Some Caricom 30 countries were present at the festival, among them Jamaica, whose musical ambassador, Duane Stephenson, flew the black, green and gold flag with immense pride.
The reggae singer had been invited by Caricom to represent Jamaica at CARIFESTA and for this artiste, who had chosen to stay at home this year rather than perform in Europe, it was indeed a “great honour” to find favour with the selection committee. “CARIFESTA XI a wonderful experience and I thoroughly enjoyed every moment of it,” Duane declared.
“It was like a real homecoming with all my Caribbean brothers and sisters greeting each other and focusing on our similarities rather than our differences. CARIFESTA XI allowed me to see myself as a Caribbean man who is doing music for the world rather than a Jamaican reggae artiste,” the singer explained, adding that he had made many invaluable contacts on both personal and professional levels.
The man from August Town performed at the Youth Village, located in Paramaribo and he thrilled the multi-cultural crowd with great selections from his repertoire, including Ghetto Pain, August Town, Rastafari, Fire In Meand Nah Pay. His conscious, message music was the perfect fit for such an uplifting occasion and with Duane’s natural charisma, it was a glorious day for reggae music at CARIFESTA XI.
The business side was equally fruitful, as the massive Caribbean festival of arts celebrations had booking agents and scouts from the US, Europe and as far away as Australia, watching with interest and hastening to secure acts for upcoming events in those parts of the world. “I exchanged numbers with several of them and one in particular, South By Southwest, one of the major talent scouts was keenly interested,” a very upbeat Duane stated.
Now back in Jamaica, after CARIFESTA and a subsequent six-day trip to French Guiana, which saw him and his Dread Heights Band performing for over 2000 persons at a village in the interior of the island, Duane is putting the finishing touches to his album, which should be ready for international release before yearend.