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Thursday, July 18, 2024


Dec. 28, 2003 — A small but enthusiastic crowd Sunday night danced behind a truck composed of the "masters" of quelbe music — the official traditional music of the Virgin Islands. As the throng of about 50 people wound its way from the Frederiksted Post Office down Fisher Street and King Street to the "Bradyville" Festival Village, the sweet sounds of the old-time music enticed many more revelers to join the dancing along the route.
James "Jamesie" Brewster, Sylvester "Blinky" McIntosh, Camille "King Derby" Macedon, Alec "Junie" Bomba, Raymond "Who-fa" Richards and Paul Horsford were some of the musicians atop the truck strumming guitars, banjos and squash, blowing the sax and ringing the triangle to produce the rhythmic beat of quelbe to the delight of onlookers and participants.
Delegate Donna M. Christensen and her husband, Ollie, were among the onlookers waiting to jump into the action. "I look forward to the quelbe tramp because of the old-time music, and there's a good mix of young and old — it's a community event," said Christensen, who also wished everyone a happy festival.
"I'm sure it's going to be a wonderful week of festival … I'm l looking forward to the village and the food fair on Wednesday," Christensen said as she started dancing behind the band.
It was Rachael Fenske's first time in a quelbe tramp. Although she and her family live on St. Croix, they never participated in festival before. "I was bound and determined to see the quelbe tramp, but I didn't know we were going to be in it," she said. "We really wanted to participate in festival this year, and we are having a great time!"
Sen. Shawn-Michael Malone, whose bill to declare quelbe the official music of the Virgin Islands, also participated in the tramp. He said that he came to St. Croix on Sunday to participate in the cultural night and the quelbe tramp. "I came to support and promote the legislation and to let everyone in the Virgin Islands know that we are serious about this music and that it means a lot to the people and could mean a lot to the economy." The bill was recently passed in the Senate, and Sen. Malone said the governor told him he would sign it into law.
Sunday night's tramp may become part of a documentary on quelbe music — a collaboration between local writer/producer Kathleen McManus and award-winning filmmaker Andrea E. Leland of Chicago. The documentary, called "Jamesie, King of Scratch," is an archival project focused on the traditional music of the U.S. Virgin Islands. The project will include a 60-minute video documentary and a collection of oral histories. "I wanted to film tonight to capture the excitement of the quelbe tramp and the carnival lights as we go down the streets of Frederiksted," McManus said.
At the Festival Village the traditional music continued with the sounds of Stanley and the Ten Sleepless Knights and a performance by the St. Croix Heritage Dancers.

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