If you thought that Crop Over was the only time to see exciting stage performances in Barbados, think again!
In fact, if you want to get a true sense of what’s happening on the wider Barbadian music scene, then lovers of live music should also mark September/October in their calendars for Mahalia’s Corner – the concert series that has grown from cozy bar scene to intimate stage show that brings together hidden, emerging and celebrity talent.
Mahalia’s Corner is the brainchild of members of popular Barbadian pop/alternative band, 2 Mile Hill, and is named after the band’s lead singer, Mahalia Cummins. As she tells it, Mahalia’s Corner was born out of a desire to have more welcoming spaces for young artists of all genres and artforms to perform and develop their stage craft.
Now in its tenth year, ‘de Corner’ still holds true to its original format – an opening set by 2 Mile Hill, followed by an Open Mic segment for singers, instrumentalists, poets, and more. Over the years, the show has expanded to feature a Spotlight Artist (emerging artistes) and a Featured Artist – established headliners from Barbados and around the Caribbean. Bajan powerhouses such as Lil Rick, Alison Hinds, Damian Marvay, Edwin Yearwood, Red Plastic Bag and The Mighty Gabby have all headlined at Mahalia’s Corner, as well as Trinidadian stars Kerwin Dubois and Patrice Roberts.
The Mahalia’s Corner difference
And while you might think you’ve seen these hitmakers perform before; you’ve never seen them quite like you do at Mahalia’s Corner. Backing band, 2 Mile Hill, loves to surprise the audience with fresh arrangements for their musical guests’ well-known hits, fusing them with jazz, R&B, rock, hip hop, spouge and other genres for a rendition that wows the audience with the versatility and depth of talent displayed by the artists they thought they knew so well.
Though the size of its following and venues has grown, Mahalia’s Corner has still managed to hold on to the intimate vibe it created from the outset. The energy flows from the stage to the audience and vice versa – the planned song set might be briefly abandoned to satisfy a spontaneous audience request, or an impromptu duet could easily begin with a willing audience member.
Successful 10th season
This year, organizers took patrons down memory lane opening the season at its very first venue and featuring past artists in between the new talent. Each weekend in September brought patrons a rich sampling of what Barbados’ creatives have to offer, with the high note of the evening being the refreshing, electrifying and thrilling headline performances from trumpeter Kweku Jelani, singers Leadpipe and Saddis, and Edwin Yearwood.
The finale concert on September 22 – billed as a ‘Jampacked Night’ – served up a dizzying lineup of past performers (Betty B, Khiomal, Teff, Ch’An, John Yarde, Rhesa Garnes, Iron Pipe, Bobo and Lil Rick) and some Corner newcomers, like bashment artist Mole. It was an opportunity for 2 Mile Hill to show gratitude to those who have supported their efforts to carve out this vibrant, creative space and the love came right back.
“Before Mahalia’s Corner, I couldn’t think of any place I could have gone and had access to an audience as diverse and as open-minded as they have created,” said jazz/R&B singer Ch’An. “If you’re not doing one of the genres [like soca, dancehall or reggae] that are a huge part of the Caribbean brand, you can get closed out of the industry.”
Thanking their fellow artists and the patrons for the support over the years, 2 Mile Hill pledged to keep authenticity at the core of Mahalia’s Corner as the event evolves and expands even further. The band made a big deal about celebrating their ‘tenniversary’, and the season did not disappoint. No doubt, those who missed any of the shows must be tired of hearing ‘you just had to be there’.
So, mark your calendars for next September/October for Mahalia’s Corner 2020. Or you could make plans for December 22, 2019 when the Corner returns for its annual Christmas edition.