Hell’s Gate Steel Orchestra ‘honoured’ to fly flag for the nation in Venezuela

Members of Hell’s Gate Steel Orchestra are currently in Caracas, Venezuela, taking part in a festival (Photo contributed)
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By Tahna Weston

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The country’s reigning Panorama champs Hell’s Gate Steel Orchestra say they were honoured to get the opportunity to be a part of a cultural event in Venezuela.

Band Secretary Toria Wallace said the group represented Antigua and Barbuda at the ‘Drums of ALBA-Beats of our Identity’ festival in Caracas, which runs from June 20 to 23.

 She explained that Hell’s Gate had been recommended to represent the country – which is one of the 10 ALBA (Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of our America) states – to organisers who were keen to include the rhythm of the drums.

 A 10-member delegation from the band, which would normally have a complement of 30 to 45 players, were due to perform their first show on Thursday night. They travelled to the South American nation on Wednesday via Barbados, and are due back on island on June 25.

“So the ALBA countries or the People’s Trade Treaty, they wanted to have an expression of African culture and artistic presentations so that they can feature the drums of Africa.

 “So the event, Drums of ALBA-Beats of our Identity, this is the first time that they are creating a cultural space so that they can have the different countries come together to help to strengthen the identity amongst the member countries,” Wallace said.

 She said the 10 countries that form part of the regional bloc are taking part in the festivities, which also coincides with Venezuela’s Festival of San Juan.

 Wallace said not only does this festival celebrate cultural performers from the Caribbean and Africa, it also includes groups from non-ALBA countries, including Benin, Trinidad and Tobago, Honduras, Uruguay, Colombia, and Barbados. The other ALBA countries taking part in the event, in addition to the host country, are Cuba, Bolivia, Dominica, Nicaragua, St Vincent and the Grenadines, St Kitts and Nevis, Grenada, and St Lucia.

 Wallace said participants would also be engaged in cultural and political discussions and a “Walk for the Spirituality Day of Caracas” this Saturday. 

She said the main reason for taking part in the festival was to “strengthen the common identities” among ALBA members. ALBA is an intergovernmental organisation based on political and economic integration of Latin American and Caribbean countries.

 Wallace added that organisers “believe that it is favourable to everybody to come together to share in a common interest and feel united as brother, so they thought the best way to do that was through the rhythm of the drums because the drum in itself evokes a sense of culture and reminds you of historical struggles among yesteryear ancestry and spirituality”. 

Members of the orchestra are also expected to meet Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro.  

The festival opened on Thursday morning with a grand ceremony.

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