CHARLESTOWN NEVIS (November 15, 2005) -- Minister of Natural Resources and Environment in the Nevis island Administration Hon Michael Perkins said that Nevisians should view the return of 1962 recordings of its traditional music as a very special moment.
(L-R) Ms Sheila Evelyn receives Lomax material from Dr Rosita M. Sands Director of the Centre for Black Music Research, Chicago.
The Minister made the comment during a ceremony to mark the handing over of the documented recordings on a CD entitled Caribbean Voyage and literature of Alan Lomax an American folklorist and musical anthropologist, to the Nevis Historical and Conservation Society (NHCS) at the Cultural Centre on Monday November 14, 2005.
"The people of Nevis must view this as a very special moment. We see the tangible things that happen around us but things like these add to the development of our societies. I hope that the school children in particular and all those who have some interest in the cultural heritage and the preservation of it would use this material wisely. I hope many of you would seek to get a copy of it so you can have in your home or in various institutions and departments," he said.
During brief remarks, Mr Perkins also lauded the efforts of the NHCS who facilitated the unique event and who continue to play an important part in the development of Nevis and its people. The Minister was presented with a copy of the recordings on behalf of the NIA.
The documented recordings were made in three villages on Nevis namely Gingerland, Brick Kiln and Newcastle and in Irish Town in St. Kitts between July 2 -11 1962. During his visit Dr. Lomax recorded 117 items which amounted to three hours. The project was funded with a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation and was sponsored by the University of the West Indies, Mona, Jamaica.
An emotional embrace as Dr Lomax Woods honours Mrs Anita Jeffers one of eight living icons.
According to Dr Anna Lomax Wood, Director of the Alan Lomax Archives in New York in her remarks said her father's work came at a time when the islands of the Caribbean were still colonies of the British Empire some of which were seeking independence and had supported the idea of forming a West Indies Federation.
She said her father made the recorded survey of the traditional music of the Caribbean in the hope that his research would help to demonstrate the strong underlying commonalities in music and culture throughout the diverse region.
"My father was a great believer and activator of dissemination and what he called cultural feedback which for him meant making local tradition better known and appreciated and getting them back to their places of origin and in those days the main way for that to happen was through a book, radio and record that is CD's today," Dr Lomax Wood said.
Notwithstanding, it took 40 years for the return of the recordings to the Caribbean and among the reasons listed by Dr. Lomax Woods was the lack of appropriate technology at the time, citing that the recordings did not get published till 1996 when Rounder Records of Cambridge Massachusetts offered her ailing dad to record his work. Later, digital technology made it possible to transfer the recordings to compact discs and made for easier distribution.
Dr. Lomax Wood explained that it was the intension to have all her fathers work published and embarked on a Caribbean series called "Caribbean Voyage". She said the recordings were considered as being "extremely worthwhile" because it meant there is an actual document available for people to use.
She explained that the project came to the Caribbean when she was contacted one year ago by Dr. Samuel Floyd of the Centre for Black Music Research at Colombia College in Chicago who requested that a copy of her father's Caribbean recordings be deposited at a branch established in St. Thomas. The recordings were to be used actively in cultural programmes in the United States Virgin Islands in schools and public programmes and for redistribution enabling the music to be returned to the original islands.
Nevis was the first island in the Caribbean in which the handing over has taken place so far but musical recordings were also documented form Dominica, Grenada, Guadeloupe, Martinique, Carriacou, St. Lucia, St Barthelemy, Anguilla and Trinidad.
(L-R) Minister of Natural Resources and Environment Hon Michael Perkins, Dr. Rosita Sands, Mr Spencer Howell, Dr. Anna Lomax Wood Director of the Alan Lomax Archives, New York.
During the event, a number of living icons whose music was recorded by Mr Lomax were honoured. They along with families of other performers were presented with a copy of the music by Dr. Lomax Wood.
Ms Sheila Evelyn, NHCS President welcomed the visitors, Mr Spencer Howell who was at the time a welfare officer who accompanied Dr Lomax gave a nostalgic reflection of the 1962 project. Dr. Rosita M. Sands, Director of the Centre for Black Music Research, Chicago presented the Alan Lomax material to the NHCS while Mr Chesley Davis of the Nevis Department of Culture recognised the performers and their families. The vote of thanks was delivered by Mr Creighton Pencheon of the St. Kitts Department of Culture. Ms Tanisha Brown rendered the national anthem and Mr Halstead Byron Education Officer served as chairman.