Queen of the Cats
JOY-ANN ROBERTS can still remember the first time she stood on stage, held a microphone to her mouth and sang her heart out to a cheering audience.
That was a little over two decades ago but she has never forgotten the feeling of joy, nervousness and sheer excitement.
It was always her dream to be a singer. Her father was an entertainer, and she too envisioned she would one day play and perform on a big stage and ultimately win the calypso crown.
It was only until around 1994 when Joy-Ann’s uncle Jerry Big Boar Cat Roberts returned to Barbados after living in Canada for nearly 20 years that she thought her dream would become reality.
The elder Roberts was an established musician who had played in many countries abroad as well as with top bands such as the American rock band Jefferson Starship. So when he returned with the idea to establish his own calypso tent, he had her full backing.
That same year, and at the tender age of 16 this enthusiastic young woman and Roberts formed the Stray Cats calypso tent. It was from that point when Joy-Ann got her first taste of singing calypso music, social commentary to be exact, she was hooked.
“It was my dream to perform and dance and sing so this was an opportunity for me to be trained for free and make some money. Not many people get that chance at just 16 years old so I made up my mind that I would go out there, enjoy myself and sing until I was content.
“People laughed, criticised and had many negative things to say because we were a ‘one-man band’ at that time. It was difficult finding calypsonians and musicians ’cause we had no money so I was calypsonian, songwriter, back-up vocalist, dancer and roadie . . . but that never stopped me from turning up to the Crane [hotel] whenever the tent was held and giving my all,” she said with a reminiscent smile.
It was this same passion for calypso and singing that now after an eight-year break had given Joy-Ann impetus to return. And she is excited and eager to once again step before the mic to share her talent with the rest of Barbados and retain her title of first lady of Stray Cats.
The 38-year-old mother of two young sons, Jaden, eight, and Jeremy, five, explained that her last Crop Over on stage was 2007 because she wanted to take time off to start a family and also to continue training in cosmetology, since she owns her business.
Now that her children are older and the desire to get back on the stage is so strong it can no longer be ignored, she is optimistic that 2016 will be the year that the masses learn and remember her name.
The St Michael resident is hoping that her two melodious kaisos, Legacy and Bat And Ball, will be enough to garner her a coveted spot in the Pic-O-De-Crop competition.
The songs were penned by popular songstress Ayana John while Jerry was responsible for the arrangements and production.
This Crop Over season Joy-Ann will also take up the challenge of sweet soca with the track Party Cat, co-written by Jerry, who also arranged and produced it.
Though it is widely believed that there is only room in the calypso final for one “token” female, preferably from one of the so-called big tents, Joy-Ann didn’t believe this notion would get in her way.
She described herself as a determined woman who knows what she wants, and will try her utmost to achieve her goals.
“There are lots of young talented females who love the genre and want to see its continuity . . . . I’m sure in the future there are going to be more and more [females] in the finals. If you examine the junior competition, for example, you would see most of the juniors are female and the fact that we bring quality, it is only a matter of time before our larger presence is seen. Next year will be 30 years that Rita won . . . . Now it’s due for another female,” she added. (SDB Media)