Swanky Kitchen Band is one of the most recognizable musical experiences in Cayman.
With a heady blend of traditional Cayman folk music influenced also by insistent rhythms and notes of Celtica, the band delights locals and tourists alike.
Weekender sat down with the guys to get the full lowdown.
How did you get together?
The group first performed at the Tourism Ambassador Awards at the Westin Casuarina Resort Grand Cayman in 2003. Three original members, Samuel Rose (violin), Daniel Augustine (drums) and Nicholas Johnson (guitar), got together for a rehearsal the night before the ceremony and put together a list of about 30 songs, including traditional Caymanian folk songs and Caribbean standards. We’ll never forget the crowd that gathered around us under the casuarina trees on the green near the beach. Family members of musical icons like Duxie Ebanks and Julia Hydes were amazed that these three young men were bringing back an almost extinct indigenous art form – the Kitchen Band.
How would you describe your kind of music?
Traditional Caymanian music, like our people, is a melting pot of cultural influences. You can detect a touch of the Celtic/Irish Jig style with an African rhythm. Many Americans marvel that it reminds them of Caribbean-infused bluegrass music. What it is, is undeniably Caymanian, as no other Caribbean Island has a similar sound. This is our very own musical genre passed on from generations.
What are your guaranteed floor fillers and why?
To be honest, there is rarely a moment when the floor is not filled at a Swanky Kitchen Band performance. Attend any event involving Cayman’s seniors and you’ll see that the only way to clear the dance floor is for the band to take a break! When playing for younger audiences, Jeffrey Wilson and KK captivate the audience with “Swanky-fied” renditions of the latest pop hits. The song everyone asks for though is “Munzie Boat in the sound” as that is the most well-known traditional song.
Which recordings have you put out to date, and are there any plans for more?
Swanky Kitchen Band has released two albums. “A Swanky Christmas” was released in 2008, and “Sand Dance” was released in November 2011. There are plans to record an album of mainly original songs, and the band would also love to do a gospel album.
What is the current lineup, and who plays what?
Joining the three original members early on were Paula Scott (grater/shakers) and Stanley Ebanks (percussion). In more recent years, five of Cayman’s premier artistes were added to form Swanky Kitchen Show Band. The five newest members of the family are Caribbean legends Lammie Seymour (bass) and Jonathan Ebanks (lead guitar), both founders of Memory Of Justice band; KK Alese, Cayman´s internationally renowned solo artist (vocals), Devon Edie of Absolute Joy (sax), and Cayman’s newest star and teen idol, Jeffrey Wilson (vocals).
Which bands/artists are you fans of, and what influences you?
Swanky is such a large and unique group that we can honestly say that there is no one band or artist out there that we model ourselves after. Yes, we have our individual influences and bring our own unique flavors to the band, but it would be impossible to start listing who we look up to most. We all grew up listening to Memory of Justice band, who created their own distinct sound of reggae and put Cayman on the music map. So it is a huge honor to have two of MOJ’s members (Lammie and Jonathan) playing with us, and a third member, Charles Gregory, working closely with us as a mentor and sound engineer.
Where can we see you play?
Swanky Kitchen Band tends to take unique bookings only and does not usually sign up for regular (weekly) gigs at one particular venue. The best way to keep track of our upcoming performances is through our Facebook page.
How is the Cayman music scene right now?
As far as Swanky Kitchen Band is concerned, we’re creating our own music scene, in Cayman and beyond. A 10-piece show band does not fit the mold of the current music scene in Cayman, where hotels and restaurants prefer to hire smaller bands for light entertainment. We, instead, continue to build relationships with discerning clients who understand our worth, especially when they realize that this is uniquely Caymanian, professionally presented and hugely entertaining. This model has paid off and seen us playing alongside the likes of Steve Martin and the Steep Canyon Rangers, Emmylou Harris, Shawn Colvin, Natalie Cole, and more.
We are invited to play at Cayman’s premier events such as Taste of Cayman or Cayman Cookout, where we will pick up hundreds of new fans in one 60-minute show. We’ve been invited to represent the Cayman Islands overseas and have shocked audiences in NYC, Panama and Trinidad with the big sound that this little island has to offer. We have learned so much from the many great Caymanian musicians who blazed the trail for us, and now that the baton has been passed to us, we feel a sense of responsibility to be the standard-bearers of international quality entertainment here.
What’s your musical ambition?
Record more albums, perfect our sound, inspire a new generation of kitchen band musicians, grow an international following, tour the music festival scene in the U.S., play in Europe and do a Swanky Kitchen Band Caribbean Cruise. Our fiddler’s dream is to crowd-surf while playing his fiddle!