The second instalment of the gospel concert Hallelujah 2 which fell in the middle of Trinidad and Tobago’s Carnival 2024 celebrations, seemed like a direct response to the call by many to play more positive music on the local radio stations.
While it appears that the Trinibad genre is grabbing the headlines, many times in a negative light, radio host John Gill said he challenged himself to do exactly what was being proposed.
“As a society, we have dropped the ball on these young people because the universe abhors a vacuum. So when that vacuum was created, by the existence of talented youth with no outlet, and nobody taking them on, the gangsters filled the vacuum…and as a result, their music started to reflect that.”
Gill said his involvement in promoting Hallelujah 2 reflects his desire to do what he can to improve the entertainment environment. He and his team partnered with a some of TT’s top gospel artistes to give life to this vision. Gill said the support of gospel radio station Word 107 was also invaluable.
Families, groups of friends, couples, children, the curious and the familiar turned up in their numbers to the John Cupid Carnival Village, at the Queen's Park Savannah on February 4, and the majority stayed for the entire show.
The list of entertainers on the cast matched the energy of the season; and Sean Daniel, in his set, reminded attendees “who started the waving ting.”
The successful hosting of this event for the second consecutive year was not without its challenges, as Gill told Sunday Newsday when he originally pitched the idea he was met with some resistance on both the religious and secular sides.
He said some people felt that during Carnival and in the Carnival Village was not the appropriate time and place for gospel music, but he pursued it because the existence of gospelypso was evidence that there was an avenue whereby these two aspects of TT’s diverse culture could be integrated.
Plus, he said, he strongly felt that “both the Carnival and the Carnival Village could do with the blessing.”
And Gill said almost every performer he approached in the lead up to the event, almost immediately came on board.
The show was hosted by Junior Lett and Wendell Bomparte, and artistes were backed by the Uncommon Band.
The evening’s programme opened with stellar performances from Udo Ebeleme, Rene Fortune and later, Ruel Lynch, who invited the 2005 Groovy Soca Monarch, radio announcer and gospel singer Michelle Sylvester on-stage in her first of two appearances for the night. Then the legacy of Garfield Blackman (Ras Shorty I) was represented by his daughter Nihilet Blackman who performed his always relevant Watch Out my children. As expected, it was a crowd favourite, with most of the audience members singing along. She followed with an energetic rendition her well-loved Trini Makosa. By this time, the audience was hyped and eagerly awaiting the introduction of the next performer.
By the time Sylvester returned to the stage, and prompted the audience to sing along, the energy in the Queen’s Park Savannah was buzzing. Her cover of Luciano’s It’s me again Jah was flawless. Bomparte took off his announcer’s hat for a spell and, together with Sylvester, led the audience in a few upbeat gospel choruses including Move Satan Move, and Won’t it be a Time. They then performed a duet titled I wanna be just like you. Bomparte left the stage at the end of their performance, and Sylvester wound up her set with the highlight of her presentation the song made popular by herself and the late Denyse Plummer, Safe on the Inside. The response was explosive.
Daniel entered and shared several of his hits, including his trademark, Waving Thing, which fit right in.
Nathaniel ‘Natty’ Hamilton was the evening’s next entertainer and performed enthusiastic audience, and performed Who God Bless and Nutten out Dey to an enthusiastic audience. He punctuated his performances with a testimony of his deviation from God and how he found his way back.
Blessed Messenger was up next, and his delivery had the audience in a celebratory mood, as they clapped, sang and danced. He was followed by Jaron Nurse who shared some testimonies in between his effortless crooning of his songs.
Closing off the evening’s proceedings was Isaac Blackman who performed two selections – the popular crossover hit Ceiling, and Whole day the father blessing me.
The show ended on a high note at around 10:30 pm.
Bomparte told Sunday Newsday there was a level of apprehension on the part of some Christians regarding participation – something he ascribed to misunderstanding on their part.
“There are some people who have never participated in anything that has to do with Carnival or culture, but have the thinking that everything about it is filled with revelry and debauchery.”
He said many who came out of curiosity were "blown away."