That Saturday-night show at Great Huts
LIVE MUSIC entertainment is an integral part of the hospitality and tourism industry. It is a given. Expected. The band is expected to pulsate reggae and dancehall music. American soul, disco, pop, and R&B are also part of the staple. From time, to time some jazz is blown into the mix.
However, the live entertainment packages at the various hotels, especially the all-inclusive ones, are not very different from one another. Different singers, different bands, but the same songs are what guests might get. And where are the floor shows of yesteryear?
One place where the floor show is big on the entertainment platter every Saturday night is the Great Huts Resort in Boston, Portland. Except for when there are some special events, Richard Darby and his energetic young dancers and drummers in the Manchioneal Cultural Group from Portland take over the Safari Deck, where dining takes place.
In a very intimate setting, the diners, mostly overseas guests, are seated a few feet away from the dancing and the drumming. The stage is now a path on which the history of Jamaica traditional music is told through songs, drumming and movements. Guided by Richard Darby, who does much of the singing and narratives, the talented youngsters show the audience how Jamaicans used to dance years ago.
The various dances tell the slavery-era stories of master and enslaved with their hands, feet, bodies and faces. From bruckins to dinky minnie, quadrille, maypole and kumina, the movements and the looks of intensity on the faces of the performers are engaging. They certainly know how to carry the mood and essence of each dance.
And the drums are the most overpowering of them all, the singers and the dancers depending on them to set the mood, and when the drummers and the dancers are on fire, all hell breaks loose, which perhaps only the water in a glass on Darby’s head when he dances the kumina can cool.
Darby, who has been dancing with his charges at Great Huts for over five years, stays in one place with the glass on his head and dances in sync with the climactic beats of the drums, saying, ‘A di laas oh, a di laas oh!’ until the last sharp beats to signal the end of Part One echo from the drum.
Part Two is fun time, dances down the memory lane of contemporary Jamaican music. It is time for the dancers to toss away their traditional costumes and don more contemporary ones, some rather raunchy, but true to the essence of the dances.
Music from the days of ska and rocksteady is played reminding the older Jamaican guests of their young days, telling the younger ones what music and dances were like before they were even conceived, and informing overseas guests, especially first-timers, of the history of non-traditional Jamaican music.
Of course, reggae and dancehall music are also spun into the fun. This is the segment when guests are taught Jamaica dance moves and are expected to execute what they have learnt.
The Saturday show at Great Huts is in keeping with Great Huts’mission of showcasing Jamaica’s rich performing and fine arts. Two of its signature cultural programmes are the Jamaican Arts Odyssey and the Cinema Paradise Portie Film Festival.
The Akan Hut at Great Huts in Boston, Portland.
Dr Paul Rhodes, founder of Cinema Paradise. A scene from the panel discussion on exploring links between Africa and Jamaica in the 21st century held inside Africana House, Great Huts, February.
The Queen of Sheba at Great Huts in Boston, Portland.