70 Years of Musical History, celebrated, Setar pays homage to Carnival – first of three installments

We forgive the steep phone and data rates, the potholes in the road, the soaring prices in the supermarket, the Tribute to 70 years of Carnaval Music-Gala Concert, made up for it all.

It was a fabulous evening.

It would be interesting to brainstorm one day in an attempt to crack the secret of Aruba’s Carnival, what makes it so beloved, so appreciated, so desired. Carnavalistas go into debt in order to shine on parade, grown men and women dedicate weeks to glue-guns and rhinestones, kids are taught to do the Carnival shuffle, from an early age.

So, what is it that grips us all, from early January to mid-February? They call it Carnival fever, and it’s fueled, and spun to a high pitch, by music.

That music was celebrated Friday night, hits originally composed for Steelpan or Brassband, and sung as Calypso, Roadmarch, Tumba and Soca, made up the 28 performances by 23 singers, some presented medleys, some a straightforward rendition of their own mega-hit. A few sang tributes to musical giants who left us.

The idea for a concert paying homage to the music that propels the Carnival machine forward, hatched in the mind of Setar’s eternal director Roland Croes, who is a musician. Did you know that? I heard he plays the trumpet. He picked Carlos Bislip for musical direction, then he personally chose the songs. He came to all rehearsals and was on hand on concert-night to see how much the public enjoyed it.

Carlos, you did an admirable job. It was fun to see your mom at 92, dancing with her walker, just as you promised.

The Setar Big Band put together by Carlos enjoyed an impressive brass section, 4 trumpets, 4 trombones, 5 saxophones, besides a a rhythm-section with 9 musicians, 1 drummer, 3 percussionists, 1 pianist, 1 bass, 1 keyboard, 1 guitar, 1 panplayer and an accordionist, supported by 4 vocalists.

They produced a huge wall of sound, and kept the audience on their feet, most of the night, with just two short intermissions to give the trumpet and trombone players an opportunity to rest their lips

Perhaps for the 140th year tribute concert, Setar could offer standing-room only, no tables, no gala format, so that more people could enjoy the show. Also the scanner had better work for the 140th anniversary concert, to make the long line to enter, obsolete.

The evening was recorded by TeleAruba. The footage will be edited, and my suggestion is two edits, one version of the concert in its entirety, and the other a historical documentary, peppered with archival footage of the original performances of yesteryears.

I will click channel 13 to watch it.

The evening’s narration, researched and written by Gregory Richardson, Phd, was excellent and so were the knowledgeable emcees, Cherry and Lenny, both popular radio personalities, sworn Carnival-lovers, Cherryldine Buckley and Lenny Denz.

The evening took off with music originally played by Aruba’s first steelpan band, The Invaders, which was directed by the late Edgar Connor, whose sons and grandsons, members of the Aruba Pan Man Foundation, keep the genre alive on the island.

A tribute to a legend of the past, Lord Boxoe, was sung by the King of Happy Hour, Loyd Baptiste, a talented calypsonian, who was chief entertainer at the hotels here in the 70s and 80s. Lord Boxoe pioneered the Calypso in Papiamento and delighted audiences with his double-entendre, cheeky, spicy, double-meaning compositions.

More tomorrow….

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January 08, 2024
Rona Coster