Barbados' First Lady of Jazz

Article from The Nation










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From The Nation, Barbados' leading newspaper.
March 31, 2006
by Ricky Jordan

CiCi on Album Street

Bajan jazz singer Celestine CiCi Shaw is making a big step by releasing two albums in the not-too-distant future: a CD of Christmas standards sung in her uniquely sultry style, and possibly an album of jazz covers.

It is another phase in recent efforts by the petite singer to take her music and Barbadian culture beyond these shores, for she has been making waves in Canada within the last year and wants to start an exchange of musicians between the two countries.

Her stint in Canada – Calgary, to be specific – came about following a visit to Britain when she was invited to perform at the Dorchester.

Her mother had just died, and by the time she had ended the Dorchester gig, her brother Darwin “Happy” Phillips, a top drummer back in the day as well as a multi-instrumentalist and singer, also passed.

“I went to Canada [with friends] because I was a total wreck after their deaths … that’s when I fell in love with Calgary where people really embraced me as a singer,” she told Groove.

There, word got around Canada that the famous singer seen by hundreds of visitors to the Waterfront Café in Barbados, was finally in their homeland.

As a result, CiCi is now spending her time between the two countries, enjoying the best of both worlds and planning to finally record some of her well-known covers with arranger Brian Buchanan.

The mother of another popular local singer, Troy Arthur-Shaw, has been singing professionally since 1982 after a stint trying her hand at country and western songs in the United States.

“I haven’t regretted anything,” she said. “I had fun singing with [first-class musicians] like Ernie Small, Ebe Gilkes and Mike Sealy.”

At one stage, she sang at the Miramar with Sealy and the Sun Kings, did several gigs over the years with the VSOP Dixie Jazz band, led her own band at Sandy Lane, and sang with the MV Freewinds band aboard that cruise liner.

As for the world-famous Belair, which has since been reopened but no longer truly catering to jazz, CiCi sang there in its latter days: the 1980s.

“I was too young at the beginning and by the time I got into performing on the circuit, the Belair was about to close,” she recalled. But with Howard Roberts on piano and Mike on guitar, she thoroughly enjoyed the Belair days as well as later times in the late 1990s at Bourbon Street where jazz whetted the palette as much as the food did.

She added there was nowhere else to listen to or perform jazz in Barbados beside the Waterfront; nor was there anywhere else for people of her vintage to have a good time.

“My friends only have a good time at the back-in-time event at The Plantation and Cool Jazz which is once a month. We need a place for us over 50s who are still looking fine!,” she said.

CiCi, who has a website featuring her music, biography, pictures and most recent news, also wants to be a musical ambassador for the country.

“I don’t particularly like where our music is going. Before, even the tourists knew the lyrics and you could move to the music. But now, unless your dress isn’t somewhere under where it’s not supposed to be, you can’t go on stage.”

“Much isn’t being done for local entertainers at all. It’s a bit sad when you have the talent and nobody really supports you. And we’ve got lots of talent; it’s God’s gift. Foreign musicians come here to see local musicians in action,” she stated.

CiCi can occasionally be found at local venues alongside Tamara Marshall, with whom she recently brought down the house at the Barbados Hilton.
Jordan, Ricky, (2006).  CiCi on Album Street.  The Nation, March 31, 2006.

© 2006 The Nation

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