Anthony “The Mighty Gabby” Carter born March 30th, 1948
Tell 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.
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, Netlibrary.net, open.uwi.edu, Academia.edu
Image taken from Pinterest