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Gombeys celebrate Bermuda for Boxing Day

  • Boxing Day: Places Gombeys on Court Street. (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

Gombey troupes hit the streets and sidewalks across the island yesterday for their annual post-Christmas performances.

Kent Henry, the president of Place’s New Generation Gombeys, said that Gombeys and Boxing Day were synonymous. He added: “In Bermuda, it is something that we have always done.”

Mr Henry, a drummer with the troupe for the last 30 years, said that he been surrounded by Gombeys as a child growing up in the Roberts Avenue, Devonshire, area.

The 55-year-old Warwick resident added: “Ever since I can remember, we’ve always come out on Boxing Day.”

Mr Henry said the troupe was formed by Reginald “Scranny” Place 61 years ago, and that some of Mr Place’s relatives were still members.

He added that the Gombey tradition in Bermuda was primarily passed down from generation to generation.

Teenager Isaiah Cameron joined the troupe when he was four years old.

The 13-year-old Pembroke resident said being a dancer served as an outlet.

He explained: “The best part about it is being able to release my energy and my emotions into a simple shape — put it all together into a dance.”

Isaiah said that being a dancer also helped with self-disciple and focus, and encouraged other youngsters who may be interested to step forward and take part.

Annissa Cameron, Isaiah’s mom and the secretary for Place’s, said that she got involved when her son joined.

The 49-year-old Pembroke resident added that her husband served as a drummer.

She said: “It’s a family thing for us.”

Ms Cameron said the highlight of her day was watching dancers perform.

Mr Henry said that about 20 dancers and drummers were expected to take part backed by a support group of about the same size.

He added that the troupe had been preparing for the last two months.

Mr Henry said: “Boxing Day is the longest day.”

The troupe started its day with a performance at the Hamilton Princess & Beach Club.

Hotel guest Brian Wood said that he had never heard about Gombeys before he and his family arrived in Bermuda.

The 37-year-old from the Boston, Massachusetts, area, said: “We just happened to be going down to the ferry and saw that they were setting up, so we paused and turned back around.”

Mr Wood along with wife Allison, aged 35, and sons Ben, aged 6, and Nathaniel, aged 5, watched the group perform in the hotel’s courtyard.

Ms Wood described the performance as “a lot of fun”.

She said that her sons had told her they would only watch if they did not have to join in the dancing. Ms Wood joked: “They were a little nervous about performing.”

Mr Henry encouraged those seeing Gombeys perform for the first time to “enjoy the moment”.

He added: “It’s something unique to Bermuda, and we enjoy doing it.

“We’re just trying to ensure that it goes on. We’re just trying to do our part.”

Mr Henry said that Boxing Day was about celebrating.

He added: “It’s a celebration of culture, it’s a celebration of Bermudian culture — it’s a celebration of life, really.

“The music and the dancing — once it gets to you, you feel it. It’s a spirit that goes with the Gombeys.

“And if we do it right, it doesn’t matter where you come from, it doesn’t matter what ethnic group you belong to — you feel it.”

The word “Gombey” means “rhythm” in Bantu.

Bermuda’s Gombeys are an African tradition with Caribbean, Native American and British elements, and their practices are passed down by generations.