Bring­ing the Stars Closer to Earth: Anthony “The Mighty Gabby” Carter

Anthony “The Mighty Gabby” Carter born March 30th, 1948

gabbyTell us a bit about your­self.

I’m the 4th of 5 chil­dren. I have three broth­ers and one sis­ter. My mother was a mid­wife. My father left our fam­ily when I was about 5. But I still remem­ber how much both he and my mother loved music. Dad was always whistling and tap­ping his foot.

We hear young Anthony was quite the singer in his young days as well.

[Laughs] Yes, I sang in both the St. Mary’s and St. Leonard’s School Choirs. It was actu­ally singing in these two choirs that taught me how to har­mo­nize. But I am grate­ful for those expe­ri­ences because they helped me realise I wanted to be a singer.

And how did you mother take this?

Not well that’s for sure [laughs]! I was always really good at my aca­d­e­mics and she felt this was my path to suc­cess. One day she even said “If you can show me one suc­cess­ful calyp­son­ian, then I will agree with you”. I couldn’t [laughs] but that didn’t stop me from pur­su­ing my music. I skipped my GCE exam to sing in a calypso com­pe­ti­tion. I didn’t think that one through because mum started get­ting sus­pi­cious when I didn’t receive my results! At first I told her I failed all of my sub­jects but even­tu­ally, after a few years, I finally told her I never showed up for the test!

Nice. So when did you first dis­cover calypso?

I think I was around 7 – when I learned my very first song Small Cone by Kitch­ener. Yes, it was a long time ago [laughs]. I started to work in both that and folk music but when I met Eddie Grant things really changed for me.

What was it like meet­ing one of your heroes?

Sur­real. I remem­ber head­ing to Bayley’s Plan­ta­tion – only because I heard Eddie Grant was going to live there. I walked around and around the prop­erty and he was stand­ing under a tree just watch­ing me, not say­ing a word. So I finally gath­ered the courage and intro­duced myself. It was a moment I will never forgot.

Who would you say had the great­est impact on your devel­op­ment as an artiste?

Oh with­out a doubt Eddie. “Eddie always used to say ‘Gab­berts, you are not mak­ing the music for today. Ten, 8, 20 years from now, unless I am wrong and I’ve never been wrong, these songs are going to be played’. I couldn’t see it at the time, of course … but he saw some­thing dif­fer­ent and some­thing that was more vision­ary and it proved that he was cor­rect.” He always told peo­ple he built his record­ing stu­dio Blue Wave for him­self, me and Grynner.

Every­one knows you are a Calypso leg­end. When did you win your first calypso crown?

In 1968 when I was 19 – the youngest per­son to ever win the crown.

Most of the artistes we have inter­viewed have at times moon­lighted as actors. Have you done any act­ing stints?

Oh yes. I starred in the doc­u­men­tary 500 years later, which also starred Maulana Karenga. I also dab­bled a lot in plays; the first and most pop­u­lar one being “Under the Duppy Parasol”.

What have been the biggest sources of moti­va­tion behind some of your early songs?

Much of that sur­rounded our cul­ture. We as a coun­try had made great strides in the 80’s and 90’s, but there was still the sense that Bar­ba­dos didn’t have its own cul­ture. So in that period I wanted to prove that we did have a cul­ture espe­cially since no one really came out to defend it. So, many of my songs dur­ing that period were based on show­ing that Bar­ba­dos indeed had a culture.

Any­thing else?

My songs have been satires against the polit­i­cal and cul­tural trends I observed. Noth­ing reflects this more than “Boots” and “Jack”.

We also hear you are quite the entre­pre­neur as well.

Yes. In 1979 I opened the Bat­tle­ground Calypso Tent and I was very pleased by its growth. For more than 10 con­sec­u­tive years the road march title was won by some­one from my tent.

Tell us a bit about the 2010 Pic-​o-​De-​Crop Finals. We know it was quite controversial.

I think per­sons made it more con­tro­ver­sial than it really was to be hon­est. That year I had not planned on com­pet­ing. I just wanted to help the youth at the time really grow and develop in the calypso careers. But then I heard that my tent wasn’t doing so well and the last thing I wanted was some kind of embar­rass­ment. So, I took two songs I wrote and mem­o­rised them a cou­ple hours before the Semis of Pic-​o-​De-​Crop. And as fate would have it I won that year. The crowd didn’t take it well but I think it’s because they didn’t under­stand the type of music por­trayed by the two songs. It was a mix­ture of Brazil­ian, African and our very own Spouge and Calypso so it was pretty dif­fer­ent from the usual. But I under­stood their posi­tion and I for­gave them for their reaction.

What is one thing our read­ers may not know about you?

I work in schools around the island teach­ing folk and Calypso music.

What about some­thing our reader would never guess?

I was named a Niger­ian Chief and given the name Omowale, mean­ing “our son has returned”.

That’s inter­est­ing. When did this happen?

On a trip to Nife­ria. They were the ones who gave me the name. Being a Niger­ian Chief sym­bol­izes that I am head of a com­mu­nity or clan; kind of a source of authority.

Is there any­thing else you wish to add?

“I want to thank every­body in the arts not just calypso, because they encour­aged me and told me I could do it. I felt hon­oured even for the artistes I had the oppor­tu­nity to write for. I had great expe­ri­ences with peo­ple like Super Blue, David Rud­der, [and] The Lion. I am eter­nally grate­ful for the chance and the oppor­tu­nity that Bar­ba­dos afforded me.”

Inter­view com­ple­ments GIS Bar­ba­dos, Crop Over Bar­ba­dos, Bar­ba­dos Pocket Guide, Caribbean Beat, Netli​brary​.net, open​.uwi​.edu, Acad​e​mia​.edu
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