Dominica Update
Beres Hammond on the WCMF stage

Rhythm in the rain: WCMF 2023 triumphs against all odds

The age-old adage, ‘the only thing that rain stops is cricket,’ was unquestionably validated during the 23rd edition of Dominica’s World Creole Music Festival (WCMF). Throughout the three-night event, not even the inclement weather could dampen the unwavering enthusiasm of music enthusiasts who united to experience a spectacular line-up of artists.

A first-time festival attendee from Trinidad and Tobago told Dominica News Online (DNO), “I’ve been to a lot of music festivals, but this one takes the cake. The VIP setup and experience was simply amazing and what is most remarkable is that rainy weather did not stop the people from enjoying the show.

A dedicated festival-goer commented, “The rain was relentless, but the music was even more so. I’ve never felt more connected to complete strangers than I did dancing in the downpour with fellow music lovers.”

“The WCMF organisers [owe] me nothing,” a festival attendee wrote via social media. “This year was certainly among my top five [festivals] with a lot of unforgettable [moments].”

“The commitment of the artist[es] and the patrons [is] commendable. The performers all did well despite the weather, and it made the experience all the more memorable”, Chris, a music enthusiast who travelled to Dominica from the USA stated.

From the moment the first note was played to the final encore, the festival provided an unforgettable experience that defied the elements and showcased the resilience and passion of attendees.

On the opening night, October 27, Dominica’s beloved Princess of Song, Michele Henderson, took to the stage and set Windsor Park Sports Stadium (WPSS) ablaze despite the rain. Her performance was a testament to her exceptional talent as a singer and songwriter. During her set, she paid tribute to the pioneering bands of cadence-lypso music from Dominica. With her soulful and powerful vocals, she brought to life the vibrant rhythms and melodies that have shaped the musical heritage of the island. Her heartfelt tribute and performance left the crowd in awe and set the stage for the incredible performances that would follow.

Making a comeback to the WCMF stage, Haitian sensation, VAYB, once again brought their unique blend of music and culture to the WCMF. As they took the stage at the festival, the crowd was treated to an unforgettable performance that celebrated the rich musical heritage of Kompa.

VAYB’s lively beats, powerful vocals, and mesmerizing dance moves had the audience on their feet, swaying to the rhythm of their Creole melodies, a performance that will undoubtedly be remembered as a highlight of WCMF 2023.

Also making a triumphant return to the WCMF stage was the Soca queen from Trinidad and Tobago, Patrice Roberts. A crowd favourite, Roberts dazzled the audience with her high-energy performance and infectious tunes. Her presence at the festival brought an air of excitement and anticipation, and fans from near and far eagerly gathered to witness her electrifying show. As she graced the stage once again, the Soca queen proved why she holds such a revered status in the world of Caribbean music. Her powerful vocals, incredible stage presence, and an enthralling repertoire of soca hits had the crowd moving and grooving, creating an atmosphere of pure joy and revelry.

Another stellar performance of the night came from Jamaican dancehall sensation, Popcaan. With an abundance of energy, he graced the stage, enthralling the audience with his irresistible rhythms and magnetic stage charisma delivering hits like ‘Only Man She Want’ and ‘Party Shot,’ reaffirming his status as one of the genre’s most prominent luminaries.

In the world of Bouyon, Mr. Ridge along with Kenny G, Pudaz, and Nice brought the vibrant sounds of the genre to the forefront. The pulsating rhythms and catchy melodies ignited the crowd, infusing the evening with an undeniable energy and local flavor. The excitement of the performance reacdhed a crescendo with the unexpected guest appearances by Dominica’s Prime Minister, Roosevelt Skerrit. Along with Mr. Ridge, they performed their song ‘From AM to PM,’ creating a memorable moment.

As WCMF night one drew to a close, the daybreak specialist, TK International, stepped into the spotlight to the sheer delight of the audience. TK International’s performance marked the perfect conclusion to the evening, leaving festival-goers with an unforgettable experience and setting the stage for the nights to come.

The second night of the WCMF was a true showcase of the indomitable spirit of festival-goers as they defied the relentless rain to bear witness to an outstanding lineup of both international and local artists. Despite the downpour, the devoted patrons arrived in impressive numbers, unwavering in their commitment to revel in the vibrant sounds that filled the air.

Nonetheless, the rain did lead to an unfortunate incident when a tent within the VIP area collapsed, resulting in minor injuries for just over a dozen attendees. Amidst this setback, the artists still managed to captivate the drenched yet resilient crowd with their incredible performances. As the curtains rose on the second night of the festival, the audience was greeted by the ethereal sounds of Zouk music, a genre with deep roots in the Creole-speaking world. The Zouk legends, including Joelle Ursull, Njie, Jean-Luc Guanel, and Medhy, through their enchanting melodies and heartwarming lyrics, not only entertained the crowd but also brought to life the nostalgia associated with this iconic genre.

The evening’s magic continued when Gordon Henderson, one of the pioneers of Cadence-lypso and founding members of the WCMF, graced the stage. Henderson, known for his profound contributions to Dominica’s music scene and his role in shaping the very essence of the festival, received a heartfelt welcome from the crowd.

His performance was more than just a musical journey; it was a tribute to the very spirit of the WCMF. His timeless classics and soul-stirring compositions resonated with the audience, reminding them of the festival’s humble beginnings and its mission to celebrate Creole music and culture.

Beres Hammond, the legendary Jamaican reggae artist, with a career spanning decades and a catalog of timeless hits that transcend generations, delivered a soulful and melodic performance creating a magical atmosphere that left a lasting impression on everyone fortunate enough to be part of the audience. Classics like ‘Rockaway’, ‘Can You Play Some More’, ‘I Feel Good’ and ‘Sweet Lies’ became the soundtrack to a rain-soaked evening, as the crowd swayed to the rhythm, undeterred by the weather. Hammond’s smooth vocals had a remarkable ability to bring warmth to the chilly night, as the reggae icon not only entertained but also provided solace and serenity, making it a highlight of
the festival.

From Nigeria, the talented Joeboy brought his Afrobeat flavor to the WCMF stage. His energetic performance included hits like ‘Baby’ and ‘Don’t Call Me Back’, drawing cheers and applause from the audience.

The anticipation reached a fever pitch when Kalash, the internationally acclaimed artist from France, took the stage. Despite the persistent rain, Kalash’s performance set the festival grounds ablaze with his infectious beats and charismatic stage presence. It was a sight to behold as fans danced fervently, wholly disregarding the weather.

Concluding the second night in grand style, the ” Bouyon Boss” himself, Asa Bantan, made a memorable entrance in a sleek limousine that set the perfect tone for his electrifying performance. With his reputation for high-energy and provocative lyrics, Asa Bantan had the entire crowd on their feet, enthusiastically dancing to the infectious bouyon beats. His dynamic stage presence and passionate delivery solidified his status as a beloved figure among the festival-goers.

The third night saw Extasy Band igniting the stage with a high-octane opening performance, setting the night on fire. Following them, the legendary Midnight Groovers, renowned for their signature Cadence-Lypso sound, graced the WCMF stage. With a storied history of enchanting audiences with their melodic tunes, Midnight Groovers once again showcased their timeless appeal. Their performance served as a heartfelt tribute to the Creole musical heritage that the festival holds dear.

However, the band’s set took an unfortunate turn. As their allotted time drew to a close, they requested to perform their final song, only to have their request denied. The crowd responded with boos, and a disheartened Chubby was seen departing the stage, leaving the audience in a state of bewilderment.

Despite this abrupt ending, the night’s memory endured, with the vibrant rhythms and eclectic performances leaving an indelible mark on the crowd’s collective experience.

In her first performance on the WCMF stage, Jada Kingdom, the Jamaican dancehall sensation, brought her vibrant and fearless energy with her enthralling lyrics and bold style. Also making their debut on the stage of the WCMF were St. Lucian duo Ezra & Iggy who delivered an exciting performance.

With what was unanimously hailed as one of the standout performances of the festival, the Signal Band made their grand entrance,  burning up the stage with an electrifying display of groovy bouyon rhythms. The sheer exuberance and
musical prowess of the band had the entire audience in raptures, and their performance was nothing short of spectacular.

As the bouyon rhythms reverberated through the venue, the crowd couldn’t help but move to the infectious beats. The atmosphere was charged with a sense of euphoria as Signal Band along with reigning calypso Monarch and bouyon artist, Trilla G, demonstrated their exceptional talent and delivered a performance that left an indelible mark on the festival.

The night crescendoed to its apex with the highly-anticipated performance by the Soca King, Machel Montano. With a boundless wellspring of energy from the moment he took the stage, the atmosphere was electric, and Montano wasted no time in launching into his classic hits. The crowd, immersed in the intoxicating rhythms, sang along with fervour and danced with unbridled enthusiasm, turning the venue into a jubilant sea of celebration.

When Montano’s over 1 hour and 15 minutes set reached its end, the demand for more was resounding and Montano, ever the showman, swiftly obliged.

As the curtains fall on another remarkable staging of WCMF, it’s evident that the spirit of this celebration is impervious to the elements. Rain may have been the only force that could halt a game of cricket that day, but it proved powerless against the harmonious symphonies and the unbreakable bonds that define the essence of the festival.

Cr: Ronalda Luke/Dominica News Online