December 2, 2023

Grenadian artistes pay tribute to Elsia Ferguson — a Grenadian-Caribbean heroine

By Gerry Hopkin, JD From Caribbean Life

Grenadian artistes Burgess McPhie and Cheryl Vincent. Photo courtesy Burgess McPhie

“You are a teacher; a professor; guidance counselor; a real mother.

You molded, and you guided so many great youngsters; you helped a lot of young people to stay away from trouble.

Oooh ooh Elsie, thank you for all you’ve done; Oooh ooh Elsie, we appreciate your contribution….

Diction, articulation, projection, pronunciation.

Hold the image.

You are a mentor; visionary; a trailblazer – you laid the foundation.

You gave us opportunities beyond our wildest dreams.

Fearless leader, we honour you;

Spice Island Youthquake will always remember you.”

The above are words from the song, “Elsie,” a lyrically proper, beautifully composed, and excellently rendered tribute in Calypso, delivered in a folkloric style by Burgess McPhie aka Quako and Cheryl Vincent aka Cheryl V.

Composed by Quako and co-written by Cheryl V and Quako, this special song brings to life unforgettable memories of the past, and paints an image that other songwriters should be encouraged to likewise portray in their songs.

Credit should also be given to the talented musicians who made this tribute in song happen. Again, Quako on steelpan and bongos; Charlie Roberts on guitar; and Jonathan Jeremiah aka DJ Naughty Vibes on the drum set.

Well-engineered by Alain Alexander of Top Notch Audio, this song refreshingly points in a direction that other artistes should be encouraged to follow.

In reviewing the song, the online media outlet Caribbean American Arts Review (CAAR) had the following to say: “There is great benefit to be had in having more of today’s artistes, songwriters, and musicians delivering cultural products that recognize and build on the past, while utilizing our indigenous instruments, such as the steelpan, and moving our art-form forward. This is exactly what is being done by this one-of-a-kind song of tribute to Elsia Ferguson — a pillar in education and culture in Grenada, and by extension, in the Caribbean.”

Elsia Ferguson, founder and director of Spice Island Youthquake. Photo courtesy Cheryl Vincent

Ferguson has two degrees — one from Reading University and the other from the University of the West Indies —  which along with her innate talent, discipline and unsurpassable passion for education and culture, have been fully utilized to the benefit of everyone she has encountered.

‘Elsie’, as she is affectionately called — is among other things, the legendary co-founder and director of the historic and prestigious liturgical folk group from Grenada, Spice Island Youthquake (SIY), which was launched in 1981 and is still active to date.

The other original organizers of SIY are Fr. Oliver Leavy, an Irish-born Catholic priest; Lauren Ramdhanny, a London-trained music educator; and Kevin Williams, a journalist and songwriter, who initially served as public relations officer and sound engineer of SIY. Williams is currently the Associate Editor of Caribbean Life newspaper in New York City.

It is also noteworthy that SIY the group originated in the Parish of St. John in Grenada, the birthplace of The Calypso King of the World, The Mighty Sparrow, and of the Olympian, Kirani James, whose deceased mother, Pam James, was one of the original members of SIY.

Similarly, Quako and Cheryl V are both from the Parish of  St. John; are original members of SIY; and are currently involved with Quake USA Cultural Organization, the offspring of SIY in the diaspora. Quake USA is the longest  continuously running Caribbean folk group in the USA.

Additionally, both Quako and Cheryl V are versatile, innovative, independent recording artistes and songwriters, outside of their careers – one in engineering, the other in nursing, respectively.

Besides their independent achievements in music, both have won titles in Grenada’s Independence Anniversary Calypso Monarch Competitions in New York.

Further, these two dedicated ambassadors of Caribbean culture, recently launched a new group called Pan & Voices – an ensemble that performs at funerals, weddings, and other private and public events.

Much of the notable accomplishments of the various organizations and individuals mentioned above, can be partially credited to the early guidance, influence, and mentorship of Elsie Ferguson.

In no uncertain terms, Elsie is a Grenadian and Caribbean heroine in education, culture and community organizing, who has indelibly made her distinguishable mark in nurturing, showcasing and preserving our culture.

CAAR commends the initiative of the artistes, musicians and the music engineer behind this special and much-needed project. May appreciation for this song among those who value the cultural contributions of the likes of ‘Elsie’ Ferguson, be viral.


YouTube Link to “ELSIE”:

For more on this story go to CARIBBEAN LIFE

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