Riding De Culture Train with Adrian "Boo" Husbands, one last time

Barbadian musician and cultural activist Adrian "Boo" Husbands, who passed away January 19, 2017.

Adrian "Boo" Husbands: a Barbadian cultural force.  Photo Copyright © 2017.


PICTURE IT. Black Rock Cultural Centre in the 1980s. Richard Stoute’s Teen Talent Contest. The early rounds. Upstairs, on a darkened balcony overlooking the packed, noise- and music-filled hall, a rookie reporter takes a breather. Out of the shadows, a figure coolly emerges.

“You’s Linda Deane from the Nation, right?”

The inquiry is gruff, and made a little surreptitiously, almost secret agent-like, but also with what I remember as and like to call “tongue-in-cheekiness.” With a semi-grin and an unmistakable twinkle.

“Yes,” I reply, only a bit startled, and am handed a piece of card before the figure returns to the shadows as swiftly as he appeared. I look: a ticket. Complimentary. For a concert the following weekend for a new band named Black Orchid.

That is how I met Adrian “Boo” Husbands. Musician, bandleader, cultural force. That is how I became introduced to what I feel is still the best band, funk or otherwise, ever to grace Barbados’ music scene (apart from the band of the Royal Barbados Police Force, maybe). That was the start of a fluid 35-year friendship and association.

Boo’s sudden passing on January 19 at the age of 54 left so many (and there truly are many) of his friends and associates shocked, heartbroken, overwhelmed (choose your adjective). In addition to his roles as musician and bandleader, he was also a calypsonian, a calypso tent manager, a natural emcee and comedian, a teacher and mentor to aspiring musicians, a popular shopkeeper, a plain-truth speaker, a cultural activist with ties to Cuba and the Venezuelan Institute, an advocate for live music and—my personal favourite—a firm supporter of artistic endeavour and the pursuit of excellence. Not to mention, he could make that trombone speak and that humble school recorder sing.

In all these ways and more, he touched the lives and spirits of folk in and outside Barbadian entertainment and culture. From Facebook and other tributes, it is clear how much he was loved, respected and appreciated in return. It is also clear many of us have had, are having, a difficult time processing our loss. Simply put, we are missing Boo.

Three things are helping my processing at least.

One is that evergreen memory of our first meeting. That encounter helped open up a whole window on Barbadian arts and entertainment to me and brought with it Boo’s support and encouragement of my journalism, which included his trademark, no-nonsense critique when needed.

The second thing is De Culture Train—an outdoors cultural lime in collaboration with friends and other artists—and other live music happenings he staged. “You coming up to share a piece of de mic?” he asked once regarding my continued failure to ride De Train. “I don’t know. Gotta see what condition my condition is in,” I told him once, quoting somebody’s version of the 1967 song “Just Dropped In.”

“You writers is sumt’ing else, doh…,” he said in mock exasperation.

We are indeed. Most artists are, I find. And Li’l Boy most definitely.

Li’l Boy is the third something helping me with this processing. Li’l Boy was Boo’s onstage, calypsonian persona in Headliners tent. Even in the midst of long tears, memories of how he would magically transform into a scruffy, uniformed schoolboy, and of his catchphrase, “No lotta long talk,” bring smiles to my face and real laughter out loud.

It was in his other capacity with Virgin Atlantic Headliners’, as founder/manager, that led to the tent's sponsorship of this very publication, ArtsEtc—back when it was a quarterly, print-based newsletter. We’re talking 2003. Through Boo's influence and generosity, we enjoyed a season of extra adventure.

And that was because he got it. Got what we, Robert Edison Sandiford and myself, as editors and publishers, were doing and trying to achieve as a cultural forum; just as we got what he was doing with the tent and other live events. No lotta long talk needed. Just like the friendship.

And we will miss that, Boo.

In memoriam:†Adrian “Boo” Husbands, musician and cultural activist; August 17, 1962-January 19, 2017. ArtsEtc extends condolences to his family.