“AARP Makes Me Happy” premiered June 7 on the WTJX, “Analyze This” radio show hosted by Neville James. The song features local artists, local beats, and local rhythms.
V.I. AARP State Director Troy Schuster and Guardians of Culture Moko Jumbie Founder Willard John joined James for the premier of the song.
Schuster spoke to the listening audience about the weekly Saturday radio show on WTJX, “In Conversation with AARP.” The show airs on radio, television, Facebook, and YouTube.
“We’re all about forming collaborations and partnerships all across the country. That’s how we increase capacity and penetrate communities and get the work done for the people we serve, the 50-plus population,” Schuster said in response to James’ comment about AARP being the ultimate partnership in the Virgin Islands.
Schuster gave a little background information that prompted the need for the song “AARP Makes Me Happy.”
In late 2016 the V.I. Legislature passed a bill, now No. 7961, sponsored by former Senators Justin Harrigan and Kurt Vialet. It was approved by former Gov. Kenneth Mapp in 2017. It is the Silver Alert System, which works very much like the Amber Alert. If someone who is advanced in age or has some kind of dementia is missing, the search for that person starts immediately. There is not a 24- or 36-hour wait. It is immediate. Some years later, Jan. 2020, an elderly lady on St. Croix suffering from Alzheimer’s was missing. Although the alert system was approved, for some reason, it was not working. No one was sent out to look for her. The community got very involved on Facebook, and Schuster’s “good friend and wonderful artist Nikki Brooks” led the charge on Facebook. She amped up the call and the search. The lady was found safely.
Brooks and Schuster began a conversation about the Silver Alert System’s failure and the good work that AARP does. That motivated Shuster’s idea to come up with a song that would get AARP’s story out. He wanted Brooks to be the main artist. She said, “Yes.” Then the pandemic put everyone in lockdown and the song project went on the back burner, Schuster said.
As things with the pandemic settled in, Schuster wanted to revive the project. He spoke with AARP Director of Advocacy Pamela Toussaint, “who has experience with the Reichhold Center on St. Thomas,” and John, “who is a great producer and organizer of events,” and they came up with a wonderful group of artists.
“AARP Makes Me Happy” is an infusion of locally recognized voices: Eldridge “Edgy” Christian, Nikki Brooks, and Delyno Brown, aka Pressure Busspipe, the sounds of the renowned flutist and V.I. Music Ambassador Stanly A. Jacobs, of the Ten Sleepless Knights, backup vocals by Aquila Jackson, and the music of Edgy playing banjo. The song was written and composed by Luis Ible Jr. and produced by Malvern Gumbs. The lyrics describe the work of AARP in communities across the nation blending the rhythms and sounds of Quelbe and Soca music.
According to Schuster, “The project took a lot of time getting AARP approval, working with our brand department, and our office of general counsel, and making it just perfect for AARP, and yet still very cultural.”
Schuster reflected on the cultural aspect in the past of the Griot in Africa, telling stories over the beating of the drums. “Here, in the Caribbean, during slavery, it evolved into what we call Kaiso [Caiso], that evolved into Calypso, and that evolved into Soca. Caiso in the Danish West Indies, now the Virgin Islands of the U.S., evolved into Quelbe. And, again, this is how we told stories. To bring the Quelbe and the Soca together and to tell the story of AARP — it makes sense,” Schuster said.
“AARP Makes Me Happy” shares the exciting work of the organization in a form that is easy to understand, particularly by our local population in the Caribbean,” Schuster said in the press release.
“The song also reflects the diversity and inclusivity of AARP through music that resonates with not only persons living in the V.I. but also the great number of Caribbean people now residing in the U.S. mainland. The rhythm also captivates non-Caribbean people,” Schuster added.
AARP V.I. Associate State Director of Communications Noemi Garcia shared how “AARP Makes Me Happy” can be heard. “We are doing a tour on radio talk shows. We played it at the St. John’s parade. It’s on our Facebook page — people should stay tuned in to know when we will be appearing on the radio talk shows. Events like our exercise class soon and our participation at the Disaster Preparedness Expo. There are endless ways to hear the song.”