Anyone who has listened to me talk about my life for more than 5 minutes knows why I do what I do. It’s not to get into events free (major key though), travel, or any of the “media perks,” but rather to make ay contribution I can toward a developing music and film industry in the Bahamas.
We are still some ways away from experiencing this in film, but if there’s been one undeniable benefit of Bahamas Junkanoo Carnival (BJC), it has opened the door for music and produced better product from our artists.
The first thing that comes to mind when you think of the Bahamas Junkanoo Carnival is the costumes or the visiting artists but I’ll be looking forward to Music Masters like I look forward to the NBA Draft. Going into year two, the music is much more defined, and we have a cross-section of competitors ranging from newcomers to veterans of the Bahamian music industry.
For those unfamiliar with the Music Masters process, songs are entered, vetted by a select group and 20 are chosen. This year, the 20 songs that were chosen each got the full cover art and video treatment. Out of the 15 artists (some artists got two songs into the top 20), there were many newcomers to the competition like Exec, Lisa Jayne, Ebony, Lattia, Bantangy, Jive and Fanshawn. Reigning champion Sammi Starr, runner up Lady E and a few of last year’s contestants like Khiara Sherman, Sonovia Pierre, Colyn Mcdonald (who came third), Terrelle Tynes-Wilson,Georgina Ward and Avvy rounded out the top 15, .
In the first year, over songs were submitted, where as this year, 60 were submitted. That’s over 300 original Bahamian songs that we created in a two years span, songs that probably would have never been made if not for the Music Masters.
These 20 artists travelled to Taino Beach, Freeport, Grand Bahama, in the preliminary round as the number was reduced to 10. It’s a good look that the BJC Kick-Off and Music Masters Semi-Finals takes place in the second city. Rain caused it to start late this year, but that didn’t dampen the spirits or the energy. The weekend featured internationals acts like Fadda Fox, Ricardo Drue, Olatunji and Shurwayne Winchester, and they were well received. The Bahamian acts got an even greater applause, which was a welcomed site. Stileet, who has performed at Atlanta Carnival three times and Miami Carnival twice, DMac who is “Gaulin Proof”, Visage who is currently in China performing at a festival and the Music Masters competitors all heard deafening applause in Grand Bahama. Before that weekend, I can not tell you the last time I went to a concert that featured mainly Bahamian acts and I enjoyed myself that much.
After two nights of performances, it was difficult to gauge who the judges would select for the top 10 songs. Lady E had herself had a busy weekend, because in addition to performing both her songs, she did a duet with Ronnie Butler, filling in for Sweet Emily in “Look What You Do.” It may have been a cheat code that she is also apart of the amazing band that is backing up the Music Masters, Ira Storr and the Spank Band, which also features Colyn McDonald. These two account for three of the top ten finalists, which feature two songs from College of the Bahamas Students JIVE, reigning champion Sammi Star, veteran Avvy, newcomers Ebony and Fanshawn, along with Grand Bahamian Terrelle Tynes-Wilson.
One of the benefits of being a Music Masters finalists, is the sure payday. The overall wallet is $50,000 with $20,000 of that going to winner. These artists, some very new to the game, have guarented themselves money and exposure and will essentially be opening up for DMAC, Visage, Destra and Wyclef Jean. All of this would not be possible without the Music Masters. The next step for our competition, and for it to compete with the international competitions like Soca Monarch (which Machel Montano has won for many years), is for the songs to be released and circulated well ahead of time and for the established artists to also become apart of the process.
We have a ways to go, but we are definitely on the right track.