String band members play a variety of instruments which may include the guitar, banjo, cuatro, barrel drums, triangles, mandolins, shak-shaks, tuk-tuks and violins. String bands play at a variety of events such as at the Carriacou Parang Festival, or at social gatherings including tombstone feasts, serenading, and weddings. While there are no specific costumes associated with string bands some musicians like to dress in African outfits.
Most string band musicians are self-taught and/or learned by watching elders. It is passed down from the ancestors and is rooted in African and European/Scottish traditions. In the past, every village had a string band.
Noted string band members include, Evris Noel, Alban Stewart, 61, Anderson Matheson, 53, Randolph H. Fleary, 67, Neal Matheson, 48, Tyrone Bethel, 70, and Anslem James. The Carriacou Parang Festival Board and the Carriacou Maroon Festival Board are also involved in the organization and promotion of the practice.
Some practitioners noted that it is difficult to get young people to participate in string band music or to show interest in it because they are more fascinated by the use of technological gadgets. Young people also seem more taken with DJs and sound systems that can play the same music without the hassle of a band so they are not learning to play the instruments. The advent of party halls and of DJs are contributing to the demise of string band music (in Windward). Practitioners also noted that it can be hard to obtain certain instruments.
One way to pass on string and playing skills would be by starting a junior string band club. String band music can also be taught in schools or in after-school and summer programmes.
Photo credit: Grenada Tourism Authority
Special recognition to people and communities in Carriacou. Thank you to the Living Heritage practitioners interviewed who are still keeping alive this ICH element as Tyrone Bethel, Randolph Harrison Fleary, Anderson Matherson, Anslem James, Alban Enoe-Stewart, and Evris Noel.