If you’re a fan of Gospel music from back in the day, then names such as Melchizedek Order, Broadway Boyz International, Reverend Angela Williams, Ras Shorty I, Samuel Dyer and Sherwin Gardner, will bring back good memories. And so, it was only fitting that Celian International, organisers of the fifth Gospel Music Awards of Trinidad and Tobago, (GMATT), paid homage to those veterans who contributed significantly to the growth of the industry by presenting them with the Jamie Thomas Lifetime Achievement Award, named after the late gospel pioneer who paved the way for many artistes of the genre.
The event was held on Easter Sunday at Queen’s Hall, St Anns, Port of Spain, and was hosted by Word 107.1 FM’s Junior Lett and former broadcaster at the station, Luan John. GMATT also paid tribute to Thomas, whose mother Charmaine received a standing ovation from the audience as she accepted her son’s award. JT, as he was affectionately called, was also a producer and a presenter on radio and television. He died last May. His industry peers described him as a trailblazer who opened doors for many gospel entertainers and gave them the rare opportunity to have their music played on the airwaves at a time when gospel music was not mainstream.
The evening was not just about awards, though. It was also about quality entertainment from some of gospel music’s best. Mikhail gave a pore-raising tribute to gospel music minister, Samuel Dyer, who died earlier this year, and Melchizedek Order showed that they still have what it takes to move even those new to their sound. The duo had patrons dancing and singing to their popular hits like “ Life”, “God is Real” and “Flex.” Not to be outdone were the Broadway Boyz who sent the audience into a frenzy with songs like “Step by Step”, “Whole Armour”, “Be Strong and Be Still”.
Always a crowd pleaser, veteran gospel soca artiste Sean Daniel had those in attendance on their feet, long before he got through the first verse of his popular, “Waving Thing”. And seats were abandoned when Isaac and Nehilet Blackman paid tribute to their father Ras Shorty I, the founder of soca and jamoo. Their song set comprised a mix of their individual hits along with that of their father and included, “Brother Brother”, “Always Remember”, “Ceiling”, “Push The Creator Out”, “ Light of the World”, “Trini Makossa” and “Hold me Jesus”.
Also performing were Nisa who showed off her vocal range, belting out songs from her catalog, including, “Happy”, “Beddur” and “Over It” and Marc Isaacs, also known for his melodious vocals, who had everyone singing “Mercies Cya Done”, “Good Morning” and “Validate”. The couples in the audience were in for a treat as Nathanael, armed with charm and a keyboard, dedicated his set to love, singing “For Better or Worse”, “Dance Like My Daddy”, Stevie Wonder’s “Ribbon in the Sky” and “Endless Love”. Jaron Nurse did a commendable job taking the tempo up again performing “What You Know About Jesus”, “Jesus Will Provide” and “Caribbean Christian”. He then introduced up and coming artiste, Ami, who reminded us all of Jamaican superstar Koffee, when she sang “Watch Over Me” which earned her thunderous applause from the crowd.
For the first time, GMATT included an ‘Ole School’ DJ set by Team Ultra Sound, who sent fans down memory lane. The event was well over the scheduled 9:45pm end-time whenTobago-born Positive took to the stage – but patrons were too busy singing along to “Out Ya”, “Sweeter”, “Favour” and “Never Let Go”, to notice. Fellow Tobagonian, Blessed Messenger, understood his assignment in closing the show and wasted no time in bringing the house down with his signature tune “Messengernation”, as well as “Pressure Rise”, “Never Fail Me Yet”, and “Famalay”.