Anguilla’s Supreme Next Generation
The street lights were lit! Hundreds of students and adults had gathered at the Landsome Bowl Cultural Center on that still October night in 2003. Starfest had finally arrived. Two months prior, Carnival celebrations had seen the Mussington Brothers crowned with yet another Road March title. But on that night, no one was there to see them. They were there to witness the embryonic stages of what today we call “Band Clash.” The entire community of students at the Albena Lake Hodge Comprehensive School was abuzz for weeks. This night would decide the champions!
Never before in the musical history of Anguilla had two soca bands been formed among high school students. Never before was there such fervor for local soca bands among young Anguillians. In an era when hip-hop was taking the island by storm, the energy around these two groups had managed to wrestle some attention from even the most popular rappers of the day.
The Supreme Band and The Next Generation band’s rivalry in the mid-2000s ushered in a new tier of musical jousting among Anguilla’s soca bands and created a new generation of soca lovers. Though young Anguillians always played and loved soca, the genre seemed mostly reserved for those in their 20s and 30s. This scenario proved the opposite: not only were the bands’ members high school students, but each band’s lineup was complete with a female vocalist – rare at the time. The icing on the cake, however, was the fact that they were good – really good! Both bands approached the soca arena with bravado never before witnessed from teenagers. They were not intimidated by older bands. In fact, in 2004, the Next Generation Band surprised many by producing an album as well as playing on J’ouvert morning.
The advent of the Internet in the early 1990s and what we now call the economic “boom” of the 2000s gave Anguillian teenagers access to the world. Able manipulate technology better than any musicians from previous generations, the Anguillian teenagers foraged the internet for deals on the latest drum machines and beat making programs. Social media sites such as Hi5.com and MySpace.com allowed them to connect with peers on other islands and share music. This new wave of teenage creativity did not go unnoticed.
Karl Woodley was a member of staff at the ALHCS in 2003. He recognized the energy and potential in the movement and decided to become a part of it.
“The ALHCS had organized an event called Star Festival. I had taught members of both bands in my Hotel Management class, and they wanted to take part but didn’t know what to do. Both bands were formed from the same year group, with exception of Shereena Richardson.”
Shereena Richardson, Patrick Williams and Kamoi Carty would go on to become Junior Calypso Monarchs, and members of both bands would go on to accomplish great things musically as well as academically. Most of the members from both bands went on to university and continued to produce and play every summer, crushing the myth that members of soca bands were not academically inclined. Their intellect, musical ability and drive encouraged Woodley to become the manager of the Next Generation Band, while legendary radio announcer Mello Sello did the same for Supreme Band.
That era laid the foundation for Band Clash, but it also shifted the way soca music was marketed and heard in Anguilla. Experiments with the latest equipment fused with nuances from other genres all emerged from this classic rivalry. Most important, this rivalry encouraged an unprecedented interest in the genre and became the first class in what has become an incubator for soca bands. Since then, bands such as Xtacy TM, Cella, Super Sonic, Motion, Better Vibes and Musical Vibrations were all formed in classrooms and sheds at the ALHCS.
Now in their mid-twenties, the fold reflects fondly on their high school rivalry and an era that challenged the fabric of Anguilla’s soca scene. Supreme Band members Cherrod Lewis, Lorin Babrow and Shereena Richardson were recruited by Pantha Vibes and went on to win multiple Road March, Band Clash and Bandorama titles. The late Sil Connor, who was a pillar of the band, continued to play bass with several entities on the island. Tahirah Banks still records as a solo artist and is one of the founders of axasumfestlive, Anguilla’s first mobile carnival app. Next Generation’s Kamoi Carty and Patrick Williams founded what is now one of Anguilla’s biggest bands, the Infusion Band. Nicholas Romney continued to play bass in the Better Band and now De Movements Band (DMB). He too has snagged Bandorama titles with that band.
That 2003 October night may be a mere glimmer in most people’s memory. However, the culture and the genre still feel its aftershocks.