Stedson ‘RPB’ Wiltshire (FILE)
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Among Anthony ‘Mighty Gabby’ Carter, Stedson ‘Red Plastic Bag’ Wiltshire and Alison Hinds-Walcott, there is well over 50 years’ worth of musical experience, gained both at home and abroad.
For decades each of the trio has been unofficially ‘repping’ Barbados, introducing those near and far to our island’s culture.
Recently, the celebrated careers of these musical icons were put in the spotlight when they received their instruments of office and official designations as cultural ambassadors of Barbados for their outstanding work. It was an emotional night, full of memories and music and one that revealed parts of the artists the average fan would not ordinarily get to see on stage.
RPB, as he’s widely known, is the undisputed King of St Philip. He’s won the calypso title an unprecedented 10 times, Tune of the Crop twice and the Sweet Soca Competition twice. He won the Congaline Carnival Road March and Peoples Monarch once.
Like Gabby, he has played a major role in boosting the international recognition of calypso.
The St Philip lad, as he was at the time, attracted national attention as a calypsonian when he burst onto the scene in 1982, winning the calypso monarch crown in his very first national level competition with songs which have become classics – Sugar Made Us Free and Mr Harding Can’t Burn.
Since 1995 RPB has been a full-time calypsonian and composer of songs in several different genres, including winning compositions in the Caribbean Song Contest on three occasions.
He’s written many prize-winning songs for local and regional calypso stars such as Alison Hinds, Ras Iley, Arrow of Hot Hot Hot fame and The Mighty Swallow.
A highlight in his glittering career was the 1993 release of Ragga Ragga, which broke all records for a Barbadian calypso in the international arena. The song has been recorded in seven different languages and reached the number one position on the music charts of many countries.
When he’s not on stage, RPB is active in community service, mentoring many junior calypsonians and primary school groups and volunteering with various community cultural groups and civic clubs. He has lent his time and considerable experience to the founding and directorship of the Copyright Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (COSCAP) Barbados. He has also served as a member of the Barbados copyright tribunal.
His career continues to thrive and he is still booked year round at national, regional and international venues ranging from Australia, Europe, North and South America and China.
In an emotional and moving speech, RPB said he was truly humbled by the award, especially given his humble origins.
“Those of you who know of my beginning know why this moment would be very humbling for me. I’m very honoured to be chosen to be a cultural ambassador for Barbados. Those of you who know me know that only big dreams could get me here,” he said.
He echoed Gabby’s sentiments, adding that they had gone through a lot to get to where they were today.
“I remember performing and changing in a kitchen in Biltmore ballroom in the winter. Nowadays I see people performing at some of the big arenas and happy and so on. But we have gone through a lot. Gabby and Alison, it paid off because here we are,” he added.
He urged all Barbadians to think and act like ambassadors for the country.
“It is indeed an honour to be a cultural ambassador for Barbados but every Barbadian should feel like an ambassador for Barbados. We go all over the world and represent our country to the best of our ability. That’s why I get upset sometimes when I see the stuff we spread across all WhatsApp and Facebook; we are only hurting ourselves. It’s very important that we see ourselves as ambassadors for this country. I will do my best to represent Barbados to the best of my ability wherever I go simply because I love this country with all my heart,” RPB declared to rousing applause.
A poignant moment came when the calypso maestro said he wished his mother were alive to see him receive his award.
“I’m a very happy man this evening; I wish my mother could see me now. She passed away in 2014 but I know she’s smiling in her grave. She always used to tell me “keep smiling, look ahead. Continue working, when you work hard one day the returns would come,” he added. (DB)