REVIEW : ‘Ubuntu’ marked an important coming together of community

It goes without saying that the current Global Pandemic has brought some trying times for the live performing arts. For many of us, it’s been a while since we’ve warmed a seat in a theatre or stood waiting in the wings to enter stage left. There was no better event to bring us back into the groove than I.B.I.S. T&T Performers’ annual showcase on November 13th at Naparima Bowl. Their theme of choice- Ubuntu, a popular African philosophy meaning ‘I am because you are’- wasn’t something that appeared on the show ticket alone, but was felt and embodied in a brilliantly curated lineup of performances. In one word, the concert was moving.

Photo Credit: Garth Baptiste

Ubuntu, a popular African philosophy meaning ‘I am because you are’- wasn’t something that appeared on the show ticket alone, but was felt and embodied in a brilliantly curated lineup of performances.

If the pandemic restrictions mean that we’re doing away with ‘Trini time’ in the theatre, then by all means, we owe thanks to Ms. Corona for this one thing at least. IBIS opened their curtains at 7:30 on the dot, and anyone who was running on pre-pandemic time would’ve been unfortunate enough to miss a soul-stirring opening dance by Deon and Ian Baptiste. The twins set the bar high for a show that was worth much more than $200, and the subsequent performances certainly did not disappoint. Richardè Bereaux came in with not-just-any-old-kinda-tenor pan-solo, and his talent of precision on the steelpan matched by Kyle Peters on the guitar.

Photo Credit: Garth Baptiste

The let-down of the evening was a big glitch with Nadia Batson’s headline performance, which was pre-recorded in her home and projected for the Naparima Bowl audience. One thing that the covid-induced digital revolution has taught us is that technology comes hand-in-hand with technical difficulties, and the best that we can do is to make considerations for the new ways that things could go wrong. The massive lag between Nadia’s audio and video is something that should’ve been noticed in tech rehearsals, but give us an idea of things to look out for in this time and the future of remote performances.

One thing that the covid-induced digital revolution has taught us is that technology comes hand-in-hand with technical difficulties

All the same, the no-intermission format (to limit gathering, of course) is nothing to complain about when the programme is as concentrated with high quality performances as this one was. The acts were moving enough to offset the part about not being able to stretch your legs- especially when emcees Jillian Smith and Damian Melville have you laughing nearly to tears behind your mask in between each set.

Bringing voice into the first half, there was spoken word by Zakiya Gill, the griot who never disappoints and vocals by Collis Duranty, (who bears a very eerie resemblance to Chronixx when he wears a hat onstage) who promised to have a conversation with the audience through song, and delivered that promise with Kyle Peters giving us good vibes on the guitar again.

The cast of artistes reminded us of that universal fact that ’South Trinidad having relll talent’, with the Point Fortin posse looking particularly sharp. Keiron Baptiste and Dana Rambaran showed their stuff with the cutest hip-hop duet to a Frank Sinatra remix, representing Sky Academy with that Point people flair. Lois Lewis and the Jeunes Agape Youth Choir showed up and flew the flag as high as they’re known to, giving us Scrunter’s ‘Woman On The Bass’ like we’ve never heard it before.

Photo Credit: Garth Baptiste

South Trinidad having relll talent’

When we first went into lockdown, we knew Kevin Soyer as a comedian. Half a pandemic later, he has reincarnated as a performance poet and he’s wearing both hats incredibly well. Soyer gave us one of the most touching performances of the night, with ‘Breathe on Purpose’, the piece that won him second place in the National Poetry Slam this year. This poem is one that everyone should be afforded to privilege of experiencing in live performance, particularly in these times of isolation when mental health challenges need to be treated with extra care.

The featured artiste of the night was Candice Marcus, who really consolidated the meaning of ‘ubuntu’ through a mind-blowing explanation of galactic collisions and soothing storytelling through song. The ‘soul session’ as it was aptly called, brought in the guitar grandmaster once again- you guessed, it, Kyle Peters! Candice’s vocals are a feat on their own, and the performance flourished even more with the IBIS dancers joining her onstage to take this storytelling to the next level. Special mention must go out to the young Jaden Forde, whose choreography is out of this world.

Photo Credit: Garth Baptiste

Candice Marcus, who really consolidated the meaning of ‘ubuntu’ through a mind-blowing explanation of galactic collisions and soothing storytelling through song.

To end it off, Sancouche brought the parang medley down from Point Fortin to remind us that it’s still Christmas- COVID and all.

As for the IBIS dancers, their name truly is a reflection of what they were able to do- blending individuals in synergy, even in the time of social distancing. The trio of Raun Joseph, Karline Brathwaite and Ariel Thomas proved that they are just as astounding at choreography as they are at performing. There are no words to describe the masterpiece that is Sherma Burke’s COCO Dance Festival choreography entitled ‘Alienated’, with chilling depiction of the dynamics of despair and depression.  Talk about technique, talk about versatility, talk about motion, talk about IBIS!

Photo Credit: Garth Baptiste

With this heartwarming tribute to IBIS powerhouse, Arthur Lewis, Ubuntu marked such an important coming together of community in these times when much is happening behind screens. I only would have wished that the community in the audience were bigger, even with seating in Naparima Bowl at 50% capacity. This might be an indication of the state of live events in 2020, and, just as importantly, a prod to amp up the marketing strategies to bring people out of their homes and keep the Arts alive in safe & sanitary spaces.

Ubuntu marked such an important coming together of community in these times when much is happening behind screens.

Photo Credit: Garth Baptiste

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Harmony Farrell

Harmony is a poet, actor, dancer, stage singer, researcher, educator, content creator…and the list goes on! In 2019 she graduated from the Guildford School of Acting/University of Surrey with a first class honours degree in Theatre & Performance with Creative Writing, where she grew an interest in writing about the arts. Her passion for performing emerged somewhere between being involved as an ensemble member & soloist for groups in musical theatre, parang, choral singing, dance (ballet, tap and contemporary), spoken word, comedy videos and again, the list can go on. Harmony’s writing is situated between her scholarly focus and her practitioner’s insight.

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