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Caribbean Heat sets southern Taiwan on fire

Caribbean Heat sets southern Taiwan on fire

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by Kenton Chance

The sweet sounds of steel pan pierced the air; masqueraders displayed carnival costumes and nimble feet and elastic-like waists moved tantalizingly to the lilting melodies of soca.

These strong elements of Caribbean culture were introduced in Pintung County, southern Taiwan, as the group Caribbean Heat took center stage at the 2006 International Maliba Hunting Festival, last Friday, October 7.{{more}}

The group of mainly students, comprising six Vincentians, two Grenadians and one Belizean, was a hit among the audience of mostly descendants of aboriginal Taiwanese.

Cherene Thomas, keeping pace with the rhythms of Grenadian Kellon Bubb on goat skin drum, spoke in poetry of the beauty of St Vincent and the Grenadines: its landscape, seascape and people.

During the dance segment, Shizi Township Mayor Hou Chin-chu and his predecessor Chien Tung-ming, now county councilor, were ushered on stage to receive lessons from Caribbean Heat on how to move the waists and hips Caribbean style.

The audience was fired up as the multi-talented Vashti Carr, the accomplished pannist who had earlier thrilled the crowd with a medley of Caribbean songs, gave instructions in Chinese and demonstrations of the dance moves.

The other performing members of the group, Vincentian Lavern Phillips, Grenadians Vondell Burke and Kellon and Belizean Aron Cutkelvin, joined Vashti in whipping up the audience as they danced in well choreographed moves to a hot mix of soca and reggae dancehall songs.

Each segment of the performance – costume parade, poetry, pan and dance – was preceded by explanations in English and Chinese and information on the location of St Vincent and Grenada and the elements of their culture on display.

Caribbean Heat’s performance was described by persons close to the festival as the highlight of the event.

“We are very proud of you,” said Charles Li Assistant Director General of the Latin American and Caribbean Affairs Department, Ministry of Foreign Affairs. “This is something that people here have not seen before.”

The impact of the group was very obvious, as everywhere the members went the next day they were greeted by people smiling, shaking their hips and asking questions of every kind about the Caribbean and its people.

“This is a prime example of the power of the arts to create global links and to give visibility to our small countries,” said Peggy Carr, the force behind the group.

The festival also provided an opportunity for the visitors to learn about elements of aboriginal Taiwanese culture and to compare them to what obtains in their home countries.

The Hunting Festival is a major event on the calendar of descendants of Taiwan’s indigenous peoples and draws thousands of people from all over Taiwan.

Apart from the live stage shows, the events this year included archery, spear-throwing and boar-hunting competitions; exhibition and sale of traditional wear, hunting garb and equipment; and the sale and display of traditional food and drinks.

As members of Caribbean Heat left Pintung on Saturday afternoon, plans were already afoot for their wider involvement in next year’s festival.

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