Derrick Barnett still making a Statement

Derrick Barnett still making a Statement

Observer senior writer

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

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Fans attending dancehall 'stage shows' in the 1980s and 1990s saw stars such as Yellowman, Shabba Ranks and Ninjaman in full flight. At most of these events, the backing band was Sagittarius, led by Derrick Barnett.

The energetic singer/bassist, who started “Sagi” in 1979, has long moved on from that aggregation. He now heads Statement Band, one of the leading reggae/dancehall live units in the tri-state area (New York, New Jersey and Connecticut).

On Friday, Statement kicks off a four-night stint at the New Vibe Lounge in Long Island, New York. They will be the featured act at the Jamaican-owned venue.

Recently, Barnett told the Jamaica Observer he is still excited about getting on stage and rocking audiences, whether the gig is in an arena or club.

“It's important to have steady work anywhere, not only in the tri-state area,” he said.

Barnett formed Statement in 2002. His bandmates are American guitarist Andy Bassford, a former member of Lloyd Parks and We The People Band; Andrea Sawyers (lead vocals), Peter Grimes (keyboards and vocals), Troy Wilson (drums and vocals) and Gregory King, who also plays drums.

They have backed top acts passing through the region, including Marcia Griffiths, Freddie McGregor, Sanchez, Wayne Wonder, Capleton, Spragga Benz, Mikey Spice, Ky-Mani Marley, Beenie Man and Vybz Kartel.

Barnett was raised in Allman Town, a community in central Kingston that produced singers like B B Seaton, Horace Andy and Carl Dawkins. He attended St George's College, where his batchmates included future Chalice drummer Desi Jones; both were part of the school's music programme.

After stints on the north coast hotel circuit, Barnett returned to Kingston in the late 1970s, and got immersed in the emerging dancehall scene. Sagittarius started as a quintet, doing school fetes but eventually expanded to a nine-piece unit that played at major events.

Their big break came as backing band for the 1981 Festival Song Contest, which was won by Tinga Stewart with Nuh Wey Nuh Betta Dan Yard. Stewart was not the only winner on final night at the National Arena.

“When wi go back to Allman Town after wi finish that night, it was like pandemonium in Allman Town, everybody was like, 'Di band's on TV! Di band's on TV!' Dat was like the jump-off, that televised show of the final was what kicked us off,” Barnett said in a 2018 interview.

For almost 20 years, Sagittarius backed dancehall's elite artistes on marquee shows like Reggae Sunsplash and Sting, with Yellowman being their biggest 'client'. Barnett's non-stop 'skanking' proved just as entertaining as the acts the band supported.

He and Sagittarius parted company in the late 1990s. The band still backs Yellowman, while Barnett and Statement are regulars on the New York City club scene.

Their other shows at New Vibe Lounge are scheduled for November 22 and 29, and December 6.

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