Editor’s note: This story comes from an interview with Cody in March of 2014 about events that happened December of 2013, which (in a monthly periodical such as this one) would technically classify it as “old news.” However, the editor considers this story lovely and timeless and for those reasons: it must be published.
The Bastimentos Beach Boys are local calypso legends that have been jamming around the islands of Bocas del Toro for 24 years now, but they once got to take their talents to the Island of Providencia (also known as Old Province). This island is located some 230 km east of Nicaragua in the Caribbean Sea and forms part of the nation of Colombia. How did these Basti’ guys get sent all the way to a Colombian Caribbean Isle? We asked founding Bastimentos Beach Boy member Cody how it all went down.
“One day, a guy just comes up to me and says ‘Hey I think I need your group in Colombia’,” recalls Cody, director of the band. He was baffled, “Where do you know my group from?” he had to ask.
“You’re one of the Beach Boys!” the man replied. The man’s name is Joseph and he happened to be organizing a music festival in Old Providence, Colombia. Joseph promised to give Cody a call in 15 days to make all the arrangements. Cody laughed off the encounter as flattery, but as fate would have it, this Colombian Joe was serious.
Within 15 days, plane tickets were booked, accommodations were set up and money was sent to the Western Union in Almirante so that the guys could travel to Panama City to get their passports. Only Cody already had his passport; the other 5 Beach Boys needed to get their documents in order before getting on an international flight to Colombia.
Well, indeed serious was this Colombian Joseph and the Basti’ Beach Boys were off to Colombia! They had traveled to Panama City on small planes before and crossed boarders to play in Puerto Limon, Costa Rica, but nothing like this. So, on Christmas Day, 2013 the 6 boys from Bastimentos boarded a 747 jet on Avianca Airlines, Panama City to Bogota, Colombia.
“This Colombian trip was a big experience for me, buddy, very big; something I’ve never seen in my life,” remembers Cody, thinking about the whole ordeal.
The festival was a production of the Colombian Ministry of Culture and featured Calypso bands from all over the Caribbean. The festival took place from December 26th to 30rd (2013) and Cody estimates a crowd of 7,000 people. There were microphones and amplifiers all over the stage that “If you dropped a match, you would hear it!”
The crowd of 7,000 was very receptive to the Bastimentos Beach Boys style. They are essentially a Calypso band incorporating elements of reggae, salsa and merengue. There are six members: Joe (guitar), Demetrio (bass), Brogo (drums), Oscar (tumba percussion), Bambito (sax) and of course our interviewee Cody, who plays the “charuca”, a wash-board style percussion instrument. The Bastimentos Beach Boys version of Calypso music was faster and more up-tempo style compared to the other groups, according to Cody, but as he put it: “The people them like it!”