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Barbara Cadet

Barbara Cadet

Honestly, I never expected to get a grand tour of the place I’d heard of most of my life, but had absolutely never visited.  Several times I’d come within shouting distance, but there was never anyone to shout to over there. In between  proudly pointing out the great view, she was giving me  the low-down on how the cannon found its way up there.  I was having comedic imaginings of several ——– French men busting blood vessels and other vital organs transporting this heavy thing.  It was worth the wait.  Not just because this place is strategically situated in the side of a cliff over looking the harbour mouth. My tour guide was unique too.  With stray locks of curly hair playing games in the wind around her face, she looked thrilled to be sharing her place with a small but appreciative audience. Me.

When I first drove up to the house, Barbara Ann Cadet was bent over her keyboard practising. How obvious. Not so actually, as she will quickly admit, that her days are not spent living and breathing music, it is however, in her head a lot of the time. There are other mundane aspects to the life of a musician that must be balanced with the business of being an artiste. Like the business of running things like a business. The creative process must be tempered with billings and collections. However when she’s not practising and paying the bills, she comes here, to her secret place.

Born in Manchester, England, but raised here for the first 12 years of her life by her grandparents, she was encouraged to take piano lessons. Her grandmother insisted. She spent the next lO years back in England where she received her formal education.and has been living here in St. Lucia for the last 10 years. She says her family is close and in the last 2 months, her mom has back home. Familial closeness has played an important part in her upbringing, growing up with 9 aunts and uncles. whom she refers to as her mothers and fathers.

Barbara. 33, says she is at one of life’s cross-roads, learning and appreciating the balancing act came at a heavy physical and emotional price. There were moments of self and spiritual searching, conflicts of independence and dependence on those closest to her. Her me process meant dropping out of sight for a while, climbing out of the depths of her lowest low.  She seems to have signed some kind of peace treaty with her internal gremlins and the joint communique reads: “Barbara is back and she’s bad!”

This woman is so intense about her music you could almost feel the glow of her heart-light when she gets started. But it hasn’t been easgoing along that road either. She explains that it is very difficult at times dealing with other musicians as a female band leader, in her male dominated world of blue notes and melodic shades. Her demanding passion for the inner meaning in the sound that is music is not often shared by those with whom she has to work. That can prove problematic for anyone. Barbara is the first to say that she is not a perfectionist but in her universe where levels of intensity and deeper understanding among players must mesh, the need to vacuum more out of others is high. Realistically, the only way one can fully demand so much, in her own words, is by saying “You do that s..t and I’ll give you a million dollars!”   The rewards aren’t that great in this environment. For her its not about the money.  Its about conveying a message. Feelings. Expressions. Its about the music…and these things, simply cannot be taught because past experiences and who you are determine the interpretation of the black notes on white paper.

Barbara is currently getting ready for St. Lucia Jazz ’99 and has a couple of original compositions which will showcased. She is tight-lipped about what she’ll be doing for the upcoming event, but in between deep inhalations on a B & H cigarette she mentions something called “Statement” and another, economically titled “December 12th.” The latter so titled because it was written on that date and “echoes bits from the national anthem.” This years performance though will not just be about Barbara Cadet. She says it will feature women and the music will be part of an entire  production, which is now in the works. Some major fusion happening here. Jazz is not new to Barbara. She has performed in Jazz Festivals in Martinique, Trinidad and Aruba.

Co-founder of the all female steel orchestra. Allegro Pan Groove, Barbara’s bio reads like a long stretch of the imagination, but there is nothing imaginary about being invited to perform at the Royal Palace, Rabat, Morocco, for the Prince of Morocco’s 28th birthday. Barbara is comfortable playing piano & keyboards, alto & soprano saxophones, clarinet, steel pan, guitar, recorder and sings too. She taught as head of the wood-wind Department at the St. Lucia School of Music for 6 years and has composed, directed, arranged and produced several local groups including Some lrie People and North Stars Steel Orchestra. She appears on the Ami Mendes “Bon Bini” CD, recorded in Caracas, Venezuela, and has even been invited to give a presentation on Caribbean music by ethno-musicologist Dr. Paul Austerlitz of Miami University.  Speaking of CDs, she doesn’t have one of her own simply because she’s not ready. Fair warning though, when that time comes get ready to be blown away by a superb musical experience. Barbara has just completed work on a travel documentary with a German company, VOX TV, to be aired  later this year. The production features Barbara. Sessene Descartes, Allegro Pan Groove and Pan Maker from North Stars Steel Orchestra. Currently working on arranging original composition for Allegro Pan Groove for Panorama ’99, her work seems never ending.

As the light fades from Barbara’s sanctuary and we continue to talk even as she tells me several times that she’ll be late for her hotel gig, it dawns on me that this is still an interview. We’ve touched on all kinds of subjects including children and turning a certain battery into an open-air theatre and transforming me into a drummer. But as we gradually rise up from the reverie and come full circle to that secret place where she is most free, I begin to hear distant chords in the cadence of her voice. The music is Barbara Cadet.

Source: St. Lucian Lifestyles Magazine

Available: Vertical Files- St. Lucia Biographies, Hunter J. Francois Library, Morne Fortune, Castries, St. Lucia

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