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Skarpyon, Andy Cruickshank light up Cuban Book Fair

Skarpyon, Andy Cruickshank light up Cuban Book Fair


They were announced with one liners, artistes totally unknown. But from the first few bars of Bob Marley’s Jamming, a vibe filled the Mella Theatre in Havana.{{more}} And from the wings emerged Shernell “Skarpyon” Williams to take total control of the capacity filled hall. The rest is now history, but the story must be told.

Skarpyon, and Vincentian crooner Andy Cruickshank are in Havana as part of St. Vincent and the Grenadines’ 10 man contingent to the 2012 Havana International Book Fair, and they did represent. Big!

Andy first emerged from the shadows to take his place at the piano, and from the first notes from his throaty toned voice, a hush fell over the theatre. In midst of a concert dedicated to Bob Marley, which began with a rendition of Redemption Song by dreadlocked Cuban singer songwriter Geraldo Alfonso, the classic Smile which flowed from Andy’s lips totally captivated the audience. The music savvy Cuban public knew they were in the presence of something special and they showed their appreciation with wild applause. So it was, too, when Andy moved into his second number, specially chosen for the occasion, Spanish Eyes. This, too, to rave response, and the audience wanted more.

More was to come as the Vincentian stamp of authority was imprinted as Skarpyon boldly entered the stage to pay tribute to Bob Marley with Jamming, and the many Cuban Rastafarians in the audience (yes, Cuba has a thriving Rasta community) went wild, along with the rest of the Reggae loving crowd. This was a rare treat for Cuban audiences being served authentic Reggae, this genre which thrives

in the Cuban underground. That night at the Fair dedicated to the Cultures of the Caribbean, there was genuine food being served on the platter at this theatre in the heart of Havana’s art deco Vedado district.

Skarypyon’s backing band, the jazz ensemble Gala Mayor, went into a version of the calypso classic St. Thomas to set the tone for the Vincy Ragga Soca Monarch to return. And return he did to set the audience wild with his Latin flavoured “Bamboleo”, invoking a hand in the air frenzy and setting the ladies screaming with his waist movements. Was this really an artiste performing for the first time before this public? Whoever would doubt the power of Ragga Soca?

The master puppeteer with his compatriot Andy Cruickshank at keyboards and accompanying vocals began the classic call and response instruction session: “everybody scream” and they did. Hands in the air, and the entire theatre rose to its feet. There was magic in the air.

But Skarpyon had only just started. His follow up number “Looking fine” continued to woo the audience now transformed into a typical Soca fete. All man on foot! This performance from this charismatic young Vincentian artiste tells a story of the possibilities of our music and the audiences that can be moved when exposed to Vincy Soca music. And promoters and other entertainers at home should take note.

Skarpyon ended his set going back to Bob Marley’s songbook with the anthem One Love, which had the audience singing along in unison, if not always harmony. Among a cast of performers where the Vincentians were the unknown, by the end of the Vincy set the rest of the show, though of good quality, seemed like an anti-climax. And this explains why Skarpyon’s images were all over the Cuban press and clips from his performance were being repeated on the TV major newscasts.

The Vincentian booth at the Fair is being visited by thousands of curious persons, many of whom may not be able to read the array of Vincentian literature on display, but who now have a greater appreciation of our country and its culture. Other Vincy artistes scheduled to perform during this ten day feast of literature,

art and music include Reajhuan Baptiste, Rodney Small and Darron Andrews, who are set to fly in from the Edna Manley School of Art for the event, child

pannist Saeed Bowman, and pan composer/arranger Hero Roberts. Poets Jimmy Prince and Dr. Edgar Adams are also due for readings of their work at literary fora.

This is St. Vincent and the Grenadines’ second year participating in the Havana International Book Fair, with the contingent from the Vincentian Association of Writers, Artists and Producers led by its president, former Minister of Culture René Baptiste.