that is worth sharing and protecting,” Ms. Hamilton said.
Minister Maynard said that for a festival like the one in Paris, rake’n’scrape is one of the best ways to introduce people to Bahamian musical expression.
“It is very unique … it is one of the most natural forms of music that exists in the world, using instruments that are not necessarily musical instruments and creating wonderful music,” Minister Maynard said. “I think that that is really going to capture the imagination of the people who attend the festival.
“And, of course, with tourism being our number one industry, what better way to promote The Bahamas than to show how rich our culture is.”
“When we take what we are to rest of the world, it says to them that ‘Hey, here is a country that has a unique something to offer,’” Director of Culture Dr. Linda Moxey Brown said. “We are that country that has more than that uniqueness.”
“We are proud of who we are as a Bahamian and it is always good to showcase that part of us,” she added.
Minister Maynard re-iterated his Ministry’s support of such exchanges and related the various projects that it assisted in over the past three years, carrying Bahamian cultural expressions, such as Junkanoo, rake-n-scrape and visual arts to the United Kingdom.
However, Minister Maynard said, this project is carrying rake’n‘scrape style of music to Paris and, at the same time, is taking the exchanges into “another dimension” by bringing part of if to Cat Island and then back to Europe.
“It makes it even more special,” he said. “We are going to highlight some of our cultural giants in Cat Island, as part of this whole exchange.
“This whole idea of cultural exchange, which has been a three-year journey, has, in my opinion, really exploded into a real exchange of cultures in terms of rake-n-scrape being integrally placed in a very prestigious festival in Paris and we know that this is going to bring many opportunities not only for our artists, but also in terms of the promotion of The Bahamas and Bahamian culture worldwide.”
Project Manager for the initiative Ms. McKay said that working on such projects is “living out a dream” for her, being able to take another Bahamian art form to such a vibrant city as Paris and showcase what the Bahamas has to offer the world.
She added that while Ms. Hamilton’s team was in Cat Island, they had a chance to immerse themselves in the dances, history and even the rhyming spirituals that are a part of the island’s heritage.
“The people of Cat Island are very receptive to this particular project,” Ms. McKay said. “It allows us to really develop our Family Island festivals.
“Persons would be able to hear rake’n’scrape in another part of the world and their interest will be piqued. They will want to know where they could go to hear this; so that is an ‘automatic’ that the Rake’n’Scrape Festival is that place to be,” Ms. McKay added. “You have an entire weekend of activities and you can now put that in as your vacation destination.
“It boosts cultural tourism for The Bahamas. It boosts domestic tourism for the people of Cat Island; so it is a win-win situation all around.
“All I am interested in is when people come to The Bahamas, they want to hear more rake-n-scrape or rhyming spirituals or want to learn more about icons like Joseph Spence,” Ms. Hamilton said. “If that happens, then I would like that is all I would like to do.”
Minister Maynard said that his ministry happily supported the initiative, having Ms. McKay, who is also an officer of the ministry, work all the projects for the past three years and giving some financial contribution to make it all tangible.
“We find that in these kind of situations that once the ministry or the government is behind it, the corporate community is more willing to support as well; so we are happy to lead the way in that respect,” Minister Maynard said.
CEO of Sky Bahamas Airlines Kenneth Romer said that his company was happy to be the major corporate sponsor for the event because it speaks to their corporate mandate.
“When Angelique spoke to us and spoke about assisting in preserving and promoting our own culture, it was a ‘no-brainer’ for our organisation,” Mr. Romer said. “Many Bahamian companies are in it only for the profits; but we believe that in our company there are certain things that we must do to contribute to our national growth and development, to partner and to make as many cultural events happen.
“Thus far, I think that more than any other airline, we have partnered with and sponsored with the many cultural festivals throughout The Islands of The Bahamas,” Mr. Romer added. “This is just one of the many things that we are doing to support cultural things in The Bahamas. We have done so much in the past and, as a part of who we are, we will continue doing it in the times to come.”
Cleophas “Ophie” Webb of the Cat Island Rake-n-Scrape band Ophie and Webb Site said that they are very proud of their Cat Island heritage and is happy and honoured to take part in such an international project.
“I would like to take our culture rake-n-scrape to the rest of the world,” Mr. Webb said. “The opportunity that is afforded me now … I am so grateful to the Minister and Diane and Ms. McKay who are going to make all this possible.
“I can assure you that the Webbsites is going to go over there and make The Bahamas proud because we like what we do and we know that our culture is an important part of our heritage and is something that we must be proud of and we must take it to the rest of the world,” Mr. Webb added.
“People at the Festival can be assured that they will be getting a taste of something authentically Bahamian,” Ms. Hamilton said. “These are skilled Bahamian musicians, musicians that grew up in this music, live this music, and many of the songs are ones that I snag when I was a child and we need Bahamians for this.
“Bahamians have a kind of aura around them and I know what it is. When you see us, you know that there is something about us that is real and that is something I cannot invent.”
“As a real music fan, to be with Bahamian musicians on stage is the treat of my life,” Mr. Rouchon added.
“I am happy with the decision to take the rehearsals to the ‘birthplace of rake’n’scrape’ so that they could be fully submerged in the culture of The Bahamas and really see what brings rake’n’scrape to life,” Ms. McKay said. “And the fact that their ‘studio’ was the Turning Point, which is a various famous cultural landmark and venue in Cat Island where many performers were showcased.”
“This is going to entice those concert goers to want to come to The Bahamas and experience firsthand, in its natural environment, what The Bahamas is all about,” Minister Maynard said. “I can imagine that Ophie and his crew will not miss the Cat Island Rake’n’Scrape Festival next year so that they can see thousands of French persons in Cat Island to see rake’n’scrape in its full context.”