Arts

Leff A Mark on The Steel Pan

Mark Forde Debuts His New Album: My Island and Me

It was a charming evening at the Daphne Joseph Hackett Theatre, for the My Island and Me debut album launch by Barbadian international Pannist, Mark Forde.  The show opened to a humble audience, but the mood in the space was of high vibration.  Whilst waiting in my seat at the beginning, it was a little awkward, as the lights were up and you could see the musicians adding the finishing touches to the set up. Maybe a drawn curtain, or keeping the house closed until everything was completed could have helped with the polish, but that did not drop the quality of what was to be heard.

A quick clip back to the evening!

Mark came on in full swag in his memorabilia shirt, as well as his band mates, Dwayne Norville on Keyboard, Darren Massiah on guitar, Elyan Gordon on bass, Dwayne Marshall on Drums setting the mood. The music was full and solid from start, and filled the air of theatre. People could be seen rocking gently in their chairs, getting ready for an evening of musical marination. Throughout the show, there were pauses in between the pieces, where you were educated about the featured performers as well as stories which linked back to the songs.  Funny enough, Mark indicated to the audience that even though this event was for his debut album, it is not his first time performing original work for public consumption.  What is really stellar to mention, is that even though some of the evening, was punctuated with musical covers, those songs chosen and presented were all Barbadian! For example, Gospel Artist, John Yarde’s song, “Friends and Family” had a different language now being injected by the steel pan, and this also went for the song “Feting Family” by soca artist, Mikey Mercer which was later in the evening. It would seem as though Mark had a plan for this launch, in the themes of friends and family, as the stories trickled out as his invited featured performers ascended the stage.

The first featured performance, was by long time friend and mentor, keyboardist and musical educator, Lowrey Leon Worrell.  Giving him his flowers, Lowrey commended Mark on his work as a musician and reminisced on meeting him at fourteen years old, and now coming into his own in the music fraternity. They also introduced George – the keyboard, who also helped Lowrey, Mark and the rest of the band to play the song Beautiful which is an original piece by Leon, decided to his wife. Listening, you could hear the love in song, as Lowrey played, the keys were gentle but not fragile, and it kind of reminds this writer of an 80s type of LoFi, but interlacing that the steel pan, really added another dimension to it.  It was also lovely to see that IGM Stage Lighting was in on the vibe as well, as the flickering of lights went back to the rhythm of the music of the band, with sunset-esq elements on the background.

Feature number two was another international performer, trumpeter, Kweku Jelani. Both he and Mark did a phenomenal tribute to Mark’s grandmother, who was originally from Guyana, with a piece entitled, Sista Berna. The title name was inspired by the way in which people in the community would call her, and hence the name. This collaboration held a nostalgic, soca – jazz fusion, if you don’t mind the description, as this writer is not a musician, and does not know the official jargon; however, the feelings transpired at that time, encouraged memories, of my own Gran.  Of course Kweku did his original rendition “Do The Thang” which was soul upon soul upon soul. You need to check it out if you haven’t, but bare in mind that you will miss the guitar solo, by Darren Massiah which put you in the space of Jimmy Hendrix for a moment! LOVED IT!

After a short intermission, Mark “slap up” the pan again, this time with the song, “Steel and Soca”, he made mention here that he really tries to do more “conscious” soca songs because society here in Barbados, tends to focus on the seasonal party format and there is always space outside crop over to produce soca songs. It was also an absolute treat to see Imani on stage again. Her song, “Get Over”, originally sung with musical Stalwart Biggie Irie, seemed to touch her a little differently that evening, as she dedicated it to anyone going through a hard time, and she paced herself, making sure to connect with those giving her their undivided attention. Her voice was crisp and gave her whole heart! Hopefully the public will see more of her in future weeks to come.

The final performer of the evening was award winning international spoken word artist, DJ Simmons, who did a remix to Island In The Sun with Mark. His contribution of idyllic verse, spoke and reflected on the people, language, and culture within and of Barbados, which makes being a part of it extra special. 

Then the finale!  Euphony Steel Orchestra, comprised of: Hashim Durant , Maat Sadé, Kirralee Fields, Dwight Callender and Salief closed off the evening with hyped percussion, alongside Forde, which was interesting, because even though it was Mark’s night, he situated himself behind the younger members, instead of maybe to the side where he was for the evening. Even though now on the double tenor, It would make you think, that his placement indicated his support behind these new musicians, especially Hashim, who was the lead in the presentation and educated the audience on his original piece as well, which included crowd interaction, an immersive experience, this writer is still singing, “ta-dah-dah-dum” (you had to be there) 

I must mention here that as I close, I am not a reviewer or even a critic, but if I had to Mark, marks – ; out of 10 breadfruits, I would pick 9 for ya.  The show was worth the $50 price, original Bajan content all evening, even with the arrangements to other Bajan covers, added a unique flair to the aesthetic of the evening.  The talent was of an international standard and I felt proud to be sitting in my seat listening to what the music had to say. In the future, maybe Mark and team could look at the transitions in between some of the sets, to keep the polish high.  It is appreciated, that a lot goes on back stage, that the audience is unaware of and for his first showing, I really appreciated the work and effort! Congrats!

Empress Zingha is an author, story teller and time traveler. She holds a Master’s in Creative Arts Entrepurship and is also the Co-Founder of GineOn.com.

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