Volume No. 1 Issue No. 93 - Monday March 05, 2007|
Ophelia Dazzles in Trinidad
By Cedriann J Martin (From the Trinidad Express)
Ophelia Marie's voice carries the quality of Caribbean nostalgia. Mellow. Magical. Transporting.
She sings of love and pride and joy. She drifts from Creole to French to English to Dutch. She takes you from the sea to the sky. And you never drop off.
Dominica's Lady of Song has carried her country's premiere music form, cadence-lypso, far beyond its hilly, green constraints. Particularly treasured by music lovers in France and the French Caribbean, Marie has successfully made links with the rest of the region through her experimental, genre-merging approach to feel good folk music. (For example her latest album, "Hypnotique", features a French remake of Shadow's "Dingolay".)
She visited Trinidad immediately after Carnival and was the featured singer at this year's Talk Tent. This just months after a Carifesta appearance during which she was declared a Caribbean Cultural Icon. It's been an amazing journey for Marie who recorded her first album in 1978 and has produced 13 more since. Amazing and completely unexpected.
"I was never particularly interested in show business," she starts. "I was 26-years-old and my husband heard me and thought that my voice was too good to waste. He thought I should get my music on wax." So the school teacher/wife and economist/husband teamed with Gordon Henderson in an experiment that kicked off three decades of songs and success. Today Mc Carthy Marie remains her manager and has heavy input in her music. That enduring collaboration got its jumpstart from a tune that has become an iconic anthem for her homeland, "Aie Dominique".
"It was a song about my love for Dominica," she says of her signature tune. "I think people identified with the sentiments." Actually, she attributes her success to hooks that people can sing and sentimentality that people share. Songs for her children, celebrations of love and odes to the region have all found resonance. Marie reports that her multilingual approach hasn't been a barrier. The Trinidad audience at Carifesta, for example, felt it even when she flowed into French or patois.
"Trinidad is so rich in heritage and culture that it's easy for the people to pick up a sound and run with it. Although the songs are in Creole there is an immediate response to the beat and a kind of instinctive understanding of the meaning. The Afro-Trinidad style is a Creole style," Marie reflects.
She has made huge strides for women in music. And not just in Dominica. Marie became the first black woman ever to perform at the ThéÃ¢tre Noir, Cirque d'Hiver and the ThéÃ¢tre de la Renaissance in France.
This she's done while holding jobs in a variety of areas--from social work to tourism--and raising a family. On the one hand she attributes the success of her arrangement to the amazing, workable chemistry with her husband. He handles the business end. She rules the stage. And they collaborate on the music. Then there's the rest of her support network--from help in the house to a nurturing sister who cared for her two children while she was away.
Marie continues to innovate. She is currently working on a collection of live performances to follow her 2006 DVD, "Ophelia Live at the Atrium". L'Atrium is a concert hall in Fort-de-France, Martinique. And Ophelia is at home on its stage. She's joined by her band, two back-up singers and streaming, coloured lights. Marie offers up her signature songs and some of her newer work along with sentimental lagniappe--"Aint no Sunshine", "Feelings", "Memories".
Born in Curacao to Dominican parents her early life was informed by a colourful array of languages and music. The oldest of five, for some time she performed along with her siblings. And they were raised on a diet of folk music, calypso and spirituals. That turned out to be the unintentional foundation of a colourful, well-loved career.
But Marie is so effervescent and easy-going that she almost understates her accomplishments.
"You were named a Caribbean Cultural icon," I say after waiting all interview for her to bring it up.
"Oh yes. I was really surprised," she says, laughing. "I didn't know it was coming."