Many Bahamian artists have not only conquered the entertainment field, but also influenced and shaped it. If you enjoy music and movies, you have probably heard of some of the most famous Bahamian actors and musicians who have broken stereotypes and taken the world by storm.
1. SIR SYDNEY POITIER(1927-PRESENT)
Probably the most notable Bahamian of all is the iconic singer, actor, film director, author and diplomat, Sir Sidney Poitier.
Born in the Bahamas in 1927, Poitier became the first person of African descent to win an Academy Award for Best actor in 1963 for his role in the Lilies of the Field. His other classic films include To Sir, With Love, in which he played a schoolteacher in London in charge of a class of marginalized white kids from the slums; In the Heat of the Night, a crime-drama adaptation from John Ball’s 1965 novel in which he played Detective Virgil Tibbs; and Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner, with the role of a potential son-in-law to the daughter of a white couple played by stars Katherine Hepburn and Spencer Tracey.
Poitier is also known for his stunning voice and brought Caribbean music to the North America and Europe long before reggae was part of the Western music world. He went on to direct a number of popular movies such as Let’s Do It Again, with Bill Cosby, and Stir Crazy, with Richard Pryor and Gene Wilder.
Queen Elizabeth of England knighted Poitier in 1974, and in 2009 he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama. Since 1997, Poitier has been the Bahamas’ Ambassador to Japan, a position he still holds today. He is also the Bahamian Ambassador to UNESCO.
2. ROXIE ALBERTA ROCKER (AUGUST 28, 1929 – DECEMBER 2, 1995)
Roxie Alberta Rocker was born in Miami, Florida, but her father was Bahamian.
In the 1960s, her groundbreaking role on a primetime sitcom The Jeffersons, a comedy about a black couple, opened doors for other black women on television and in Hollywood.
She is also the mother of musician Lenny Kravitz, the grandmother of actress Zoë Kravitz and the cousin of Al Roker (NBC’s Today Show).
3. ESTHER ROLLE (NOVEMBER 8, 1920 – NOVEMBER 17, 1998)
Esther Rolle was born in Pompano Beach, Florida, to Bahamian immigrants. With Florida so close to the Bahamas, it was not usual for citizens to be born in the United States as parents sought superior medical care.
Rolle was best known for her portrayal of Florida Evans on the CBS television sitcom Maude and its spin-off series Good Times. Again, she was at the forefront of bringing black films and television shows into white living rooms around the world.
4. THE BAHA MEN
Who Let the Dogs Out? Do you remember this international hit back in 2000?
The group, formed in Nassau under the original name High Voltage, won many US music awards, including a Grammy in 2000 for Best Dance Recording, Best World Music Artist of the Year, the World Music Album of the Year at the Billboard Music Awards and the Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Award for Favorite Song in the same year. In 2002, they won another Kids’ Choice Award for Favorite Band, and the group has worked on a number of Disney projects.
The group played together in the 1970s as part of Junkanoo festival, the famous street parades that can be seen in many towns across the Bahamas. From that simple start, they eventually emerged as world-famous musicians.
When you watch entertainment in the Bahamas, you might see a new group entering into the field of world-class show business.
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