The Gospel Music Awards of Trinidad and Tobago (GMATT) took on a different spin this year. Artistes, producers, event coordinators and NGO’s were honoured for their consistency and commitment to their crafts, despite the challenges they faced over the past year due to the covid-19 pandemic which brought all live performances and events to an abrupt halt. Performers, fans and government ministers, including Minister of Social Development and Family Services, Donna Cox, Education Minister, Dr Nyan Gadsby-Dolly, Member of Parliament for Tunapuna, Esmond Forde and Minister of Tourism, Culture and the Arts, Randall Mitchell, showed up, dressed to impress, at the red carpet affair, held at Queen’s Hall, on March 7.
Themed ‘Resilience’, GMATT, which is now in its 4th year, was hosted by Celian International in partnership with MusicTT and the Ministry of Tourism. Celian’s founder, Ian Haywood said he recognised that this period remains “very difficult” for the gospel community, so instead of doing the usual competition type event, he simply wanted to say ‘thank you’ to those who persevered, in spite of “The theme really lived on in this event,” Haywood told me in an interview at Queen’s Hall. “Only in February, we saw that shows were being done and so we took on a tremendous task to put this evening together in just about three weeks. It was a tremendous risk but we are very pleased with how everything came together.”
The evening was jam-packed with entertaining performances as the artistes treated fans to their favourite oldies – and some new tracks too. Vocalist Vanessa Briggs opened the show with her song ‘Everything’ and was followed by powerhouse singers, Shurnelle Spencer and Kay Alleyne. Up next was Joshua Ali, who bounced back from some technical difficulties to deliver one of my favourite performances of the evening (listen, the man can sing!).
Other standout performers were ‘Touch Not My Anointed’ singer Bj’orn Pierre and up and coming artiste, Kevin Francis, who took me by surprise with his powerful performance of ‘Feel It’. Penultimate performer, Joel ‘Positive’ Murray, as usual, had patrons on their feet, as he sang ‘Nah Dweet’ and ‘Real & Blessed’, and singer Joanna came through with a riveting rendition of her song, ‘Call For Dis’ who Minister Mitchell said was his favourite act. “I really enjoyed her song,” he said. “It was my first time at the awards and I loved it. I’m impressed by the versatility and creativity of the artistes as they move around the genres to carry their positive messages to encourage, motivate and inspire in song. I’m encouraged by the thought that our gospel artistes can use the soca/calypso rhythms to place Trinidad and Toabgo on the billion-dollar gospel music map and carve out a little niche for us.”
Speaking of versatility, singer Nathanael, who recently put out his third album, SZNS Change, showed off his range, singing tunes from the R&B, rap and dancehall genres. He also incorporated a piano set for his recently released track, ‘Thank You’, which he sings alongside fellow artiste, Jaron Nurse. Host Wendell Bompart did a commendable job at keeping the evening fun and light with his ‘stale’ jokes and humour and there was something special for the ladies in the audience as some of the artistes sang tunes dedicated to women to celebrate International Women’s Day which was observed the following day.
Then, switching up the vibes was Nisa, whose strong vocals and easy-breezy performance of ‘No Shade’, ‘Happy’ and ‘Giants’ was welcomed by the crowd. Farenite touched on the more serious side of life with his tune, ‘Lose My Grip’, where he encouraged those contemplating suicide to reach out to God, sharing that he was once there too. Brandon Best used his stint on stage to call for people to do some introspection with his track ‘Accountable’ and J Prince delivered one of the strongest performances of the evening with ‘YHWH’. Earlier, fans were invited to dance during Jahzy and Marc Isaacs’s set as they performed their fun track, ‘Dancey’, while Michelle Slyvester and Denyse Plummer raised the tempo with their collaboration, ‘Safe on the Inside’. Then, Blessed Messenger brought the house down with a high energy performance that had people out of their seats, dancing, waving and singing along.
Visit Celian International’s Facebook page for the full list of awardees).