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Village drums to roll again *LINK*

Village drums to roll again
by Terry Joseph

You know it's the second weekend after Carnival in any year when the north-western alcove of St James is bustling, as the area gets ready for the Village Drums of Freedom presentation and this year, the 35 th anniversary of this event, titled Tribute to Our Cultural Icons, is no exception.

Driven by the tireless pair of devoted producers, Nyron Greenidge and Jerry Archee, the two-day programme annually hosts a combination of reggae and calypso performances, both dedicated to conscious lyrics and uplifting themes, deliberately designed to counter negative perceptions of the wider area and with the added bonus of an evening treat and concert for children at the start of Sunday's presentation.

The action takes place at the Ellie Mannette Park (off George Cabral Street just where it turns east) and begins at 9 pm tomorrow with the Reggae Fest, which presents two live bands, Belmont's Black Beat (featuring Million Dollar Voice and Ishasha) and the 12-Tribes Band with Khari Kill and Jah Melody. In addition, there will be a string of guest artistes and DJs Lion King, Forward Sound International and Black Chariot.

On Sunday, the programme starts at 4 p.m. with the children's show, which will feature the usual treats for the kids plus a two-hour show that includes Sister Theodora Ulerie doing poems and storytelling and youngsters showing their prowess at drumming and dance.

Immediately that show concludes, the Culture Fest begins, starting off with drumming groups Ntambu and Culture Shop, with presentations by the Footprints and Julia Edwards dancers, steelband music by Hummingbirds Pan Groove, Peake's Yachting Services Scrunters Pan Groove and consecutive national panorama champions, Digicel Phase II Pan Groove, led by Len "Boogsie" Sharpe. Of course, St James being the home of this country's biggest Hosay commemorations, the drumming component would not be complete without the St James Tassa Drummers and Unity Tassa Group.

Action then swings to the main stage, where Roy Cape& the Kaiso All Stars will back calypso superstars Black Stalin, Singing Sandra, Brother Valentino, Brother Mudada, Crazy, Brother Lavway and little heard from SuperBlue. Rapso takes over with Brother Resistance and Karega Mandela to close the evening.

Speaking with the Daily Express, Greenidge lamented the poor response by "those who are in a position to help" the project, which is run on a non-profit basis and each year, attracts many hundreds of fans of these art-forms to the park. "We've been going like this for 35 years now," Greenidge said, "and every year the struggle is the same to get funding for this event everyone looks forward to.

"Jerry and I started this from scratch and it has reached this kind of proportion only through our determination that it must happen. This is a show that featured the likes of Lord Shorty, then Ras Shorty I and Andre Tanker and the Mau Mau Drummers as the mainstay, before other famous artistes decided to make a contribution, some of them, like Stalin and Resistance, have never left us since the first time they performed here.

"It is for the little people and it is they who would put in a li'l $500 or whatever they could afford to make sure we maintain this programme. One would donate a couple of portable toilets, another would pay for two tents and so on, a kind of gayap operation that only manages to pay our bills.

"It always has been a pressure but we persevere. We charge a small gate for the Reggae Fest but on Sunday, the show is free to the public as always, because everyone is accustomed to it just so. There is a suggestion that we pass around a contribution box and we may just have to do something like that because the expenses have climbed much higher than in previous years.

"They used to give us two police officers and we didn't think we needed more than that because the whole village is part of the vigilance, so we do not have crime around our event. There is no car-stealing or people's vehicles getting broken into over the 35 years and certainly, there is no fighting or unruly behaviour, as all the people who come here share our view of the power of conscious music and you are not likely to have that kind of lawlessness around the Village Drums of Freedom.

"But now, with the situation as it is, we now have to get and pay for eight police officers and then fire officers too, so that alone is a cost we didn't have to contemplate before," Greenidge said. "It is for reasons like those that we need a little help. We cannot continue to build the stage on oil-drums so we have to rent scaffolding and construct something much more sturdy so neither the safety people nor we would have a problem.

Trinidad and Tobago News

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