Gombey mentor Warner honoured
One of Bermuda’s veteran Gombey captains, Allan Warner, proudly affirmed the tradition’s roots when he was acclaimed for his life’s contributions to the quintessentially Bermudian art form.
“Unity is strength,” Mr Warner, of the Warner Gombeys, told the crowd at the WER Joell Tennis Stadium during Saturday night’s Gombey Festival.
“None of us can do it alone,” Mr Warner said, thanking the selection committee that steered him into becoming a Gombey captain at one of the Island’s top groups.
“One of the earliest things I learnt as a Gombey is that united we stand, divided we fall.”
The Gombey ethos is “one for all and all for one”, he said, joined by his family along with members of the Place’s, H & H, Warwick, Gombey Evolution and Gombey Warriors groups.
“We are the route of the underprivileged of this Island, but yet our spirit still rings strong and true,” Mr Warner said, capping off a Gombey career that stretches back to his childhood: he made his first costume at the age of nine.
Jeanne Atherden, the acting Minister of Community, Culture and Sport, presented certificates of appreciation to each group as well as special recognition to Mr Warner.
The annual festival is hosted each year by the Department of Community and Cultural Affairs, she said, to celebrate a centuries-old Bermudian folk tradition that blends elements of African and Caribbean performance with North American native music and British military drumming.
“It runs deep in our roots,” Ms Atherden told the audience, which included Governor George Fergusson, before the crowd was treated to performances such as Daniel in the Lion’s Den.
Weaving along to the drummers to leaps, splits and mimed combat with bright-painted tomahawks, Gombey performances tell stories rooted in narratives of slavery and freedom.
The event was once known as the Gombey Competition, but has evolved into a celebration of a folk tradition that stretches back for centuries.
Each troupe has its own distinct history, and the names of drummers and performers who had been influenced by Mr Warner were listed off to drumming, whistles and ecstatic cheers.
In 1995, he was awarded of the Queen’s Certificate of Honour for “keeping the Gombey tradition alive”, becoming the first Gombey captain to receive this honour.