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Stanley and The Ten Sleepless Knights To Release New Album

Stanley Jacobs

Bandleader Stanley Jacobs

CHRISTIANSTED – The Smithsonian Institution is releasing a quelbe music album by Stanley and the Ten Sleepless Knights as part of its Black History Celebration in February.

According to the online magazine Jazz News, the album called “Quelbe! Music of the U.S. Virgin Islands is scheduled to drop on February 5.

Jacobs, bandleader of Stanley and the Ten Sleepless Knights, told the magazine he embraced quelbe music at a young age in the 1940s.

“That’s all we knew,” Jacobs said.

The magazine says that quelbe music was “historically overlooked” even in the territory itself, but for Jacobs “quelbe was music, and music was quelbe.”

How to refer to quelbe music is often a source of contention among purists. BBC World Music calls Stanley’s group “a Crucian scratch band.”

”’Quelbe! Music of the U.S. Virgin Islands’ is the Smithsonian Folkways debut for this legendary group that recently celebrated its 40th anniversary of continuing this old-yet-new dance music,” the magazine said.

The primary ingredients for quelbe music are call-and-response singing and drumming, accompanied by African-influenced dance. Listeners will hear the squash (gourd rasp), steel (triangle), flute, and banjo ukulele, in the contemporary trappings of electric keyboard, drum set, conga, and electric bass.

The all-new recordings are accompanied by a 32-page booklet with photos and extensive notes by GRAMMY winning producer Daniel Sheehy.

Among the standout tracks, “Cigar Win The Race” is a rollicking song that fully embodies the spirit of quelbe. “Sly Mongoose” has a relaxed backbeat, and “When You Had Me” has a melody as cheeky as its lyrics, which tell the tale of a fickle former flame.

As the ninth volume in the Smithsonian Folkways’ African American Legacy Series – a multi-year collaboration with the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture — this album expands the project’s scope to beyond the 50 states in a spirited fashion.

Band History:

When Stanley and his Ten Sleepless Knights formed in the early 1970s, quelbe was largely overshadowed by more commercially glamorous styles of music from the United States and other Caribbean islands.

Class-based notions of propriety and superiority inflicted themselves on views of lifestyles associated with local, rural people of humble means. Quelbe music was thought by some to be scandalous. The lyrics of quelbe songs often contained sexual innuendo and double entendre, telling stories of clandestine sexual trysts and other lewd behavior.

Few people would have guessed how much the genre would climb the social ladder in the Virgin Islands over the next four decades as the Virgin Islands focused on instilling the cultural heritage.

In 2003, the Virgin Islands legislature passed a bill officially making quelbe “the vocal and instrumental style of Virgin Islands.” Then in 2010, the band, whose members include a psychiatrist (Dr. Olaf “Bronco” Hendricks), a firefighter, an international basketball referee, and a racehorse owner, became recognized as its chief protagonists. It was a victory for a genre of traditional music that had once been snubbed, but is now celebrated.

‘Quelbe!’ Tracklisting:

1. Cigar Win the Race

2. Lagoon Mouth

3. Sly Mongoose

4. Beautiful Girl

5. Lancers Number 4

6. When You Had Me

7. Ho Bin Sen Yo?

8. Bronco Jig

9. Don’t Walk Deh

10. Garty Ballantine

11. Hilly

12. Waltz

13. Matty Gru

14. LeBega Carousel

15. Marie Bull

16. Queen Mary

17. Musician Want Something to Drink

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The Author

John McCarthy

John McCarthy

John McCarthy is primarily known for his investigative reporting on the U.S. Virgin Islands. A series of reports beginning in the 1990's revealed that there was everything from coliform bacteria to Cryptosporidium in locally-bottled St. Croix drinking water, according to a then-unpublished University of the Virgin Islands sampling. Another report, following Hurricane Hugo in 1989, cited a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) confidential overview that said that over 40 percent of the U.S. Virgin Islands public lives below the poverty line. The Virgin Islands Free Press is the only Caribbean news source to regularly incorporate the findings of U.S. Freedom of Information Act requests. John's articles have appeared in the BVI Beacon, St. Croix Avis, San Juan Star and Virgin Islands Daily News. He is the former news director of WSVI-TV Channel 8 on St. Croix.

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