by Tracy Highland
Montreal recorded above average temperatures last week, a fitting welcome to the Bajan contingent that rocked the Taste Of The Caribbean (TOTC) festival in the city’s Old Port last weekend. The festival, in its 17th year, brings together the food, culture and music of the Caribbean in a four-day celebration in one of most picturesque cities in North America.
This year, Naniki Music Festival was invited to give a presentation, and took its popular multi-genre flair to TOTC’s opening night with the help of Asher Otto and her band Itchy Feet from Antigua, the Nicholas Brancker Orchestra and Gabby from Barbados.
Performing to a moderate first-night audience, the Naniki team didn’t disappoint. Asher Otto delivered a soulful opening performance, mixing original compositions with popular pop covers like Pharrell’s Get Lucky. By the time the Nicholas Brancker Orchestra took the stage, the audience was in a dancing mood.
The collective orchestra, led by renowned musician and composer Nicholas Brancker, comprised a core of six Barbadian musicians, string musicians from the Conservatoire de Musique de Montreal and a horn section from Montreal’s Generation Brass.
Despite being unable to rehearse, owing to a flight delay and late arrival caused by a bomb scare on a flight to Barbados from Montreal, which left band members grounded on the day they were to depart, the orchestra executed passionate renditions of Brancker’s original work much to the delight of the obvious music lovers in the audience.
Gabby closed the first night, and the reaction of the crowd, made up mostly at that point of young college students with no obvious Caribbean roots, was a testament to the power of good music. They marched to Government Boots, they warned Jack that “dat beach is mine”, and they swayed as Gabby, accompanied by Brancker’s band, sang about his Emmerton.
Executive producer of Naniki Music Festival, Tom Hinds, said: “This is just another demonstration of the Naniki brand moving across borders. The visit to Montreal continues our mission to be ambassadors for Barbados through music and cultural exchanges.
“Through the Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc. and the keen support from its Canadian office, Barbados is poised to strengthen its tourism and cultural appeal to international audiences,” Hinds added.
The second night of the TOTC belonged to international soca star and son of the soil Rupee. He took the stage to a packed audience, delivering an energetic set of fan favourites from start to finish. If his roll call to the crowd was any indication, Caribbean transplants to Montreal were out in full force on Friday night.
When he crooned his popular line “Love you all”, the crowd reciprocated. It was obvious they had love for him too. They knew his music and could be heard calling for his hits Ice Cream and Tempted To Touch. Rupee also gave them a taste of his new music for Crop Over 2016.