The Maestro’-Given A Send Off Fit For A King

Gingerland-Nevis- According to the eulogy read by Ms. Vinetta Hobson-Moving, he was born in Butler’s Village with the name WALTER VALENTINE JOHNSON and was brought to Rawlins Village as a mere baby and was soon renamed DAVID JAMES FREEMAN.

He grew up in an era when Nevis did not have certain basic amenities that the modern generation now enjoys, such as running water in homes; electricity; flush toilets and the like and would have endured the hardships created during world war two, when certain basic food items were scarce, but breadfruit was KING.

At the age of 19, he blew his first notes on the fife and the rest is history.

The dynamic cultural icon, would go on to not only master the instrument but also graduate to the point of creating the instrument whether from bamboo (his favourite), PVC pipe or other material.

He went on to be the fifer and leader of the Honey Bees String band and the Joy bells big drum and helped in no small way to create the popular Rawlins masquerade troupe.

He played virtually every instrument in the string band and big drum and was the one who tuned all of the instruments, prior to a particular job assignment.

He went on to represent Nevis, not only locally, but regionally and internationally as well, as he was part of several CARIFESTA contingents, representing the island, over the years.

In a video tribute created by Basil Liburd, the MAESTRO was seen in his element as he wooed audiences in Canada, during those years, when his band was guest to the NEVCAN Association there.

The selfless man was also responsible for teaching many individuals, not only to play the fife, but also the big drum.

His confidant of former days, Halstead SOOTY Byron, hailed him as KING DAVID, in a tribute in poetry and alluded to the possibility of him being knighted as ‘Sir David,’ or even given the attributes of national hero, posthumously.

Such was the atmosphere created on Saturday 9th June, at the Hard Times playing field, at the home going service of the late musical genius.

The service of celebration commenced at 10 am and when the final batch of ‘mourners,’ left the Gingerland cemetery, to the strains of the big drum, led by the incredible ‘JOE –GO,’ it was approximately 2.50 pm.

It was indeed a celebration of the life of a distinguished son of the soil and some persons described it as a ‘mini- Culturama’, due to the proliferation of folk music and dance, which punctuated the service.

Among those paying sterling tributes were: Premier Mark Brantley, Hon. Vance Amory, Hon. Eric Evelyn; Abonaty Liburd, Earl PANCHO Hanley, Gavin Patterson, Basil Liburd, Gingerland Secondary School, Lloyd Williams, the Rawlins community, Masquerades from St. Kitts and Nevis, Frank Browne, combined string band, Halstead SOOTY Byron, the Nevis Cultural Development Foundation (which included a renewal of King Eli Matt’s ‘WICKED FIFER,’ performed by DELI RANKS), the St. Kitts fifers, Nigel Williams, the department of Culture in St. Kitts, JOE-GO and company, the Maynard sisters (on pan), Kimone Moving and family members.

The service was officiated by Rev. Steadroy Pemberton and Pastor Arthur Freeman, who delivered the sermon of the day.

In accordance with the commitment made by Premier Mark Brantley, the Nevis Island Administration, assisted the family in a huge and tangible way, in financing the home going service for the great man and also in coordinating the funeral service.

The mortal remains of the music maestro, were laid to rest at the Gingerland public cemetery.

Nevis pages extends condolences to the grieving family.

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