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Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The Bermuda Gombey An Untapped Potential

Striking a pose with a Gombey after their performance at the Davis Mother's day Celebration at Hermatage Lane 2008.

It is always a good thing to visit another country and be fascinated by the cultural mystique of that country. It is even a better thing to get an opportunity to dwell in that place, experience and gets to understand what make the people tick and even more so understand the cultural art form of that country.

I was fortunate to have had such an experience in Bermuda. I came to Bermuda and for the four years plus I was there. So I dive head first into the Bermudian culture. I understood that one can only be effective in a community if one understand the culture and get to know the people. I got to know the culture and the talents that contribute to the culture from which germinated the rich heritage that Bermuda possesses. My interest was peaked as a professional and as well as for the following reasons:

  • I have an over heighten sense of curiosity; hence some of my Bermudian friends referred to me as being porky. I could not take offence because it was the truth.

  • I was involved in the arts in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, my participation in the national dance festival and other dance production had once earn me the nomination of best male dancer.

  • I was also a Gospel artist back in the day, performing in all the biggest gospel concerts alongside the biggest regional and international artist.

  • I have written and recorded many songs for different. Gospel, calypso, Christmas carol etc.
While I was in Bermuda I made it my business to attend concerts, presentations, exhibitions, recitals etc. Apart from being affiliated to and my interaction with the members of the P.H.C Majorettes my favorite was the beautiful rhythm, splendid colors, the agility and the potential of the Gombey. I even wrote a Gombey (with the rich Gombey rhythm) song which I will cause to be record one of these days. I love the pulsating rhythm of the Gombey drums, I was fascinated by the detailed designs of the costumes and I was intrigued by the agility and energy of the performers.

What troubled me however was the lack of story telling that was embedded in the performances. The Gombey troop presents freestyle dancing. Free style dancing is where a dance troop give individual dancers the spotlight to express there impromptu creative skills.
From my understanding; Gombey dancing is what you call tribal dancing and as such the tribes had different dances to celebrate different events, ceremonial and otherwise. All of the dances told the story of the occasion they were celebrating.

This aspect of dance is missing from the Gombey presentation. Each troop need to come up with several concepts that they will portray in their presentation. They must name the concepts, choreograph formations and moves and arrange music to match that concept. Such music can be arranged without infringing on the uniqueness of the troops individual drum style and rhythm.

Some simple concepts the troops can bang about are:

  1. Choosing a chief: where eligible elders compete for the head/chief of the tribe

  2. Battle for the bride: where eligible bachelors vie for the right to choose the best female for his bride.

  3. The victory dance: a dance to celebrate a victory over the enemy (what ever enemy it was).

  4. The death dance: a dance to celebrate the life of a falling elder, chief etc.

  5. The War Dance etc.
The troops can even address current issues. Here is where the creativity of the choreographer comes in.

There are many more concepts that can be explored. This can have many advantages especially in the tourism industry such as:

  • develop the tourist product

  • make the dance more marketable

  • develop choreographers

  • develop new music style (that is unique to Bermuda)

  • enhances the musicians creative abilities
Gombey dancing is very intriguing as it is but this twist will mark the evolution of the art as it is known. There is nothing wrong with change; change is good because it represents the evolution of the people. What is critical however, the powers that be must ensure that such changes are properly documented. If the culture is properly documented and the changes are recorded then the progression of and culture will never be lost.