Dennis Jones is a Jamaican-born international economist, who has lived most of the time in the UK and USA, and latterly in Guinea, west Africa. He moved back to the Caribbean in 2007. This blog contains his observations on life on this small eastern Caribbean island, as well as views on life and issues on a broader landscape, especially the Caribbean and Africa.







**You may contact me by e-mail at livinginbarbados[at]gmail[dot]com**

Monday, January 18, 2010

All That Jazz: Time To Lime On Farley Hill

The Barbados Jazz Festival is an annual event that I now look forward to immensely. When we landed on this blessed isle in January 2007, it was too late to enjoy a day on 'The Hill'. We wondered what hill this could be because Barbados was supposedly flat. But, with the help of my wife's future driver, we found the heights known as Farley Hill, and for me it has been a great place to visit regularly--with or without music. Along with Bathsheba, it is one of my 'must see' places for visitors. It has a fabulous view that makes me pine a little for Jamaica. But, enough of that. I found the next year that the 'best lime of the year' was on Farley Hill on the last Saturday of the festival. People whom I had met independently all seemed to join together in groups and surprised me with their interconnections, some as friends, some as family. I just kept on being amazed that the strands were tightly woven. It's been that way each year that I have been on 'The Hill'. Now, I know more people, but they mainly seem to be offshoots of a core group that I first met; I'm newly known to them but they are quite familiar with each other. Maybe that is a real part of living in this lovely region of far-flung islands, but closely knit communities: birds of a feather, flock together, indeed.

This year, I decided to take my little daughter so that she could hang out: no dolls, no games, no books, no fixed bedtime, just freedom. She loved being able to roam around the grassy hill and find seeds to fill a plastic bottle and make her own shak-shak; or talk to some friends we knew as I let her wander around between groups of adults. She loved hanging on the barrier by the stage, with some young friends, acting like a real concert goer, but also enjoying seeing musicians actually playing: in her case, watching Karen Briggs on violin, should have inspired my daughter with her Suzuki lessons.

But, much as I enjoyed myself, I could not help but reflect on some wider issues.

The PM said this weekend that Bajans need to stop belly aching (see Advocate article), and adopt a positive attitude, especially when putting things into context of the tragedies now hitting Haiti. Well, I'm not Bajan, and I am going to have a belly ache. Image is very important, and as I have written before, Barbados has done much to concoct a very good image of itself. But, when it comes to 'sitting above the rest', I'm not slow to say that I find the reality wanting. Take this week's jazz festival, one of the pinnacles of the tourism calendar for Barbados. What would be one of the over riding memories that I will hold, apart from the good music and the good vibes? It will be that there seems to be no regard to how people can feel abused when they have paid good money for an event and then one hour, or even two hours after the allotted start time, people are still futzing about and we have not yet had a bar of music.

It happened midweek with the Smokey Robinson concert at the Garfield Sobers Gymnasium: billed for 8pm, but not getting underway until 9pm, and made worse by the fact that when the MC came out and warmed up the crowd he did not say a word for the delay up to that point or about the delay that was to follow. Why did the musicians get on stage and find that the mikes were not working? All that "Check, check. 1-2-3." that we know should have been done. This is not my teenage garage band at work now. Sure, when Smokey glided on to the stage everyone was pleased, but the slow hand clapping that had broken out sporadically during the preceding hour was a sign of clear displeasure. This did not escape comment in the press the next day, but we mover right along. This is the Caribbean, and time doesn't mean anything, right. Wrong!

It happened again at Farley Hill, when the noon start time just morphed into 2pm. No real sweat on a beautifully pleasant sunny day, with not a care in the world, as people sidled in and looked for places to sit and food to eat and drink to quaff. That is until you push on to the end of the day, which presumably was running two hours later than previewed. Now, I am not thick with Robin Thicke, but even my six year old daughter was ready to swoon when he came on stage at 8pm. The problem for her was that she was also ready to swoon from fatigue.

So, what would be a visitor's take away? I ask because I was sitting near to a phalanx of foreign media on Saturday, guests of the Barbados Tourism Authority. I did not hear what they said and I could not see what they wrote, but I say their faces, and as they wandered around for things to note while not having any live music to hear, I'm sure they were trying to paint the best picture possible. Would they have loved the coolness and relaxed attitudes of the people and the fact that, in keeping with stereotypes of Caribbean island life, time does not matter? We may have to scour the press in coming days to get a real idea.

So, done with that gripe now, I will be glad that I took my time to pass some time on 'The Hill'. Sure, the cooked ackee and salmon that a Jamaican friend proffered made it sweeter. So, too did the barbecued chicken necks. No less so, the hugs and smiles exchanged every five yards.


acox said...

@Dennis jones
Overall you seemed to have enjoyed yourself. so my guess the experienc
would have been similar for the

Dennis Jones said...


I went to The Hill, knowing the event and expecting to have a good lime. Journalists are doing a job, and even if they have a good time, their audience and journalistic outlook may dictate what they report. Even events that are seemingly all good can be given a negative spin. Never presume what the reporter will tell the world.

Dennis Jones said...


See another Bajan blogger's (The Mongoose Chronicles) take on the event, and the Nation's coverage of it: http://networkedblogs.com/p25502985