1. What made you first fall in love with Carnival?

I first fell in love with Carnival when I went away to study. Soca music would start to play out of the blue, and it was as if I could smell St. Maarten; it made me feel at home. I visited the Dutch version of Carnival, but it was not the same; so every time I came back home, I would try to get into Carnival again.

2. As the new president of St. Maarten Carnival Development Foundation (SCDF), how do you physically handle the fact that you have to eat sleep and breathe Carnival?

Physically, I have a very strict regimen of vitamins that I take; vitamins like Black Label Whiskey, Dewar’s White Label and all of the other supplements that keep me going.

3. How does being SCDF president differ from being a board member?

There’s a lot more stress. The enormity of it is very distracting to your personal life as well as your professional life, especially if you have your business, which I do. You have to find balance and you have to find it quickly, or else something is going to fail. Some days I knock it out of the park; and other days the position beats me up, but I’m not a quitter, so I took the challenge head on.

4. What are three things you want to achieve during your time in office?

(1) I want to continue to professionalize the Foundation (SCDF) and move toward achieving a fully-staffed office. We’ve had great successes with the implementation of the post of Carnival Director, but we need that director to be supported by staff, i.e., an office manager, people who deal with sponsorship, people who deal with banking as well as full-time press people. We need to be more efficient and modern with what is happening with Carnival this year.

(2) We need to become more open to the international arena. I would really like for St. Maarten to be featured by Uber Soca Cruise, Soul Beach, South by South West in the States, Coachella, and the West Indian Day Parade. I would really like us to get branding and to be featured out there and I’m sure the Tourist Office would be willing to work with us on that.

(3) I would really like us to achieve that status of being one of the best music, food and cultural festivals in the World, or at least in the Caribbean. It would be great even to be ranked under Trinidad and Barbados as one of the best Carnivals.

5. The public has seen a lot of change this year, which one are you most proud of?

I’m most proud of some of the cultural elements we’re adding to Carnival this year. Culture Night is one of them as well as the opening and closing nights of the village; they will be very symbolic and I want everyone to come out to that. Then there’s the drink competition called “Village Cock Up”, which is sure to be exciting. My prouder moments aren’t grand ones, but just the fact that we’re doing Carnival great and it’s all going to get better moving forward.

6. You recently had the opportunity to visit Trinidad for Carnival. What was something you discovered there that you would want to bring to St. Maarten Carnival?

Due to other unforeseen circumstances, I actually wasn’t able to make it to Trinidad for Carnival this year. However, my vice president did go and brought back a lot of tips for how we can improve Parade Day and other logistics that we can use. I think it’s best not to do too much travelling in my first year; otherwise I wouldn’t get anything done here. I was able to visit French side Carnival and I saw some interesting tips about judging points we’ll be using. So expect one judging point with a lot of cameras and drones in the air, confetti and better choreography.

7. I know the One Love Reggae Concert is one of your passion projects; can you tell us a bit about the process?

This was a show that fell into our laps at the last minute during last year’s Carnival and we managed to pull it off successfully. We love the vibe we bring with it. We try to have a proper mixture of roots reggae, plus popular artists, a bit of dancehall and even an oldie-goldie who can take the crowd back, and this year we’ve succeeded again with much thanks to our sponsors.

The process of getting international artists and putting on a show is days and days of non-stop work and all-day manpower especially when they’re here. We have to pick them up at the airport, take them to do radio interviews and promo, then sound check, and get them ready for the concert. We stop for 10 minutes during the concert then it’s back to getting them to the airport for their flights. And this happens for multiple people over consecutive days, because it’s not just one night of shows. It’s a lot of work, but the reward is worth it. People loved the One Love Reggae Concert last year, and it will be the same reaction, if not better this year.

8. When you’re not the centre of the party, how do you unwind?

The easiest way to unwind in a way that changes my mood is to take a drive with my loved ones, my wife and my kids. If some friends want to join, we’ll stop along the way and have some drinks and just enjoy St. Maarten, the Paradise, and the sun going down. I’d say Grand Case is one of my favourite places on the island where I can chill out and let go of all the stress.

 ~ Lightin’ up the road! ~

Daughter to one of the island’s original Carnival troupe leaders, you can say that Brenda Wathey literally has fete running through her blood! A well-known businesswoman on Sint Maarten, Brenda runs a number of companies year-round, BUT when the Carnival season starts, her focus is on her Carnival foundation – Rio Productions.

Incorporated in 1996, Rio Productions has been a troupe leader for 18 years and has been organizing and hosting its own parade known as “Lightin’ Up de Road” since 2011. Brenda and her team are held in high regard for always delivering quality, organized, safe events that are a ton of fun. On April 1, the Lightin’ Up de Road parade sets off for the sixth time. Expected to join in are some 2,000 revellers, who will be illuminating the roads of Philipsburg, promising participants and onlookers alike a magnificent show!

Tell me about where you grew up?

I was born on Sint Maarten in 1967. I have a lot of fond childhood memories of growing up on Sint Maarten; specifically those that involve Carnival. My mom was very active in the Carnival scene back in those days; the organization at the time was called the “St. Maarten Angler’s Club” and thereafter the “Jolly Jumpers”. It made me fall in love with the music, dancing, food, costumes and culture around Carnival.

How did Rio Productions come about?

I had only been back on the island a few years, when my mom decided to “retire” from her carnival production. I said to her, “No! You can’t do that, I just moved back!” Selfishly, I wanted to enjoy Carnival to the fullest, which I had always done by my mother’s side. So one day, while my mom, my friend Jane and I were swimming off a beach in Anguilla, I said, “You can sit back and relax! Jane and I will start a new group.” She warned me that organizing events, troupes and anything Carnival costs a lot of money, work and stress, but I also knew that most importantly, it was also going to be A LOT of fun!

Why did you start the lighted parade on Sint Maarten?

I had gone to Aruba a few years back where I saw the lighted parade; it was (and still is) huge! It included thousands of people, costumes, road pieces and floats, all decked out with tiny lights that illuminated the roads. I had a blast and thought, “This is interesting; something that could work great on Sint Maarten.” When I got back, I discussed it with the team. We prepared for 300 persons our first year, and it was a huge success. This year, we are expecting over 2,000!

Why do you think the lighted parade is such a success?

I think one of the reasons is that it is at night and many feel more comfortable partying under the cloak of night-time. It is also less hot. Besides that, we are very proud of being known as a safe and mature event. We always have great police and sheriff attendance. This way, our participants can fully enjoy themselves without worrying about any possible negative incidents. The parade is roped off and you do not get in without a T-shirt, which doubles as your ticket. Lastly, our price is only $45 for a T- shirt, entrance, open bar and guaranteed fun. This price is a lot more doable for many comparing the costume prices to jam in the day parade. In short, the lighted parade is well-organized, safe, affordable and FUN. What’s not to love?

How do we participate?

Your ticket is a T-shirt, which costs $45. Remember, you have to wear your T-shirt as your ticket to participate in the lighted parade! Your “ticket” also includes lights and open bar with water, beer, sodas and a selection of premium brand liquors. You can get a T-shirt at the NC Wathey Office, Van Dorp (both locations), Soggy Dollar Bar, UTS and Caribbean Liquors. Check out www.rioproductions.sx for more information.

Do you have any creative advice on personalizing our “lighted parade” costume?

The only rule is that we need to be able to identify our shirt. I always tell people to save their old costume pieces, such as a headpiece from the day-parade. You can easily spruce and light up any piece by replacing feathers and using strings of light. Take out the paint, glue, glitter and lights, and get creative!

Who are you teaming up with this year?

I am excited that Kurt of Soggy Dollar Bar is joining us for the second time this year. Anyone who knows Kurt knows that he brings it every time; he goes overboard on lighting, screens, sound and every bell and whistle he can find. He never disappoints! We also have NBA (Nothing But Alcohol) joining us this year. After a chance meeting, we sat down and planned the broad strokes and now we have an extra truck and a guaranteed 25% increase in amazing revellers!

Who are the entertainers for this year?

Our trucks will feature Small Axe Band, Grand Masters Band, DJ Maestro and DJ Big Boss. It is safe to say that the music for the road will be top-notch!

When and where is the lighted parade?

The parade is on April 1. (No, it is not April Fool’s joke!) We will start on the ring-road across from LB Scott Sports Auditorium. From there, we will get onto the Pondfill and head straight into the heart of Philipsburg. We will come around the roundabout at Sundial and head back up the Pondfill and end where we started off. The parade starts at 8:00pm sharp so make sure you are there on time and IN YOUR SHIRT to find a good parking spot.

When you are not working, what do you enjoy?

Not working?!! It is very rare that I am not working. I would love to get more time off to travel. When I do get the rare week off, I enjoy going to places I have not seen before. I think people can learn a lot from immersing themselves in a new culture. But usually when I am not working, I am at home enjoying some quiet time. This probably won’t happen until after the Carnival season, though. Right now it is time to light up the road!

Singer Johana Arnold and her husband Kim Paterson will be performing at the Voice and Piano Classical Delight Concert at Belair Community Centre today Thursday, March 16, from 8:00pm. Arnold tells us more about her career and what patrons can expect from her and her hubby this evening.

Who is Johana Arnold?

I am a classically trained singer who’s interested in all kinds of music. I am also an actress (about to perform in Driving Miss Daisy) and an avid outdoor person who enjoys hiking and swimming. I am also a voice teacher and enjoy working with young people and older singers as well.

How would you describe yourself?

I was a very quiet child and I still like my peace and quiet. The other side of me loves to perform and to give in that way. I have the good fortune to be the mother of two daughters, a grandmother and the wife of my wonderful pianist.

Education?

I went to a music conservatory as a singer so that I could train to my best ability to be a singer. I also took other courses, which help round things out. Most specifically, other courses that I enjoyed were religion, English, German and French.

Place of birth/residence?

I was born in San Francisco, California. I moved to New York City after graduating from college (Oberlin Conservatory) and have lived in that state ever since, though now in the Western Catskill Mountains.

When did you discover your love for (classical) music?

My mother started teaching me classical piano when I was about seven. I fell in love with Bach's music right away. I began studying voice at the age of 14. I was encouraged to do this by a very talented schoolmate who was a singer and wanted someone to sing with.

How did you hone this skill?

Practice, practice, practice! And one voice lesson a week. I still need to practice every day or I notice that things are harder to do.

How did you get into the musical industry professionally?

After leaving college, I had the good fortune to be a fellowship student at a wonderful music festival in the US called Tanglewood. I spent the summer there and then moved to New York City. While I was working in a music store there to pay my rent, I started to get concert work through the contacts I had made the previous summer. One thing leads to another if you are lucky.

What type of musician are you?

My specialty is classical music and I have sung some opera. I love the concert repertory. I also have performed in quite a few musical theatre productions and sing a little jazz, though my tone production is pretty clearly a classical one. My brother is a drummer and my mother, now passed, was a wonderful jazz pianist, and we had a group called the Generations of Jazz, out in California.

What do you love about music?

This is trite, but it truly can open worlds between people in a wonderful way. It also is fun to bring music to life that was written many, many years ago and to make it live for an audience.

What differentiates you from other Classical Delight performers?

Each of us has worked hard at this discipline; that is what we have in common. What makes us different is who we are, physically, mentally and in personality. We share a need and a delight in performing. I feel that I am most myself when I am singing music I love.

Why did you decide to perform in St. Maarten for the Classical Delight concert?

It is rather a funny story. Our orchestra conductor back home in New York has a timeshare in St. Maarten. He and his wife, with whom Kim and I have worked many times, thought we would love to visit and he mentioned that there was a concert series here and he gave us the name of the person to contact. That got the ball rolling.

What can patrons expect from you at the concert?

A lot of energy and a real desire to bring our audience into the music; we will be doing several different styles and we hope to show that the variety can open minds to music from the 1800s to our 21st Century.

What were your first impressions of the island and what are your expectations?

I had no idea what to expect. The colour of the water, even from the airplane, took my breath away. We are staying at a resort, which is a first for us, so the traffic is a little intense. But the people are friendly and kind. Bernadine and her husband Gerard met us at the airport and have bent over backwards to make sure we are comfortable and cared for. And the warm weather is fabulous, especially as right now there is a blizzard in progress in our home state.

What inspires you when it comes to music?

I continue to be inspired by other artists (my husband among them) both young and the older generation which is passing away. There are current musicians who struggle with their art and continue despite those struggles. Also our world, which is now so plugged in and tech-heavy, can benefit from listening and playing live acoustic music in all forms. I am inspired my music teachers, too and know that it can be a battle to keep those programs going, certainly in my country.

What is your advice to other persons who want to follow in your professional path?

Do it because you love it and absolutely have to do it. You will not make much money unless you get very lucky. Keep up the discipline of practice, because it really does pay off, not only in your music but in the rest of your life. Listen to other artistes and go to concerts if you can.

What do you do outside of music?

I am a mother and a grandmother. I love to walk, swim, read and act.

What’s next for Johana Arnold?

The role of Daisy in Driving Miss Daisy, and the soprano soloist in the Mozart Requiem at the end of April.

What artistes do you listen to?

I love Ella Fitzgerald for jazz and Renee Fleming for opera.

If you could invite three famous people (dead or alive) for dinner, who would they be and what would you cook for them?

This is tough, and I admit right here that my husband is the better cook. I would love to invite Ella Fitzgerald over and we would have some of the fish out of our pond. The Obamas are on my list, too, and I have a special roast chicken dish I would cook for them. I am blanking on a third person.

A heavenly voice set to perform at The Red Piano

Niquet Goldson was born to sing. Her voice, which first touched many in Jamaica, is now internationally known. After a couple of amazing shows in Sint Maarten, The Red Piano is happy to welcome Niquet and the Beat Lovers Unite (BLU) band back for their “BLU Live” show set for this evening, March 23.

Highlights of Niquet's career include singing on the internationally acclaimed stages with artists such as Judy Mowatt, Sherwin Gardner, Romain Virgo and Jah Cure. She is currently working on original music and performs both as a solo singer and harmony vocalist. You can be sure to expect a phenomenal show from this package of voice, beauty, intelligence and charm.

1. Where did you grow up?

I grew up in Highgate, St. Mary, a rural town in the north-eastern section of Jamaica.

2. When and why did you start singing?

I started singing while in basic school. While singing our evening prayers, I noticed I was singing something different from what the other children were singing, but I had no idea what it was. Three years later, when I was seven years old, one of my teachers heard these evening prayers. She brought me to the music teacher and said, “I heard this child sing harmonies!” I had never heard about harmonies, but I learnt that day what I had been singing. Since that “harmony finding” experience, I found myself in singing groups in primary school, and high school in Kingston. I was in the school choir, ISCF choir and other singing groups everywhere!

3. What was an important turning point in your musical career?

The turning point came when I met a guy who was a musician. We started hanging out and he would take me to rehearsals with him. Eventually, some of the artists said, “Well since you’re here, you may as well sing!” So I sang on a couple shows with Tony Rebel and Queen Ifrica. This introduced me to the “music fraternity” in Jamaica, which led to me doing background vocals for a lot of gospel acts like Judith Gayle, DJ Nicholas, Carlene Davis and Judy Mowatt. I went to Trinidad for college where I did some work with Sherwin Gardner, Umi Marcano, Kimba Sorzano, Orlando Octave and Flippo. When I returned to Jamaica, I started working with Romain Virgo and Jah Cure. I travelled the world with the latter. I think being on the road with that group fuelled my love for travel as well.

4. Where do you draw your musical inspiration from?

My inspiration is literally from the music, any music. It lifts, encourages and soothes me. Being surrounded by music on stage, in a rehearsal is my happy place – my holy place.

5. When did you first visit Sint Maarten?

I came to Sint marten for the first time in 2011. The first thing I saw was how beautiful it was! The blues were very blue, everything was painted in sunshine. I loved it! I returned three years later and I loved it even more.

6. What can we expect from your show at the Red Piano?

My shows are almost always made up of songs that I love to sing, and that I want to share with my audience. That is the only way I can stand on a stage singing as a solo act! It’s a diverse mix ranging from reggae and pop, to R&B, rock and maybe even a soca song! Who knows? You will just have to come to the show and hear for yourself.

7. When you’re not singing, what do you enjoy doing?

I love going to the beach (or better yet a beach bar), having a lime with friends at home, reading a good book and occasionally binge watching random TV series.

8. What are some of your future plans?

Short-term plans include singing more, becoming an integral part of the music scene in Sint Maarten and the region, working on some material for the air/ear waves and giving the people some good music!

9. If you could invite three people (dead or alive) for dinner, who would they be, what would be the one question you would ask and what would you serve them to eat?

I’ve seen this question very often but I’ve never really considered my answers until this interview. These are the choices that came first to mind: I would invite Shawn from Boyz II Men, Idris Elba and Walshy Fire from Major Lazer. I would ask them all the same question: “Are you now whatever it was that you wanted to be when you grow up? I would serve my world famous ackee and saltfish with some friend dumplings (Johnny cakes) and that delicious Lychee martini with Grey Goose Vodka that is served at The Red Piano!

Chawlyn Mezas is a young woman who wears many caps. She is driven, and owns her own business. She is passionate about fitness, and aims to help keep others fit, moving and having fun while doing so. Let’s read more about Chawlyn in this week’s Hotseat.

Who is Chawlyn Mezas?

I’m 28 years old, and qualified in many fields. I obtained a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Economics and I’m a Certified Personal Trainer, Group Fitness Instructor, Swim Instructor, Dance Instructor and Nutrition Specialist. I am also the owner of Chawfitness.

How would you describe yourself?

I am determined, social, fit, educated and love to inspire others.

Where were you born and how did you end up on this lovely island?

I was born in Amsterdam and then moved to my mother’s country of origin, Curaçao, at the age of one. Then, when I was 9, I moved to Suriname, which is my father’s place of birth. At the age of 17, I returned to Holland to complete my studies. After graduating in 2012, I moved to Canada. After a year I decided that island life would be best for me, because, after all, I am an island girl. I love the sun and the beach. My sister lived in St. Maarten and only had good things to say about the island. I believe moving here was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

Where did you attend school?

I attended school in Curaçao at Coromoto College; in Suriname, Vrije School and Vrije Atheneum; and in Holland I attended Vrije University, where I Studied Business Economics. When I moved to Canada, I followed the Personal Training Course and then I knew that was what I wanted to do for the rest of my Life!

What do you do for a living?

I am founder of the company “Chawfitness.” The company offers services and products that are related to fitness. The services are Personal Training (at two different locations on the island: Belair Fitness Center and I&I Fitness Center) and we also provide Home Training. We offer various classes: Zumba, Bodyshape, H.I.I.T (High Intensity Interval Training), Bootcamp, Pilates, Private Swimming lessons, Salsa Lessons, Meal plans, Nutrition Supplements & Chawfitness Gym wear. If persons are interested in more information, they can check out my Facebook page Chawfitness.

What inspired you to go into the world of Fitness?

I have had a passion for fitness from a very young age. I used to do all kinds of sports: competition swimming, synchronized swimming, gymnastic, dancing and more. During my college years I was teaching dance classes to kids. Then I started teaching the classes in gyms across Holland for adults and I decided to do a Zumba & Hip-hop Course. I taught the classes and got more and more offers and decided to open my own company in Holland, called “C-Girl-dance.”

As time passed by, I decided to concentrate more on fitness. So when I came to the island, I started a Fitness Business, including swimming and dancing. As the business grew, more services and products became available, and I’m happy to say that it’s still growing.

What differentiates you from other fitness instructors?

I can name many things that differentiate me from other trainers on the island, but here are a few. First of all I am a Certified Personal Trainer at the American Council of Exercise (ACE), and I think most trainers on the island are not certified, but do it based of their own knowledge and experiences. Secondly, I am one of not many female trainers on the island. It makes a difference whether you train with a female or a male trainer. Some females don’t want to train with a male trainer. And some male clients get extra motivated when training with a female trainer because they want to show off. The third reason is that I am not only a trainer, but also an athlete, IFBB Bikini Bodybuilding, and competed in three Bikini Bodybuilding Competitions and won third prize twice. I also won Fittest on the Rock two years in a row (2015 and 2016).

I am a very competitive person and it keeps me motivated to train for something and compete. I love what I do and I think that is all that matters.

What are your pet peeves?

I don’t like negative people and I don’t like people who think they always know better.

I think we are all different and we should appreciate each other for who we are.

Because of my job, I meet so many different people with different personalities, and it is always a challenge to build trust. But that is part of the job. What I do like is meeting different people with good souls.

What’s your dream holiday venue?

I would love to travel to countries I haven’t seen, for instance to Australia, Dubai, Hawaii and   Bali to train people, or follow more courses related to fitness. I’d like to take part in competitions all over the world, hike, go to the beach and take lots of pictures. I basically want to travel the world and exercise at the same time.

Do you have any hobbies?

My hobbies are swimming, playing board games and going salsa dancing.

Do you have a favourite quote?

“Health, Wealth and Love = Happiness’’

If you could ask any three persons (dead or alive) to a dinner party who would they be and what would you cook for them?

The three men I love the most in my life: my father, my brother, who both sadly passed away, and my boyfriend.

It would be nice to have all three of them together. They are all great cooks and they loved cooking more than I do. But if I had to make a dish, it would probably be my favourite dish, which is Spaghetti Bolognese.

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