Niger Nestor’s Artistic Journey

Niger Nestor
Niger Nestor

IT might seem amazing to many of us just how multi-award-winning drummer/painter Niger Nestor finds the time to accommodate the packed schedule that demands his talents. But for a man who lives and breathes art and music, Nestor’s life has always been about finding the time to do the things he loves.

Born and raised in La Fargue, Choiseul, the 50-year-old – who is also a guitarist, poet, graphic artist and sign painter — said his earliest influences came from his father, Francis, who played the guitar and did craftwork as well as his mother, Raymonise, who played drums. For most of his childhood, the family lived opposite a dancehall, which only served to strengthen young Niger’s love for music.

At school, Nestor was constantly called on to participate in theatrical and musical activities. He was a drummer in the scout troupe. While still in his teenage years, he and his younger brother, Meshach, and childhood friend, Sabinus, teamed up to form a few music groups. Niger said when he realized he was artistically-inclined, he just kept developing it along the way.

Through that self-development process, he said, his definition of art became clear: “I feel art is a general term that governs a set of expressions. These expressions are governed by the senses. So as long as you can do one aspect of it, it’s easy to cross over to the next one. You just have to knock on the door. However, it doesn’t go without being at it. You must practise.”

His other brother, Romuald, died at age 14 but not without having a profound influence on Niger. He described Romuald as being very intelligent, a pioneer, and positive influence in many respects. Romuald’s light seems to be the spotlight under which both Meshach and Niger have been sharing over the years.

“Everything I’m doing now – painting and music – he was already doing at age 14. He was our inspiration, so I give him credit for leading Meshach and I into that direction of art,” Nestor said.

While his first love was music, Niger later went into sign painting. After graduating from Vieux Fort Senior Secondary School in 1983, he migrated to Castries in 1986, landing a job at a printery. While there, he started dabbling with the ink they used for printing jobs. Although he had done a little sketching at home, emulating his brothers, the time spent at the printery was what really introduced him to the creative things he could do with ink. Soon after that, he started buying real paint and practised at home.

Through his music, Nestor has been able to perform with many local groups, including San Nous, Charmalion Dancers, LapoKabwit, Les Enfants Dancers, Silver Shadow Dance Academy, Miracle Dancers, and Wevolucian, Dezagweable, Esoteric Drummers, Kronic Heights, Vide Bouteille Drumming Ensemble, Rebel Soul.

He has represented Saint Lucia at the Maroon Festival in Carriacou, CARIFESTA, Commonwealth Drumming Festival, the Francophonie Festival in Canada, Rockland County Festival in New York, and the World Festival of Black Arts and Culture on the African continent. Nestor has also facilitated workshops and productions in Saint Lucia and at Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C. and in Ireland. He is currently a member of rock band, B9.

But it’s the band he and brother, Meshach, formed in the early 1990s – Wevolucian — that he credits for really getting his music going. Two of the band’s more popular songs, “Hail” and “Greedy Joe”, still resonate with fans. Most of the band’s music speaks out on social issues. Wevolucian, Nestor said, is no longer together as lead singer Meshach has been a solo artiste for many years now since releasing his compilation, “Awake”, over a decade ago. Hadn’t it been for Meshach, though, fans might not have known about Wevolucian, he said.

“Meshach was working at Le Sport and during leave from work, he let his hair grow. When he returned to work, they told him he needed to cut his hair and he refused. However, there was a guitar at the hotel which he started to practise on. By that time, I was also practising on my guitar. So we went from playing drums to playing guitar,” Nestor explained.

While at his La Clery home one day about seven years ago, a teacher from Vide Bouteille Primary School passed by and saw Nestor making an African drum. The teacher later approached Nestor and asked him whether he could put something together with the students for a presentation at their assembly later in the week. That was nearly seven years ago and that was how the Vide Bouteille Drumming Ensemble began. The St. Lucia School of Music soon ran with the initiative, paying Nestor a salary for his work with the group, which now comprises both primary and secondary school students. The group has played at major hotels and other venues, including the Saint Lucia Jazz & Arts Festival.

Nestor has played with many top names in music, including Ronald “Boo” Hinkson, Gene Lawrence, Augustin “Jab” Duplesis, and Ricardo Francois. He has also shared the stage with Bunny Wailer, Junior Reid, Sizzla, and Everton Blender.

Nestor’s work has taken him around the world, including most Caribbean countries, Ireland, England, the United States and the African continent. He has also won six individual awards from the M&C Fine Arts Awards Scheme and two individual Cultural Development Foundation (CDF) awards, as well as numerous awards from other agencies and groups.

This year, Nestor was awarded the Saint Lucia Medal of Merit (Silver) for his contribution to culture and the arts at the Independence Awards Investiture Ceremony. The award in February, he said, bears much significance.

“I thank the government for recognizing me and acknowledging my work,” Nestor said. “I’m happy that they have come to realize that I’m worthy of the award. I’ve received many awards before but this one is the most prestigious to me. So I’m grateful for that.”

Nestor has fears that the art of drumming will die soon. If the art form is not passed on to the present and future crop of children, he said, Saint Lucia runs the risk of losing a fair share of its cultural identity. As such, he said he remains committed to ensuring that the spirit of the drum lives on by teaching the art form to others, especially children.

The humble and unassuming master of music and art cited hard work and a dogged determination to try and be successful at different things as key pillars to his artistic development. He also has a message to anyone still holding onto the jack-of-all-trades idea that suggests that success favours those who stick to one trade.

“Some people say that if you don’t stick to just one thing, you will never master anything,” Nestor said. “But I beg to differ with that jack-of-all-trades-not-amounting-to-anything idea. I’ve received about ten awards for being a painter. I’m a bass player and I’ve played with one of the best reggae bands in Saint Lucia, Wevolucian. I’m a drummer and I’ve played with the best drumming groups in Saint Lucia. So it’s a general thing about the arts where one aspect of the arts leads you directly to the others.”

Stan Bishop began his career in journalism in March 2008 writing freelance for The VOICE newspaper for six weeks before being hired as a part-time journalist there when one of the company’s journalists was overseas on assignment.

Although he was initially told that the job would last only two weeks, he was able to demonstrate such high quality work that the company offered him a permanent job before that fortnight was over. Read full bio...


  1. I’m wondering if that is the same Niger that I worked with many years ago on a cruise ship when we were both young men. He was a great guy.
    Can you please forward this email to him?

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