Marching bands with a difference

Phil & Nikki Hoskins
Mon 28 Apr 2014 21:35
We have narrowly missed catching a performance of the Bahamas Police Marching Band in previous years although they attend most of the Regatta events in the Bahamas. But then this was our first Regatta and we were quite adamant that we would put that omission behind us this year.
They were due to start their performance at 1730 Bahamas time. That is to say that it could be up to an hour or so late although we were ashore at just before that time and, yes, the road was blocked off through town meaning that something was about to happen. Crowds were gathering, both locals (all colourfully dressed) and cruisers (not so colourfully dressed).  It was a real blend of cultures lining the road.
Although previously unannounced we were to be treated to a display from Exuma High School Marching Band before the Police Band. This was a bonus as it's always nice to see the youngsters applying their skills to a worthwhile enterprise. We bought four beers to tide us through what had become a hot afternoon with not much of a cooling breeze. Out on the water the last race of the Regatta was underway.
The stretch of road to be marched by the bands had unfortunately not been cleared of the early morning storm rain. A large puddle an inch or so deep stuck out from a dip in the road meaning that one or two marchers were going to get wet feet! We took up station just at that, not to mock the unfortunate ones parading through the puddle but to grab the only bit of shade available in the crowd. OK- we did get a few shots of shiny shoes getting muddy but it's all fair game.
Exuma High Marching Band - going up & coming back....                                                                                        police protection!
The youngsters were terrific. Being of varying age groups and therefore heights it made for quite a spectacle. The 16 year old tuba player was over 6 feet tall. A strapping lad and without doubt the only set of lungs amongst the band members capable of producing enough air to blow the thing. An advantageous spin-off on the height side was that when the band were reverse marching through the ranks (must be a terminology for that somewhere) the tuba was at a sufficient height to avoid taking down the smaller members of the band marching past him in the opposite direction. So that worked out very well. Not so the shorter base drummer whose kept hitting the passing brass and wind section in the midriff area! It is a narrow road. This school band plays throughout the island at various events and are well practised and entertaining.  There were a lot of proud mums lining the street watching their talented offspring.
Our viewing point which was just inside the library garden wasn't altogether too bad at all. A local lady seeing 'Skip' wielding the camera absolutely insisted that he climb up onto the four foot high wall for a better view offering to catch him on the second bounce should he fall. 'Skip' as a come back commented that he was glad he hadn't been one of her children if they had had to wait for a couple of bounces before catching them! He offered her the place on several occasions which she declined, however, whenever anybody else climbed onto the wall further along interrupting her view she shouted at them to get down at once. These Bahamian ladies take no prisoners!
As the youngsters commenced their march from near the police station the puddle loomed. Most of the advance party of dancers and drummers managed to weave outwards to the centre of the narrow road. Some of the brass section didn't. Another photo opportunity! The only mute point with the youngsters performance was when they finally stopped their march in front of the Prime Minister's seat a couple of young girl singers took over the entertainment. They sang a couple of songs which we couldn't make out although in hindsight one may have been the national anthem - we just could not hear. Unusual as at most Bahamian events the volume switch stays on high regardless.
Little drummer boys ........                                                                                                   muddy puddle - wet shoes
They not only play and march they dance too ............                                        .............any vantage point will do
With the youngsters finishing their session it was time for the grown-ups to take over. The Police Band had earlier arrived in a couple of buses presumably from the airport. One bus being a relic from school duties somewhere in the USA about 50 years ago.  Still going strong although the air quality surrounding them as they wheeze their way along the road leaves much to be desired.
One important fact we have learned since arriving on this side of the Atlantic is that a marching band as they know it is not quite what a marching band would be as we know it. We have watched a few of the homecoming high school bands perform in the USA and they generally march and dance at a tempo in keeping with young people's current moods and aspirations. A sort of disco dance to orchestral accompaniment and marching at the same time. But an organisation such as a Police band - well, clap us in handcuffs and put us in a padded cell, we didn't think they would be anything but formal. Beating the Retreat stuff, you know the form. However, formality is not a word that exists in the Bahamas at such events.  We were treated to a real spectacle of very good musicians and their leader performing various suggestive movements, drumstick sword fights with the snare drummers dancing around the big bass drum and a 'moonwalk' of all things from their enigmatic band leader. Good grief! Could we ever imagine the Metropolitan Police Band (assuming they have one in this age of cutbacks) prancing around making idiots of themselves (in their own minds of course) as the general public look on rolling in the gutters with mirth. Definitely not, because in the UK we still like our forces bands to be on the stiff formal side. Imagine the Royal Scot's Guards Pipe Band clobbering each other with their bagpipes and drumsticks for instance. But, this works in the Bahamas these guys can move and the crowds loved the whole show. And that's not to belittle these people or their attitude to such things. Take off the bandsman uniforms and place the instruments aside and we're sure these guys could wield a police batten in the general direction of someone's posterior in a civil riot as well as the next man should they need to.
So the band marched on for their set and their vast experience at such events immediately showed as they professionally performed a manoeuvre that completely missed the puddle but without loosing formation, reforming on the other side as if they do that sort of thing every day. There were four bandsmen wearing tubas so lots of shiny brass in the wind section and the snare drummers and big bass drum were all wearing outfits last seen on a big cat somewhere in Africa. Very authentic.
                                                                                            That puddle again..........not a wet boot to be seen!
And then came the comedy part as the band leader passed his mace to a member of the crowd so as to free his hands ready for his moving posthumous tribute to Michael Jackson. It was great fun and we hope to see them again one day. Hope the pics do it all justice (no pun intended!)
'Moonwalk' ..........                                                                                                                     ...........and dancing snare drummers
Following the musical festivities we ventured off in search of some street food and finally settled on 'Winkys' stall which had been strongly recommended on the early morning cruisers VHF net. The 'Admiral' was sorely tempted by a conch salad at the waterfront Conch Salad Bar but the sight of a bearded Bahamian lying halfway down the harbour embankment next to the Salad Bar obviously the worse for wear rather put her off. He was still there a while later. In fact we speculated as to whether he had been there since Wednesday and had floated in and out on the tide throughout the Regatta. Hope he was all right but suspect by early Sunday morning he was in good company! The music floated across the water for many hours....................
Tastes like chicken ..............                                                                    ............. some 'C' class boats packed and ready to go home