Music has been oft-dubbed therapy for the soul – and new meaning has been brought to that epithet in the Commonwealth of Dominica during the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic lockdown period. Musical Therapy, now a regular Sunday evening showcase, was conceived of and produced by music producer Cornell Phillip and his wife Carlyn ‘XP’ Phillip, and it’s taken the island by storm. Since its inception, the show has fast spread to sister Caribbean islands and much further afield amongst the diaspora, their friends and families.
Dominicans dutifully appear over the now-popular virtual zoom platform, and transform their individual spaces – be it living room, bedroom, backyard – to party scenes to be part of Carlyn XP’s live renditions, streamed across Facebook Live and on YouTube.
Dominica is renowned for its World Creole Music Festival and spontaneous ‘real mas’ carnival. The island has traditionally generated phenomenal music producers, songwriters and artists – amongst others, Exile One, Grammacks, Midnight Groovers, Nelly Stharre, Jeff Joseph, Nasio Fontaine, Gordon Henderson, Ophelia Marie and Michele Henderson – who over the years have made significant contributions to the island’s rich cultural heritage and unique genres of music.
Dominica’s music industry created cadence, then cadence-lypso, and much later the popular bouyon – which in part was developed in Cornell Phillip’s own home studio. Bouyon was first popularised by the then leading bouyon band on the island, WCK (Windward Caribbean Kulture), and more recently by Triple Kay and Asa Banton.
Dominican artists continue to impact the international scene, with producer Krishna ’Dada’ Lawrence producing the 2019 Road March -winning song Famalay, by Machel Montano, Gamal ‘Skinny Fabulous’ Doyle and Ian ‘Bunji Garlin’ Alvarez; he’s also the man behind the 2020 popular carnival hit song Conch Shell sung by Montano, Skinny and Neil ‘Iwer’ George’.
With several other native Dominican performers gaining prominence on the international stage across various fields of arts and culture, this small island – the population was a mere 67,000 at the 2011 census – has surely made its mark on the global scene.