Beating the drum
Ali Bardgett finds rhythm everywhere. “You’ve just got to listen for it,” she said.
“As I walk through Hamilton, I’m hearing a beat. It could be a car passing by or a truck, or the sound of somebody’s heels clicking as they’re walking. I’m always hearing rhythm.”
The drummer and former dancer started all-woman band Stiletto 5 in March.
Originally from Yorkshire, England, she moved to Bermuda 14 years ago with her Bermudian husband Chris.
“I missed rock music,” she said. “But more than that, I wanted to have a platform for female musicians to come and join us as guests — to showcase female talent, female musicians and singers.
“I’ve been here for a number of years and there are some great female musicians in Bermuda. I’ve never really seen them come together independently without the guys as a female band.”
The catalyst was the America’s Cup.
After speaking to events co-ordinator Sancha Durham, she was invited to audition for the AC band, 4-Forty-1. While she did not make the cut, she found three more members at the auditions.
Industry stalwart Shine Hayward then introduced her to bass player Dawn Fubler and Darryl Simons of Bermuda Sound.
“Shine was a bit of a mentor in the beginning. Both [he] and Darryl were really great, and also Ronnie Lopes. He let us practise in his basement as well,” she recalled.
Not every man was so embracing. They were often met with unsolicited instruction and advice.
“People make these assumptions — they’ve started a girl band, that’s nice; pat-on-the-head kind of thing,” she said.
“I’ve actually played to some pretty big crowds in some pretty big stadiums. I was a backing dancer for Smokey Robinson at one point in my career. And did lots of tours with lots of different rock bands. Our main agent at the time in London managed bands like Katrina and the Waves, the Rolling Stones and Level 42 and Shakatak, so big bands.
“I played at the Harlem Jazz Club and the band leader looked at me and started grinning and laughing [as if to say], what are you doing back there. He said, seriously? You’re playing drums? It’s incredible.”
She said it is a common response to seeing a woman with an instrument that is perceived as masculine.
“When I first started, girls played piano, they didn’t play drums. Or you played a violin or a flute.”
Lead singer Ingrid Welch is half-Icelandic and half-Bermudian with “a powerhouse voice”. A classically trained musician with an international business degree, she has worked as a radio presenter and sang with Ronnie Lopes and the Secrets Band.
“Awesome” bass player and sometimes drummer Dawn Fubler is a former art teacher, who hosts a jazz show on Magic 102.7FM.
“Super talented” Casy Roberts is the “youngster” in the band. The 16-year-old plays bass and guitar.
Dawn Zuill, a vocalist, is the newest member — they are looking for a keyboard player.
They have played at Bulli.Social, Bungalow 56 and The Rhythm Lab in St George’s. They are regularly at Pickled Onion’s Tuesday jam night.
“We did the 100 Women in Finance gala in June and they’ve rebooked us for next year,” Ms Bardgett said.
Their repertoire is varied: Ed Sheeran’s Shape of You, Joan Jett’s I love Rock ‘n’ roll, Zombie by The Cranberries, Katy Perry’s Dark Horse and Adele ballads are all part of the mix.
“If somebody wanted a lounge set, we’ve got that. If it’s an event where they want a rocking party, we’ve got that. If it’s traditional island reggae, soca then we can do that.