Cruise Line Executives Visit Junkanoo Group’s ‘Shack’
#TheBahamas, December 20, 2022 – Three years after first meeting, the top executives of a Bahamian junkanoo group and Royal Caribbean International enjoyed time together to gain an even greater sense of appreciation for Junkanoo.
“We’ve been treated to several performances by the Music Makers onboard our ships for special occasions, including our return to service following the pandemic or for inaugural sailings,” said Michael Bayley, president and CEO, Royal Caribbean International.
“We’ve even flown them to the Berry Islands, to entertain onboard and dockside at our private island destination Perfect Day at CocoCay, but we wanted to see them in their own home grounds, the place where all the magic is created. It was fascinating to listen, to see and to learn how the pieces are made and carried.”
The visit took place at one of two ‘shacks’ occupied by the Music Makers on Fowler Street in the heart of the inner city of Nassau.
Music Maker’s Chairman Gary Russell played host and shared, “a medium piece like this can weigh up to 60 pounds and the larger pieces up to 200 pounds,” explained the attorney, performer and long-time chairman, who has been a member of the Music Makers from his wheelchair since before a tragic accident took his legs, but not his spirit. “Only one man or woman can carry a piece and they have to dance with it, though the largest pieces we now have permission to put on wheels.”
Bayley first met Russell at the Fox Hill Community Centre in 2019 as the cruise line was exploring ways to link with Junkanoo, wanting to lend support to the national cultural phenomenon. Impressed, he and the team began including the Music Makers, retaining them to perform at special events.
The following year, as Bayley was speaking at the grand opening of the Bullock’s Harbour Community Centre funded by Royal Caribbean, he announced a major sponsorship for the Music Makers.
“When Mr. Bayley announced Royal Caribbean would sponsor us for $100,000, I was so excited I leapt up in the air, wheelchair and all,” said Russell. “If someone had not been holding me down, I would have gone up in the air and over, that’s how excited I was and in disbelief. We can never thank Royal Caribbean enough. They have given us new life.”
With the Junkanoo parades back on tap this year for Boxing Day and New Year’s following a two-year hiatus due to the pandemic, the Music Makers will return to Bay Street.
“We are going to make Royal Caribbean proud,” he said. “With their permission, we have renamed ourselves the Royal Caribbean Music Makers and we are going to make some music. We’re in it to win it.”
Royal Caribbean Music Makers Chairman Gary Russell, seated, explains how a Junkanoo piece is made to Royal Caribbean International President & CEO Michael Bayley during a visit to the group’s shack on Fowler Street off East Street and Ross and Gibbs Corner.
Bayley examining the craftsmanship on the junkanoo pieces and conversing with Music Makers Chairman Gary Russell.
(Photos by Cay Focus Photography for DPA)