James Nathaniel Hamilton Named Sugar Mas 49 Grand Marshall

Nevisian James Nathaniel Hamilton has been named as the Grand Marshall for this year’s Sugar Mas 49. The announcement came during the opening of Sugar Mas 49, which was held virtually on Friday 11 December, 2020.

Via the St. Kitts and Nevis Carnival Facebook handle, his profile was disseminated. It reads as follows:

𝐉𝐀𝐌𝐄𝐒 𝐍𝐀𝐓𝐇𝐀𝐍𝐈𝐄𝐋 𝐇𝐀𝐌𝐈𝐋𝐓𝐎𝐍 was born on May 25, 1939 in the Alexandra Hospital, Nevis. His musical career started, at age of 12, while a student of the Charlestown Boys’ School where relatives and family friends who were guitar and banjo players, inspired him to become involved in these distinctive and delightful hybrid musical forms.. At age 15 in 1955, he moved to St. Kitts, firstly at Lodge Project by his mother then to Newtown with his father, Joseph “Hustle” Powell.

He recalled as a youngster during the Christmas season, he would often accompany his mother, three aunts and and his grand dad, all avid carolers while they were serenading from house to house.

Although the steel pan was the first instrument he was introduced to, it was playing the instruments of the string band which delighted him most. He started playing the baha (from the Spanish flauta baja – low flute) in the “Real Kill String Band”, then moved on to the banjo and cuatro. Whenever the banjo man was unable to fulfill a gig, James was the one who was called upon do the honours. The only instrument he did not learn to play was the fife.

At age 27 in 1966, he relocated to St Croix where he resided for ten (10) years. While there he continued to showcase his skills in the playing of the cuatro and banjo. Upon his return to St Kitts in 1977, Mr Hamilton formed his own string band called “Boogal” with renowned players such as Fraco and Anando of “Helena Eat First” fame. One of the highlights as leader of this group was a tour of the United States. He also played the cuatro for the Jingle Bells String Band then became the group’s Vice Captain and later selected as the Captain, a post he presently holds. He is also the current captain of the Hot Shot String Band.

He has thrilled audiences throughout the Federation, most notably the National Carnival Grand Parade in which he has participated for over twenty-five (25) years. Countries such as Antigua & Barbuda, Anguilla, Tortola and the United States of America have delighted in his exceptional skills. According to him, one of his biggest musical moments was touring with the Jingle Bells String Band during the 1990s where they were featured in carnival celebrations in Wales, Leeds and Birmingham. Elders from St. Kitts –Nevis and other countries residing in London were also treated to the sweet sound of String Band Music from him and his band.

At age 81, Mr Hamilton is adamant that retirement is nowhere on the radar. He firmly believes his love and passion for string band music, especially the banjo, might very well be stronger now than before. However, his wish is that more persons especially young people, would get involved in the art of playing the banjo, guitar and cuatro.

Mr Hamilton deems it an honour be named Grand Marshall of Sugar Mas 49. Upon receiving the news, he thanked his family for the support and encouragement over the years as well as the government of St. Kitts-Nevis especially the Department of Culture, for the opportunities given to him and his bands over the years.

Of course he is indebted to his Almighty God for giving him the talents, knowledge and strength, to not only have learnt to play the steel pan, cuatro and banjo which he has been playing for over sixty- nine (69) years, but also for allowing him to still be able to continue doing so at the youthful age of eighty-one (81).

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