WEDNESDAY WOMAN: She’s Bajan Forever, even in Miami
SHE IS BAJAN FOREVER and so is her mas band.
Sonia Hinds has been taking the Miami Carnival by storm, showing off her Bajan heritage in Bajan Forever the band, now in its sixth year.
As Barbados marks the golden jubilee of its Independence this year, the theme for October’s street party in the Floridian city is The Evolution, Celebrating Barbados’ 50 Years.
“I founded the band to bring a learning and cultural experience for our kids, to keep up with our Barbadian heritage,” she told the MIDWEEK NATION. “We started with them from small and explained to them what the blue, yellow and black (of the flag) stand for.”
Hinds has the strong support of her sister Roslyn Sealy and friends Tanya Hewitt and Cheryl Belgrave. They see themselves as ambassadors for Barbados, drawing curiosity as they showcase different aspects of the country and even enticing people to come for Crop Over.
Some 50 to 60 people will be down for the festival this year just because they have had the experience with Bajan Forever.
For the Miami Carnival on October 9, the costumes will show elements of the tuk band, Mother Sally, Emancipation, Pride And Industry and Crop Over and one will pay tribute to Rihanna.
Hinds said that the band was about giving the full Bajan experience to revellers. “It is not just a costume but you get the whole experience,” she said.
“We are very hands-on; everyone who picks up a costume from us we greet them personally, we offer that experience that no other band in Miami offers by bringing that Barbadian hospitality to Miami.
Sonia Hinds (second left) and her team from Bajan Forever (from left) Tanya Hewitt, Cheryl Brlgrave and Roslyn Sealy interacting with chairman of the Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc., Alvin Jemmott.
“The band not only targets Barbadians living in Miami but living anywhere and also to Caribbean people and anyone who is interested in the band and what the culture is about.
“Over the years we have grown; we started our fist band was 150 and last year we had 453 revellers.”
Hinds said she hoped to grow to at least 1 000 revellers in the next few years.
Hewitt said, “We look at the band, not just as a business but as a family, and when you do that it is not just carnival we focus on the whole weekend experience, we do a boat ride, J’Ouvert and the carnival.
“It is just like when you come to Barbados and go on the Jolly Roger; you get a taste of Foreday Morning.”
Belgrave said that more young people were joining the band each passing year and many have heard about it through word of mouth; not only those of Barbadian descent, but young people from all across the Caribbean.
Sealy deals with the business aspect of the band – promotion and getting sponsorship. “What we do in Miami, it is like Barbados, you do not have to question if it is a Bajan band; you get Banks beer, rum punch, Frutee, Eclipse biscuits, ham cutters and Bajan rum,” she said.
“What I realise from that is that people then want to come to Barbados and see what Crop Over is like. They want to experience it and that is what our main goal in Miami is – to get any person who has come in contact with us where carnival is concerned to have a hunger to come to Barbados and get the full Crop Over experience.”
The Miami carnival is not like Crop Over. It is not a street parade and is held in an open park.
Though the band does not participate formally in Crop Over, Hinds and the group will be jumping in a section of the band Aura.
Bajan Forever also does charity work in Florida and Barbados, working mostly with children. They will make a donation of school supplies to children during the year.
Hinds would like to form solid linkages with Barbados Government agencies to advance her work. “We consider ourselves ambassadors for Barbados … our kids are ambassadors. We have taught them that culture and we would like for that connection between Bajan Forever and tourism here in Barbados so that they know that this is what we are doing, take us under our wing, we want to bring to Barbados to make Crop Over bigger and better,” she said. (LK)