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Celebrating Island’s Gombey performers

Bermuda’s beloved troupes will perform at today’s Gombey Festival (File photograph by Akil Simmons)

Gombey captain Allan Warner, who began his career as a drummer for Warner Gombeys at the age of 16, is to receive special recognition at today’s Gombey Festival.

Hosted by the Department of Community and Cultural Affairs, the event takes place at the WER Joell Tennis Stadium from 5.30pm.

Bermuda’s Gombey tradition is a syncretic blend of several cultures, including African, Caribbean and North American native music.

The word “Gombey” comes from the Bantu language of Africa, while aspects of their performance derive from the European tradition of mummers and from British military drumming.

“Through his lifetime, Mr Warner has demonstrated a respect and love for his chosen cultural tradition,” the Department said.

“Mr Warner has been a dedicated mentor to people willing to learn how to perfect the craft of costume making, dancing and drumming.”

The Warner Gombeys, under the influence of Mr Warner with Captain Willis “Old Man” Steede and Andrei “Mice” Simons, have taught traditional Gombey dances depicting themes of oppression, slavery and freedom to many young members.

The troupe have represented Bermuda at events on various islands and countries over the years.

In 1995, Mr Warner was the first Gombey captain to receive the Queen’s Certificate of Honour, “for keeping the Gombey tradition alive”.

He continues performing and drumming, mostly in hotels and on cruise ships under the Warner Gombeys.