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MUSICAL ICONS: Anthony ‘The Mighty Gabby’ Carter


MUSICAL ICONS: Anthony ‘The Mighty Gabby’ Carter

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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.

Of the three, Gabby has been performing the longest and helped lay the foundation for the careers of his fellow ambassadors. For five decades, he has been committed to performing and promoting Barbadian culture through writing calypso, producing music for calypsonians, community cultural groups and theatre groups, and teaching folk music to primary schoolchildren.

Gabby, who was originally named as a cultural ambassador in 2004, said it was definitely sweeter the second time around.

“I guess it’s sweeter this time around. I feel so proud this evening I don’t even have words to say. This is really fantastic,” he said during his acceptance speech.

At the tender age of 19, Gabby won what was then the national calypso king title, with a composition entitled Heart Transplant.

From there, he immersed himself in calypso and folk music, making huge contributions as a musician, writer and calypso tent founder.

Some of his very early work included forming the Battleground calypso tent
in 1978 and he led a collection of equally dedicated calypsonians, such as Romeo, Sir Don, Dragon and Serenader.

Gabby led Barbados’ calypso renaissance from the front, setting the tone
by concentrating on hard-hitting social and political commentary.

He won Barbados’ first ever Crop-Over Road March with Burn Mr Harding
in 1979. In 1982 he followed up with one of his most beloved tunes, Jack, which won the Road March again. He has won eight Calypso Monarch titles and composed winning tunes for perennial Road March King Grynner.

He won Folk Singer of the Year three consecutive times between 1977-79
with iconic song Riots in the Land, Bridgetown and Bajan Fisherman.

To this date, however, one of his greatest compositions is still the evergreen folk song Emmerton, which was composed in folk style in 1977. Emmerton was declared as Barbadian song of the 20th century in a 2003 poll.

During his peak, he has also toured North and South America, Europe and Africa singing and teaching calypso and folk music.

Gabby has also been the recipient of many stellar awards for his hard work over the years.

He was awarded the Living Legend Award at the inaugural Barbados Music Awards in 2006. He was also awarded the humanities scholar by the University of West Indies in recognition of his outstanding contribution to the performing artist the Caribbean.

He has been an Honorary Distinguished fellow at the Cave Hill Campus; he’s been honoured in Cuba, St Vincent, Venezuela, and Nigeria and holds a Barbados Service Star national honour.

Reflecting on his career, Gabby marvelled at how far he had come.

“We have travelled the world. Most times we don’t get paid because most of the places were just happy to give a ticket and a hotel and tell you come,” he said.

During his speech, he pleaded with Government to lend more financial support to the arts “so we can take it where we want it to go.”

In the same year that Gabby won his second Road March title, a young competitor arose from the east. While Red Plastic Bag could be said to have followed in Gabby’s footsteps, over the years the two have become fierce competitors – on stage anyway. However off stage they’re “brothers” as Gabby put it. (DB)