Allan Warner’s ‘Impact & Legacy Will Live On’

October 27, 2016

On behalf of the Government, the Minister of Social Development and Sports Sylvan Richards today [Oct 27] expressed profound sadness at the death of Gombey veteran Allan Warner, saying that  ”his spirit, impact and legacy will live on in our hearts and minds.”

Mr. Warner worked very closely with the staff at the Department of Community and Cultural Affairs over many years as a tradition-bearer and Gombey historian, and was well known for his contribution to the Gombey tradition.

Minister Richards said, “I have known Allan for many years, as he and I once worked together at a local exempt company and also because I am an avid fan and follower of Gombey culture here in Bermuda.

A poster from the 2015 Gombey Festival, when Mr Warner was honoured:

Gombey-Festival-Bermuda-September-12-2015-17 allan warner poster

“Allan knew how much I loved the Gombeys and when we saw each other at work, he would occasionally ask with a smile on his face, ‘when was I going to join Warner Gombey Troop?’, because he had a costume ready for me, and we both would laugh. Allan was a standard bearer of preserving traditional Gombey Culture and his contribution to ‘The Gombeys’ over many years has been well documented.

“On behalf of the Government of Bermuda, and as the Minister responsible for culture, I extend sincerest condolences to Allan’s wife, Tracey; his daughter Algina, his special Aunt Janice Warner and all other family and friends. Indeed a ‘giant’ has fallen; yet his spirit, impact and legacy will live on in our hearts and minds.”

“His passing will be mourned by the Bermuda community generally and Gombey crowds specifically, as we reflect on his legacy in the Bermuda Gombey movement.”

Mr Warner had a long history with the Gombeys, and his official biography said, “Allan Warner began Gombey dancing in 1959 at the age of three; having been introduced to this folk art form by his uncle Llewellyn ‘Termite’ Warner. Allan quickly became a talented dancer and began exploring the other elements associated with Gombey culture.

“At age 9, Allan crafted his first Gombey costume; proud to have completed everything but the mask and pants, which he learned later. Allan began fluently drumming for Warner Gombeys at age 16, always concerned that the traditional rhythms that he beat out coincided with the various dances.

“Allan was influenced by many drummers, including: Shorty Maynard, Henry ‘Gropher’ Wilson, Reginald ‘Way Way’ Wainwright, Eugene ‘Pond Dog’ Parsons, John ‘Pickles’ Spence, Roy ‘Rocky’ Hassell, Gerald ‘Beesie’ Greene, and Roy Young. Allan’s passion for drumming has also inspired and influenced other drummers, including: David ‘Tootsie’ Darrell, Gary ‘Sully’ Wellman, Jimmy ‘Furb’ Furbert, Ken ‘Ting’ Douglas, Ricky ‘Rick’ Smith, and Granville ‘Sticks’ Hughes.

Allan’s passion for Gombey culture led to him becoming Captain of Warner’s Gombeys. Under his leadership, they travelled extensively representing Bermuda, including trips to: St. Kitts, Bahamas, Germany, Switzerland, New York, Philadelphia, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Washington D. C. They also performed locally in neighbourhoods, businesses, and hotels across the island. As Captain, Allan insisted that the Warner Gombeys perform at least three to five charity events each year, dazzling crowds at various seniors’ homes and Government School fairs.

The 2015 Gombey Festival, when Mr Warner was honoured:

Gombey-Festival-Bermuda-September-12-2015-19 warner

Allan was steadfast in his devotion to preserving Bermuda Gombey culture and history, apparent in an interview for the Smithsonian Folklife Festival; during which he discussed the spirit of the Gombeys: “I feel that the spirit is what is most important – more important than the headdress, more important than the costume, more important than the drummers. The spirit of the Gombey … is the core of one’s soul. Acknowledging that claim is the pride that you achieve, working towards elevating that.

“My grandfather told me in order for me to keep the group alive, I have to learn everything that it takes to run the group, everything. I have to learn how to make the drum, play the drum, [create] the costume. I did that.”

“During that interview, he reflected on how Gombey culture has changed over time; he urged that the art form must remain loyal to the traditional roots, sharing the history and craft with the younger generations: “It’s the same story, no matter how much we want to make our costume evolve… And every costume in my group depicts some African in its greatness. The job of the young gentleman that’s wearing it, is to find out what that African’s life was about, from the time he starts till the time he decides to stop. Because Gombeys don’t stop. They just step aside and let somebody else come in.”

“In 1995, Allan was the recipient of the Queen’s Certificate of Honour, for “keeping the Gombey tradition alive” and was the first Gombey Captain to receive this honour. He was honoured by the Department of Community and Cultural Affairs in 2015 during the annual Gombey Festival. Allan Warner had been involved with the Gombeys for a remarkable 57 years until his passing in October 2016.”

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  1. Serious Though says:

    S.I.P, may the Gombeys drum beats take you to the next life