Re-broadcast of Maureen Duvalier's Jan 2014 episode on ArtOvation
Dec 24, 2014 - 12:51:02 PM
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This week will be a special 2012 rebroadcast of the late
passed away last week. She was a spirited, loveable person and an
entertainer-to-the-very-end. She will be sorely missed.
DuValier (MBE) was the original Bahama Mama. That means, for years, this
outstanding lady has been entertaining and leading the way as one of
the premier female icons in The Bahamas.
It was the 14th day of May in 1926 when a siren went off to signal that it was
and the baby who would come to be Bahama Mama had made her entry on
earth. Burial Ground Corner off East Street produced a child that would
make her mark on the music industry in The Bahamas in so many ways.Her
father Eustace Edward DuValier was born in Inagua, but was the second
brother of Francois “Papa Doc” DuValier, past president of Haiti.
Maureen recalls visiting Haiti as a child during the summers. She got to
know her family quite well during these visits. Later on in life, while
performing on a cruise ship, Maureen received the royal treatment with
full private escorts, at the invitation of her uncle Papa Doc DuValier.
grew up mainly with her godparents Bert Cambridge and his wife Dorris.
Her early childhood education began at the Sands School, which was
located opposite the now Ministry of Education building on Shirley
Street. There her contralto voice was favored and was oftentimes
utilized by her teacher for reciting poems to her classmates. The church
also played an important part in her development and appreciation of
music. Godfather Bert Cambridge would help to mold her talents as a
young vocalist.Bert, a
prominent musician and recipient of many awards was a member of the
Chocolate Dandies group and also headed his own orchestra for a time.
Regular rehearsals held at his home provided Maureen the opportunity to
learn songs from lead sheets lying around the practice area. In picking
up these lead sheets, Maureen sharpened her sol-fa skills, and on
occasion was invited to rehearse with the band. Big band and other
popular music of the day would permeate the home during these early
years.Maureen enjoyed this
time in her childhood, and was kept very busy with singing, sewing, and
her schoolwork. Her time of worship was shared between Salem Baptist
Church, where her godmother was a member, and St. Agnes Anglican Church,
where her godfather was a member.
Maureen was about eleven, her godfather took her to the Jungle Club
where he was performing at the time. This huge thatch structure opened
the eyes of this star-to-be to the world of entertainment. Although
Maureen was young, she had already developed a repertoire that Bert
Cambridge couldn't resist exposing to the public.Peanuts Taylor(propped
up on a chair) and a lady by the name of Big Biner (Ms. Lewis) would be
among the entertainers featured at the Jungle Club at that time.
Maureen’s debut on stage is a bit vague in her mind, but she recalls
subsequently performing at the Silver Slipper in a duet withFreddie Munnings Sr.
Cambridge had developed quite a reputation, being one of the few
trained musicians on the island. This afforded Maureen the opportunity
to move about with him when he would assist other bands during their
rehearsals. Among the bands that Bert would help was the Ramsey
Orchestra, one of the earlier bands that played jazz and Broadway tunes
among other styles.
also recalls that socially, women in nightclubs were frowned upon. To
add to this, she headed the first female dance performance group in
Junkanoo, the national street festival of The Bahamas. "First woman to
take women to perform for Bay Street junkanoo, they say: good Lord, what
else she gon do!" (DuV-alier, 2004). Although the date is a bit
uncertain, she is sure that this happened when junkanoo returned to Bay
Street after being moved to the "Over The Hill" area of Nassau during
the late forties.
The Boxing Day Junkanoo Festival for 2004 was be named in Maureen’s honor, a most fitting tribute to the junkanoo pacesetter.
to what a few musicians of her time have said, yet quite in opposition
to what others also of her time recall, Maureen has little recollection
of racial tension, recounting that the only time she experienced any
form of racial discrimination was at the local banks. There was no
difficulty in depositing money, but when it was time to withdraw, one
had to be known to employees of the bank, who were all white at the
time. Places like the Savoy Theater and The British Colonial, although
having a reputation for practicing discrimination, never prohibited her
from entering. “I just went in and sat down, and no one ever asked me to
leave, I know if they asked me to leave, I would leave, but no one ever
asked.” (DuV-alier, 2004)The
development Board, tourism arm of the then UBP Government took full
advantage of musicians during the forties and fifties. Maureen was
afforded the opportunity to represent the Bahamas on many occasions.
Songs like "Brown Skin Gal" with Freddie Munnings Sr. and his small combo in the background, brought audiences to their feet.
done by Maureen were accompanied by a band from the Virgin Islands, The
Ladd Richards orchestra which, in Maureen's opinion, had the same feel
as the Bahamian bands of the time. She really enjoyed working with them
on the cruise ships and in the recording studio.
memories of her career are almost all good. For that reason, she says
that the only bad experience, which happened in the Midwest USA when a
promoter left them stranded, stands out in her mind. This experience
however still turned out to be a partly good memory, due to the
assistance of a police officer who rescued them, providing
transportation, room and board until the group returned home.
was included in the list of persons to be awarded Most Excellent Order
of the British Empire (MBE), by Queen Elizabeth II for her outstanding
contribution to The Bahamas. Looking back and thinking about what she
would have done differently, Maureen says her only wish would have been
to complete her college education at New York University, as this would
have pleased her dear mother greatly.
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