Finally, Barbados has woken up to the reality of what a jewel it has in Rihanna. So, years late, the authorities have announced that the princess from the emerald sea will be giving a full-length performance on the island for the first time on Aug. 5 at the rebuilt cricket stadium, Kensington Oval, in the capital city Bridgetown.
The event is four years late, but not too late, though it is likely, in these times of global and Caribbean economic stringencies, to attract less of a high-price crowd than had it taken place immediately after the 2007 Cricket World Cup, the final match of which was played in Barbados.
The suggestion for Rihanna's first home concert was made in an article I wrote in December 2006, which said, in part, “… shouldn’t the Barbados authorities already have concluded arrangements with managers of young superstar Rihanna and a date agreed for her first big public performance in her homeland?
“Where? Kensington Oval precisely, within a few days after the Cricket World Cup Final – enough time to have the facilities sanitized and rearranged, but while the extra seating is still in place, large-screen viewing facilities and vendors’ kiosks are still there, with thousands of visitors still in Barbados wanting to unwind from the cricket excitement and with money in their pockets.
“Indeed, it seems reasonable to expect that tickets to a Rihanna super show should already have been on sale, simultaneously with Cricket World Cup tickets, without fear of conflict as the demand for cricket tickets seems considerably in excess of supply.”
Now, years later, the Barbados Tourism Authority, a state agency, has accorded Rihanna the designation of ambassador and announced the Aug. 5 concert and the start of what it describes as a three-year partnership during which the singer will “exclusively promote” the island as a favored tourist destination.
Rihanna quit high school in Barbados and left for the U.S.A. to pursue her dreams in entertainment. Neither the Grimm Brothers of Germany, famous for enchanting the world with folk tales and fairy stories, nor a dashing prince fetching a pair of golden slippers could have matched the web of magic which this superstar, during those glorious years between 16 and 23, has woven for herself. Her rise represents the region’s biggest fairy-type tale in many years – the first since Bob Marley — but it defies mythology, for it is all so very real.
Rihanna has become the most popular “Bajan” – as Barbadians are fondly nicknamed — in history. The island has produced some great personalities whose reputations and names have been known far and wide, including Dame Nita Barrow, an outstanding international figure in health care who became governor-general; Errol Barrow, airman, lawyer, economist and the country’s first prime minister; Sir Garfield Sobers, unchallenged as the world's best-ever cricket all-rounder; Sir Frank Worrell, first black captain of the West Indies Cricket Team.
But none came anywhere near the stature which Rihanna has already attained, bridging nationalities, classes and cultures with her music. Don't even talk about her personal wealth at 23!
One day, while I was dining out in Boston with family and friends at our preferred place, a Cheesecake Factory restaurant, which boasts a reputation for quality cuisine, the artistically presented 36-page menu was a delight to behold. Right up front, Rihanna blossomed forth in a beach scene on a large Barbados Tourism Authority advertisement inviting the world to visit her homeland, with the message, “There’s still a real Caribbean out there. Where you’ll find chart-stopping recording artist and Bajan native Rihanna. Endless perfect beaches, open to all. Incredible dining. Spectacular golf. And people as warm and unspoiled as the island itself.”
As beautifully as she sings and dances, Rihanna, at the start, was also firmly on course to academic excellence as a senior at Combermere Secondary School and the hope is that her academic work has not ceased.
During a visit home in 2006, she fielded phoned-in questions on radio. I asked her what she was doing to continue her education while enjoying the glitter and splendor of the U.S. and the international extension of her singing career. She said she was continuing her education through private tutoring.
The Rihanna high-speed entertainment train has continued unchecked because of her rich talent and captivating beauty and, very importantly, she has the triple-L look that America still likes: She’s Leggy, Light-skinned and Long-haired.