Anthony Layne has been involved with Kontact Band for over a decade. (Christoff Griffith)
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Crop Over means different things to different people.
For some people it’s the drinks, the food, jumping for Foreday Mornin’ and Grand Kadooment. For others, it’s the pulsating music blasting from loudspeakers, the tents, lining the route watching thousands of gyrating bodies and the energy and positivity that abound.
For Anthony Layne, the bandleader of Kontact Band, it is all of the above and then some.
Layne has been at the helm of Kontact (previously called Contact) for more than a decade. He and his team have a successful formula for putting a band with about 500 to 600 people on the road year after year and EASY magazine had to find out just what keeps him coming back.
“You’ve got to like it. You’ve got to love it. The first time I ever jumped, I jumped from the Stadium to the Garrison and form know that’s a long time ago. I liked [Kadooment] from then,” he said, as he chatted at the band house located in the historic Garrison area on a rather warm Thursday afternoon.
“I project-manage the band; we have it set down. We know how it’s supposed to work like clockwork and we get it done. I manage the band on the road on the day. I don’t have time to dance on the road because I have to make sure our people have a good time and if there’s an issue I have to deal with it.
“I like at the end when I’m in camp and the people are eating and they say, ‘Layne boy, I’m ready to sign up for next year. Gimme the form now’. That is my prize there, that’s what I win. That’s what keeps me going. Whether we win prizes, that’s icing on the cake but my real prize is the band members when they can tell you that they had a fantastic time,” he said.
That experience on the road means a lot to him and he’s always on the lookout for ways and partners to improve over the previous year’s experience.
He and his executive team comprising Nigel Wellington, the band designer, Kathy-Ann Scott Blades and Sharon Niles, who handle the marketing, teased their social media followers from early November about changes. Then on Independence Day last year, they rebranded, changing the spelling of Contact to Kontact, followed by the costume launch on April 9.
Additionally, they have entered Foreday Mornin’ for the first time, cemented their relationship with old sponsors and joined up with new companies and partners such as the Robinson Smiles and Hope Foundation.
The costumes for this year’s band, themed Into The Bleu, celebrate Barbados and highlights some of the things that can be found in the tempting crystal blue waters.
Pleased with the turnout at the launch where they showcased the front, mid, backline and four individual costumes, he is working with prospective revellers who face the “too much choice dilemma”.
“The response is good. It is now to turn the response into numbers in the band. I’m pretty sure that we will hit that 500 mark and probably go over. To keep the costume prices reasonable so that the people who love to jump with you can afford to jump, that is a challenge as well,” Anthony said.
Last year, the band, themed Evolution 4.0 Beautiful To See, copped “a second and a third” prize.
“To get in among Betty [West] and Gwyneth [Squires] in winning Historical and Traditional is a terrific achievement.
They’re the traditional bands and I have a lot of respect for Gwyneth and Betty. If they win every year, I don’t have an issue because I think they deserve that.
“They’ve put a lot into Crop Over, into Kadooment, and they’re the people responsible for where we are today. They might not necessarily get the benefits of where we’re at today . . . and it’s a pity that the other bigger bands could get the benefits.
“They [Gwyneth and Betty] get the benefits by winning and that’s why I don’t mind them winning. I can tell you, I am very pleased when they win and I also want them to get sponsorship because the corporate people must understand that Gwyneth and Betty, they’re the people responsible for getting Crop Over to where it is today. They come with some fantastic designs and topics and they deserve what they get and more.
“You would never hear me complain about judges. I don’t ever. Whether I win or lose it doesn’t matter because I know it is a hard job,” Anthony stated.
Crop Over has just started but already Anthony and the team have their 2017 theme.
“Right now, we’re in execution planning for Crop Over 2017. . . . We in Kontact Band run our own race. We don’t run a race with nobody else. We decide when we’re going to launch from the year in front, we work towards that date and we launch that date as we’ve got our reasons for launching that date,” he explained.
So what are some of the challenges he faces as a bandleader?
“The challenging aspect of it is coming up with lovely costumes, designs that would appeal to aspects of the public in terms of the different ages. You have to get the colours right, that colour coordination is important.
“They always talk about the colour wheel to have every colour of the colour wheel in the costume. I must say we have an excellent team on board now when it comes to having the colours and the colour coordination and making it attractive. So far, so good.
“The men, you don’t have to worry about them. We put a lot of emphasis on them and made sure the costumes look really nice for them.
“The sponsors, yes, but once they realise you’re running a good organisation and you’re running what you said you would, then most of the time they would come back on board,” he said.
So after Crop Over climaxes, he and his entire team of 12 people, will go straight into planning mode for next year. They will pause to plan how they will assist a family in St Lucy with back to school supplies and then, after a three-week break to relax, they will get back together in October when they will start planning a Christmas party for needy children in conjunction with the foundation.
“I’m still looking to see how we can involve the young people, the teenagers . . . . I’m looking to bring in more young people from the planning aspect . . . . We’ve already got some plans to take Kontact Band international, to go to Miami and go Hollywood,” he said. (GBM)