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Barbados liberated me as an artist

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  • Great place to dine: Tapas, one of Onika Best’s favourite restaurants in Barbados

    Great place to dine: Tapas, one of Onika Best’s favourite restaurants in Barbados

 

ABOUT BARBADOS

How to get there:

You can get to Barbados by flying American Airlines or US Airways direct from Bermuda to Miami and then on to Barbados. There is a six-hour wait between connecting flights. However, Ms Best said she preferred to fly American Airlines to New York, spend the night there and fly to Barbados the following day.

The music scene:

Try Barbados’ hip-hop band NexCyx. Ms Best said their music was “brilliant”.

See nexcyx.com.

For more entertainment:

Try First or Second Street in Holetown, St James for singing, dancing and karaoke. Ragamuffins on First Street has a popular drag act on Sunday nights. Another popular party area is St Lawrence Gap in Christ Church. Reggae Lounge, Old Jamm Inn and Sugar Ultra Lounge also offer the chance to dance the night away.

Transportation:

Rent a car, take a bus or get a taxi.

Diversity:

The flavour of Barbados differs from coast to coast. The west side is known as the Gold Coast as it tends to be where the wealthy settle. Sandy Lane in St James has a lot of luxury houses. Rent a house from $2,000 a night. Beaches in the area are great for swimming.

The south coast is a great place for partying. The beaches here are nice and there is also the new Barbados Boardwalk which runs between Camelot and Accra beach. It passes private homes, old chattel and heritage houses, restaurants and bars.

The north side does not have as many hotels as other parts of the island. The coast along this side is generally not recommended for swimming as the ocean is rough, although there are a few calm bays. However, you can go adventure kayaking here.

The east coast is great if you are looking for peace and quiet and just want to relax or have a romantic vacation. The highest point in Barbados is on Mount Hillaby in St Andrew. It’s said to resemble Scotland and is nicknamed “Scotland District”.

Where to eat:

One of Ms Best’s favourite restaurants is Tapas on Hastings Main Road, Highway 7 in Christ Church. As the name suggests, they have a great tapas menu.

Ms Best’s tip:

Although you can spend US dollars, it’s better to change to Barbadian currency. “It is best to do that with any country,” she said.

Onika Best got fed up with Bermuda’s music scene and left to make her way in Barbados 23 years ago.

The 47-year-old is now performing all over the Caribbean nation. She was the drummer in a band that opened for Maxi Priest in St James last year and released her own album, Blak Kla Soyl the Chromatical.

“Barbados has set up good opportunities for artists to thrive,” she said. “I wouldn’t have left Bermuda if they had set up programmes to support artists.”

Barbados offered her a completely different experience. She was able to capitalise on it because her late father, Vern Best, was born there.

“Music is considered part of the cultural ministry which allows us to get grants for musical affairs,” she said. “And they send us to festivals through grants. I’ve been to festivals in Ghana, Denmark and the Dominican Republic, among other places.

“They see music as an industry and they want to capitalise on that.”

Her music is inspired by a love of painting and writing. She has written a fantasy e-book called Liib, and to get by in Barbados, she designs fashion accessories.

She often plays percussion with reggae bands, but also does jazz gigs and alternative music venues.

“In the art world you have to survive whatever way you can,” she said. “I do not think I would ever move back to Bermuda, unless my mother needed me. I found the 21 square miles of Bermuda overbearing. I felt totally trapped as an artist. If you are not doing the norm, you are labelled crazy.”

She lives in Bridgetown, St Michael where she finds the music scene to be interesting.

Her talent has been recognised there. Ms Best received an award from the Commission of Pan-African Affairs, and a nomination for the Barbados Music Award.

As an artist, it’s helped her that the cost of living in Barbados can be cheaper than in Bermuda, she said.

“It can be high, depending on what kind of person you are,” she said. “My cost of living is low because I don’t need all the things a lot people want. I don’t have time for television, for example.”

Ms Best’s father was a master drummer, dancer and singer in his time. He performed limbo at New York’s Radio City Music Hall in 1962, shortly before moving to Bermuda where he met her mother, June Lindsay.

Ms Lindsay was a dancer in Bermuda. The couple met in the Jungle Room, a nightclub that was popular at that time.

Mr Best died in Barbados in 2007.

“My major accomplishment in Barbados was having my daughter, Princess-Iman,” said Ms Best.

“She is 16. Children teach you how to be a coach, how to speak, how to cook, how to do everything — meaning the things that you don’t want to do. The love of a child does that. I do not merit myself on accomplishments in the field that I am in because life is a learning progression. Your job or what you do does not define who you are. Who you are is accountable by the way you behave and how you treat others.”

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