Stage presence: The whole Chewstick crew took to the stage in Brooklyn’s Galapagos Art Space on Friday night created a carnival atmosphere. The Friday night performance was one of three New York gigs last week.
Stage presence: The whole Chewstick crew took to the stage in Brooklyn’s Galapagos Art Space on Friday night created a carnival atmosphere. The Friday night performance was one of three New York gigs last week.
Bermuda's Onions brought fire and soul to the Big Apple last week as part of Chewstick's three-gig tour of New York.

The Bermuda flag flew high at The Shrine in Harlem, the ­Galapagos Art Space in Brooklyn and the Nuyorican in Manhattan as 17 singers, musicians and poets crossed the pond to give the big city a taste of our little island. I was able to attend the Brooklyn and Manhattan gigs on Friday night and Saturday afternoon.

They were two very different venues - the trendy Galapagos, situated in one of New York's ­premier arts districts, features everything from electric orchestras to burlesque dancers. The legendary Nuyorican Poets Cafe in Manhattan has featured some of the world's most well-known poets. It seemed to be the spiritual home for Chewstick with the murals on the walls, the poster of the venue's co-founder - Latino icon and urban poet, Miguel Pinero - and the general chilled out vibe.

The eclectic mix of styles and genres from Chewstick left your head swimming with creativity. We listened to everything from tales of love and loss, the beauty of motherhood and the lure of sex to the dire state of crime in Bermuda and even a pocket history of these, our Devil's Isles. Mediums ranged from spoken word, poetry, song, music and rap while genres crossed reggae, hip hop, rock, soul, folk and opera. If only there were more New Yorkers there to enjoy the shows -there were around 40 people at each venue including the 17 artists, their friends, family and members of the Bermudian ­media.

The host, Tan Zaoui (TanZ), has to be commended for stringing the events together with his saucy commentary that gave a little flavour of what Bermuda is about. He was off the cuff and natural in his delivery. "Good evening!" he called out to the crowd and when he had to repeat it he pointed out that you must ­always say good evening back in Bermuda. Friday's Galapagos show ­certainly began in Bermuda time - at midnight, two hours later than originally advertised - but this was a show worth waiting for.
It began with a wonderfully original and gutsy poem by Tiffany Paynter who teaches art to young children at the Masterworks art gallery. During her poem, Rooster, she actually ­imitated the crowing of a rooster as a smooth ambling jazz rhythm backed her up. It sounds bizarre but it really works, as her voice descended melodically through the 'cuckooooo'. It's atmospheric and it takes guts to get up and do.

Mitchell (Live Wires) Trott knows how to captivate an audience without a doubt, which he certainly proved at both venues. His selection of high-energy ­reggae ballads added a big tune dimension to the show. The drummer, Scarlet Thomas, provided a crisp, tinselly accompaniment on the drums backed by a big bass sound. Live Wire's stage presence and engaging voice were phenomenal.

Tanaya Christopher is a powerful songstress in the making with a deep, soulful delivery but she absolutely must work on singing in tune. When that is perfected look out as she has talent.


Bermuda's rising star, rapper KASE

Rapper KASE was outstanding. Introduced as Bermuda's top MC, he blew away the crowd and became more and more confident with each song he performed. His song Devil's Isles needs to be written down in a book to document Bermuda, it's history and how it is moving with the times. His ­appearance is all part of it with his mix of urban cool and geek but quite frankly, KASE could make cocoa and an early night ­seem cool.

Joy Barnum's operatic voice filled the Galapagos on Friday. New Yorkers' first sight of Joy was of her in Guantanamo ­Bay-style orange jump-suit which, for her second song she stripped off leaving on just a sexy, striped mini dress and killer heels. Her dress changes kept her performances interesting. During her ­final song at Galapagos she wore a beautiful dress that, along with her powerful, roof shattering voice, gave her the appearance of some mythical Goddess.

Kofi Dillagent's rendition of Hendrix's Voodoo Chile on Friday was pretty mind blowing. There was never going to be the technical dexterity of Hendrix but this version practically set the stage on fire. He proved himself to be a bit of an all rounder - playing the guitar, free style rapping and even doing a Gombey dance at the end.


Spring Flower

Spring Flower was a force of her own - bursting with confidence and a carefree attitude. Her second song at Galapagos created an amazing atmosphere, the crowd went wild and Bermuda flags were flying everywhere. At the Nuyorican she came on singing a 'Chewyork' version of Jay-Z's Empire State of Mind - no music - just her singing at the top of her voice. The audience fed off of this firecracker. One of her poems, Dumb Bitch, seemed a ­little out of kilter with Chewstick's pillars of respect, freedom, love and truth. She is berating an ex-boyfriend and calling herself a dumb bitch forever falling for the apparent loser. We all make ­mistakes, we need to forgive ­ourselves for them, move on and avoid the bad energy.

The house band, One Take ­Dizzle, so-called because they ­never play the same tune twice and pretty much improvise the whole way through the performance. You can't get more versatile than this - one band who has to play for more than ten different ­performers and manages to do it well. It was an incredible display of talent so hats off to Milton ­Raposo on keys, Derek G. Simmons on bass, Kofi Dillagent on guitar and Scarlet Thomas on drums.


The sassy Brown Suga flirts with a member of the audience

I couldn't remember Brown Suga play the first night but I must have been either three blocks away or in a coma to miss it. At the Nuyorican she took to the stage and got one of the most lively responses from the audience out of the two shows I ­attended. At one point she walked into the audience and started flirting with a guy who seemed not to mind in the slightest. Her songs were sassy, the lyrics ­cleverly placed in a performance to be commended. Like her lyrics suggested, she was dressed to kill and had plenty of sex appeal. At one point she roared 'like a tiger' making even Kofi looked flustered, he who had the previous night been humping his guitar to Voodoo Chile.

Chewstick founder, Gavin ­(Sunjata) Smith pulled out his crowd pleaser, Party, at Galapagos which got people fired up and he also sang a touching song about how his mother had brought him up from boy to man. It was appropriate the day before Mother's Day and he gave a shout out to Kofi and KASE's moms who were sat in the audience.

What an amazing energy at the end of the Friday night when all the artists took to the stage and started dancing. The night took on a carnival-style turn with sexy women dancing, whistles blowing, drums beating, flags flying and the icing on the cake, Kofi's Gombey dance.

The neo griot nature of Chewstick can be very forgiving - it's about getting up and sharing your thoughts, your wisdom and your experience. We can forgive a ­forgotten line here or a dud note there. Give or take a few little creases that need ironing out and a little time and effort, Chewstick could easily make this an overseas ­success.

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