Ras Shorty I

VISIONARY MUSICIAN: Ras Shorty I

Calypso legend and soca music inventor Ras Shorty I (Garfield Blackman) will be honoured today from noon with a full music festival at the Blackman Ranch in Piparo.

Ras Shorty I’s 20th Remembrance is being held two decades to the exact date that the music innovator passed away. Shorty, known around the region as the “Father of Soca” and “The Love Man”, died of bone cancer on July 12, 2000. He was 59.

The event will feature a number of performances from Shorty’s children including: Abbi Blackman, Sheldon Blackman, Isaac Blackman, Nehilet Blackman & Lights The Band, Marge Blackman & Jamoo and his granddaughter Nailah Blackman & Sokah.

Nigel Rojas & Orange Sky, Collis Duranty, Solman, Rembunction, Keshav, The Moruga Brothers, Anne/SSA, Freetown Collective, Mistah Shak and Providence Brown are also billed to appear. Witco Desperadoes Steel Orchestra will also perform. Admission is free.

Shorty’s son Sheldon Blackman said the overwhelming outpouring of support for the event by the local music fraternity and the keen interest by the public at large is a testament to the loving life his father lived and the immeasurable impact he has had on this country’s musical landscape.

“It’s humbling and encouraging to know the life he lived had such meaning that people still show that respect and love to him even 20 years after his passing. From just organising this event and calling and asking people to support the overwhelming response shows how he lived his life and this is such a blessing for me to see. To be alive and to honour him means a lot for a number of people, not just us. You call and they say, ‘no problem man, that’s for Shorty’.

“That’s how I want to be remembered too. When I leave this realm I want people to have that same kind of respect that if my children call and say we doing something for Sheldon and people respond the same way it means I did a good job,” Sheldon Blackman told the Express on Friday.

All Covid protocols observed

The Remembrance concert is the first major event honouring the “soca starter” in 10 years. The Blackman children first all got together to sing and perform tributes to their father in 2010. And while they have individually and collectively honoured him since then, Sheldon said this celebration is particularly special coming out of a down period for local music in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“It’s peculiar times. We were initially thinking of having this celebration as part of our annual Friendship Festival and making a big splash but then came Covid-19. As things began to open back we thought, nah man we really have to do something to honour him and remember him. Even if it’s just us family,” Sheldon Blackman said.

The event, one of the first public gatherings since the relaxing of the Covid-19 restrictions, will observe strict safety protocols, Sheldon said. Guests will be required to wear masks and wash hands upon entering the venue and will be limited to interacting in groups of 25, he said.

“We have the relevant protocols in place. Besides mandatory masks and washing hands for entry we also have a preregistration form on the event page and at the gate. We are required to have everybody’s information for contact tracing in the event anything happens, knock on wood, we can contact them.

“We have allotted spaces with no more than 25 seating with proper distancing. People will be in no larger than groups of 25. This is an open air space so we have lots of space to work with.

“It’s really important we get this perfect as we are one of the first events (since the lockdown). It’s an added pressure because we feel there is an extra scrutiny on us, but we are hoping it opens up for more events to happen. The artistes have been hit hard and while this is not a money making thing at all, it’s a good trial to see how it would work so we need to get it right,” he said.

Sheldon said the event will also mark the public reopening of the Blackman Ranch which, besides serving as the family home, has become a farmer’s market and popular camping ground for families.

“It’s a farm, but it’s also our home. We have developed the space in a way where we have events here. We have retreats and camping and all that. We are kind of reopening from that perspective. We started the farmer’s market as we grow vegetables and we encourage other farmers to come be a part of it,” Sheldon explained.

Sheldon said that open door policy is exactly how they were raised by their father: to be always ready to share and entertain.

“That’s how we grew up. Our space was always open. There was a musical festival by us every weekend. A whole busload of people would just come to visit and chill out. And all of a sudden we were entertaining and ministering.

“We don’t have it as open as he had it because now you have to book that appointment but we thought it was important to continue with that open space. The ultimate vision is to have a museum here and every day we are trying to inch closer to that goal,” Sheldon concluded.

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