PHILIPSBURG, Sint Maarten — In the spirit of Black History Month and as Sint Maarten continues to acknowledge its rich, and diverse heritage, the Ministry of Education Culture Youth and Sport (MECYS) is unveiling “We Story” The Collection. “We Story” is a compilation of newly and previously written profiles/features (by cited & acknowledged authors) on prominent and well-known past and current educators, artists, sports icons and community pioneers that have contributed to Sint Maarten and its diaspora.
The objective of “We Story” The Collection is to bring about more awareness and increase the visibility of the many facets of Sint Maarten’s rich and diverse heritage through a series of press releases schedule to appear over the next two weeks and beyond via Government and local media outlets.
“Tanny & The Boys, A little history about the men and their music…”- will be the first edited and summarized feature of the “We Story” The Collection presented by the Ministry of Education Culture Youth and Sport (MECYS). The original feature story was written and documented by Lasana M. Sekou in 1992.
“Tanny & The Boys is the premier string band of St. Martin, and some would dare say, of the North Eastern Caribbean. The golden age musicians who constitute this band play a festive music rooted in traditional St. Martin. The music is as sweetly infectuous to the mind, body and soul as it was to revelers and party-goers for over half the 20th century when the string band was a dominant mode of entertainment at parties which, at times, lasted” all night long” and “ for days”, on this Charismatically Caribbean island.”
Back then, the members of Tanny & The Boys consisted of band leader Nathaniel “Tanny” Davis, Federico”Culebra” Nathaniel Smith, Maxime Emeal Reed, Edward ‘Eddie” Emanuel Violenus, George Bernard Violenus, James Roosevelt Samuel, Abraham Thomas and Jocelyn Antonio Arndell.
“The musicians of Tanny & The Boys live their music. The music and the accent they bring to their songs, whether sung in English or Spanish, bring alive a unique language that is felt as a total, joyful, experience of mind, body, and soul. “The Boys” play meringue, calypso, tumba, bolero, waltz, pop, blues, polka, and mazurka with a grace, confidence and macho mastery which is legendary to the culture of Caribbean old-time musicians, especially as reflected in the playing posture of the classic pan-man. Tanny “dem” appear to hold their instruments as an extension of their time-earned genius, play their music and sing their songs with an eternal freshness, and convert a calypso tune into a meringue mix (their favorite music forms) as only artists wished by the experience of doing art for the sweetness of life’s sake could ever do.
The musicians of Tanny & The Boys have played all their lives, firstly, for the people of St. Martin, at “house concerts”, casa dances”, anniversaries, birthday parties, “public dances” and formal receptions. This string band has serenaded with traditional Christmas carols, a charming medley of which is herein recorded for the first time. “The Boys” have also played off-island, entertaining audiences in Anguilla, Saba, St. Eustatius, St. Barthelemy, Tortola, St. Croix, Holland, and Aruba where they took part in a live 16 hour promotion television broadcast to Japan in the late 1980s.
Tanny & The Boys string band has entertained Queen Beatrix of the Dutch Kingdom, St. Martin’s lieutenant governors and mayors and a host of other dignitaries, personalities, and visitors to the island. During one of his visits to St. Martin, Mighty Sparrow, Calypso King of the world, heard “The Boys” playing at the now closed Summer Garden restaurant, then a popular partying place in Great Bay, southern capital of St. Martin. Tanny tells the story: “Sparrow came up to us all the way from his hotel. He said all you don’t know how sweet that band you got there sound. All you try to keep it up, it sound very sweet, playing those songs will make you great”.
The Ministry of Education Culture Youth and Sport (MECYS) will continue to add to the collection as information is researched and compiled from new and historical sources.