Creating a platform for gospel music across the Caribbean

The Southernaires Choir - Yvonne Webb
The Southernaires Choir - Yvonne Webb

FINDING a space for local gospel music to grow and thrive. That is the vision of Mantle of Christ Int’l Ministries.

One of the committee members, Suzette Baptiste, told Newsday while there is no shortage of talent in the gospel genre, the opportunities for artistes in this category to evolve is yet to be fully explored.

The St Hillaire Brothers - Yvonne Webb

She said many gospel artistes were challenged to earn from their craft, owing to the absence of a market for their product. Only few get bookings outside TT.

While exploring options across the Caribbean and Latin American markets, the group is also seeking to initiate local programmes to engage gospel singers in the interim.

“We want to create a platform for gospel music and artistes, not only to minister through song, but also to earn income.”

She observed the myriad of opportunities for calypsonians and soca artistes across the region and elsewhere in the world not only to fly the flag of TT’s culture high, but survive and live comfortably from their craft.

“But the prospects for the gospel genre are a bit limited.

“It is not only about soca and calypso music going out there. We are a melting pot of culture and talent in TT, and gospel artistes do have their place.”

On March 16, Mantle of Christ held the fourth edition of Sacrifice of Praise – Before the Throne Gospel Concert and Awards, at the Naparima Bowl, San Fernando.

Dancers from the Diego Martin Footprints Folk Performers - Yvonne Webb

Baptiste said the intention is to use this hallmark concert as a vehicle to export local talent under the genre of gospel music.

The Naparima Bowl is viewed as an ideal venue “to develop a different, all-inclusive gospel space in San Fernando.”

Baptiste said the concert, which featured some of the top gospel artistes, will be exported across the region for viewing later. She said the concert was scheduled to be streamed live to audiences abroad, but infrastructural problems on the night of the show prevented this.

Nevertheless, she explained that through Mersu Caribbean, the show will be exported to media partners in the Caribbean to be broadcast in places like Antigua, St Vincent, Suriname, and Guyana, as well as to the Latin American market, which has about 45 million viewers.

“The islands are always looking for authentic local, Caribbean content, and we will be able to share the talents of our local artistes with our partners in the region."

Sean Daniel - Yvonne Webb

Executive producer and chair of the committee Joseph Attzs said through Sacrifice of Praise, the committee endeavours to give gospel artistes/ministers, a platform to evangelise and spread the gospel further.

Caribbean and Latin American viewers will have the opportunity to view the Southernaires Choir, now under the leadership of Turon Roberts and Peter Lockhart, which opened the concert.

Firebrand gospel artistes such as Positive, Sean Daniel, Jeron Nurse, Akini and Rizon, were also featured and had the audience leaving their seats to dance in the aisles to the songs of praise and worship.

Rizon - Yvonne Webb

The St Hillaire Brothers of Point Fortin, the Mantelites Chorale with lead singer Flavia Feliz – who also did a hair-raising acapella session – Joanne Foster and the haunting voices of Lashena Rodolpho and Curlene Dottin Won Chong kept the momentum at the concert.

Being held two weeks before the Spiritual Shouter Baptist Day observance, one segment of the concert was dedicated to honouring Spiritual Baptist leaders, past and present, who overcame challenges to now be able to celebrate freedom of their religion.

Jaron Nurse - Yvonne Webb

Among the celebrants were Archbishop William Leon John of the West Indian United Spiritual Baptist Sacred Order Inc and Matriarch Archbishop Dorothy Mildred Antoine Hercules.

Hercules, who has been toiling in the vineyards for over 78 years, was a witness to the transition from British colonial rule to independence and the evolution of the Baptist faith from an illegal entity to the repeal of the Shouter Prohibition Act of 1917 and the granting of a public holiday in 1996 under the late Basdeo Panday administration.

The Mantlelites Chorale - Yvonne Webb

Attzs said the organisers wanted to recognise the men and women of God who made great contributions to the Spiritual Baptist community and honour them, both posthumously and those who were still alive.


"Creating a platform for gospel music across the Caribbean"

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