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Gombeys get the spotlight at US college

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Aye, oh!: Irwin Trott, left, leads the Warwick Gombey Troupe during a performance during a lecture at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut. Mr Trott presented on the “Call of the Drum: The Bermudian Gombey Tradition” at the Gruss Music Hall on Thursday March 21. (Photograph supplied)

A Gombey troupe leader and members of his group performed at a US college when he was there to deliver a lecture about the cultural tradition.

Irwin Trott was invited to Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut, to speak at the school’s music and arts department and give a small performance of his own.

Mr Trott’s lecture, “Call of the Drum: The Bermudian Gombey Tradition” at the Gruss Music Hall on March 21, was co-sponsored by Trinity College’s Centre for Caribbean Studies, the Music Department, the Department of Theater and Dance, and the Community Learning Initiative.

The 57-year-old, who runs the Warwick Gombey Troupe, said he and the troupe members were also invited by a professor to showcase their skills at a reception.

Bermuda traditional art: a Warwick Gombey Troupe captain pauses after a lecture at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut, on March 30, 2024 (Photograph supplied)

He added: “It was a massive surprise. I guess you could say the dean and some of the guests were startled a little bit – here you have all this loud drumming and the Gombeys in regalia with masks on.

“A lot of people were going ‘what is going on?’, but they loved it.”

Mr Trott was invited to the college by Dorothea Hast, a visiting scholar in residence at Trinity College and a lecturer in music, who focuses on ethnomusicology, or the study of traditional music.

Mr Trott said that he was working with Dr Hast and her husband, also a college professor, to put together a book on Gombeys and how the tradition ties to Mr Trott’s Native American lineage.

He added that Dr Hast thought it would be fitting for him to speak to her class about the common types of Gombey dances.

Mr Trott took three other members of his troupe on the weeklong all-expenses-paid trip to Connecticut last month.

He admitted: “Everything went really, really fast. We had to see if all our members could get off from work, and likewise for myself, but it just so happened to work out really, really greatly.”

Mr Trott said that the troupe’s performances were so well received that he was even able to “crash” a surprise reception by the Dean of Faculty.

He said that he and his troupe had been requested by one of the professors to perform at the event, which led to them – and even a few students – leading a procession from one end of the campus to the reception hall.

In motion: the Warwick Gombey Troupe performs during a lecture and performance at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut, on March 30, 2024 (Photograph supplied)

Mr Trott has given lectures about Gombeys both on the island and abroad for years.

He gave a Ted Talk on Gombey culture “many years ago”, and travelled with Dr Hast and her husband to deliver a lecture about Gombeys and their book in Ottawa, Canada, last October.

Mr Trott said that people overseas enjoyed learning about Bermudian culture because it provided insight into a group they barely knew anything about.

He explained: “Bermuda is a very small island and a lot of people may have heard of Bermuda, but don’t know anything about its culture, its people or even its origin.

“So whenever people hear about having this vibrant and exciting culture they want to hear about it.”

Connections and disconnections: Irwin Trott, of the Warwick Gombey Troupe, gives a lecture, “Call of the Drum: The Bermudian Gombey Tradition” at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut, in the Gruss Music Hall, on March 21, 2024 (Photograph supplied)

Mr Trott said that his time at Trinity College was no different, and that students loved his demonstrations and explanations.

He admitted that their enthusiasm was a bit of a relief, as he was never sure how others would react.

Mr Trott said: “When you go do these things in a different culture when people don’t know the culture as much, you’re not quite sure how it’s going to be received. But to our amazement and surprise, it was really received very well.”

He added that the troupe was invited to another lecture at the end of this month, but had to turn it down because of work commitments.

Mr Trott said that the Warwick Gombeys will attend a Pequot nation Powwow in Connecticut this August.

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Published April 08, 2024 at 7:50 am (Updated April 08, 2024 at 7:02 am)

Gombeys get the spotlight at US college

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