Anthony Gabby Carter
THERE ARE SO many facets to great Barbadian Calypsonian Anthony Mighty Gabby Carter - singer, songwriter, guitarist, playwright, recording artist, folk artist, picong general, Cultural Ambassador actor – and not the least of all, a nine time calypso king, his most recent win at this year’s Pic-O-De Crop Finals.
Throughout his long life of being a cultural icon, perhaps the accolade he most holds dear is being named a Nigerian chief, which symbolises that he is head of a community or clan and is a source of authority; and being given the name Omowale, which means "our son has returned". A vocal Pan-Africanist, he received the Clement Payne National Hero Award in 2005.
Born in March 1948, Gabby was the fourth of five children. He sang in the St Mary's School Choir and St Leonard's School Choir, where he learnt harmony. He was seven years old when he first encountered calypso
Gabby spent most of his young life working in folk music and calypso, which went to another level upon meeting international recording and singing star Eddy Grant in 1982. Grant, who considers Gabby “a genius”, is famous for saying he built the Blue Wave, studio for himself, Gabby and Gabby's long-time calypso partner, Grynner.
Ever the entrepreneur, in 1979, Gabby formed his Battleground Calypso Tent, which quickly started creating Road March Kings. For more than a decade straight, the road march title went to a Battleground singer every year except when the tent had financial problems and closed in 1986 and 1987. Gabby started the winning trend himself in 1979 with Burn, Mr. Harding.
Gabby, whose music never fails to demonstrate his active social and cultural conscience, is known for his satirical songs criticizing politicians and cultural trends. He has been writing and singing calypso music for over 40 years and has written over 700 songs. His discography is filled with hits sung both by him and the many others who sing his songs. He was awarded the Living Legend Award at the first ever Barbados Music Awards in January 2006.
Some of the major highlights of his enduing musical career include:
- Gabby writing Barbados’ first Independence song called Independencein 1966
- winning the first Crop-Over road march title in 1979 with Burn Mr. Harding and again in 1982 with Jack (Dah Beach is Mine)
- Beingthe youngest calypsonian to win the calypso crown in Barbados at age 19 in 1968 and went on to win the Calypso king title again in 1969, 1976, 1985, 1999, 2000 and again in 2010
- Folk Singer of The Year in 1977, 1978, 1979
- Emmerton regarded as Barbados’Song of the Decade
Being named as Cultural Ambassador and working in Barbadian schools teaching Folk and Calypso music
Gabby moreso than any other folk artist in Barbados, can be credited for catapulting folk music into mainstream popular music. Two of his most popular folk songsEmmerton and Bridgetown, are themselves at the root and core of scores of other lyrics and arrangements, and speaks to Gabby’s indelible influence on generations of lyricists, arrangers and musicians after him.
He has been credited as being one of the most creative melody makers and has worked working with a number of leading Caribbean arrangers including Mike Sealy, Andy Williams, Frankie McIntosh, Eddy Grant, Nicholas Brancker, and the late `Patches' Mendoza.
A great coup of the 62-year-old veteran’scareer was returning to this year’s annual Barbados Crop Over Festival Pic-O-De-Crop calypso contest competition at the 11th hour after a two-year hiatus to win his ninth title.
Gabby is not only renowned for his singing. He also made his mark as an actor in numerous stage plays. His first and most popular was Under the Duppy Parasol, a play about how a Bajan girl lost her identity in New York. The play got rave reviews in Barbados copping him the award as Best Actor.
Gabby also starred in the multi-award winning documentary 500 Years Later (2005) starring Maulana Karenga, Muhammed Shareef , Francis Cress Welsin, Kimani Nehusi, Paul Robeson Jr, Nelson George, and many more. The film was written by M.K. Asante, Jr. directed by Owen 'Alik Shahadah.
www.cropoverbarbados.com is in the process of compiling a complete discography of Gabby’s work.