Ronald ‘Boo’ Hinkson’s Music Transcends Cultures and Sounds
Updated: Apr 29
St. Lucian born Ronald Hinkson, better known as ‘Boo’, is a gifted composer, producer, and heralded guitarist. His unique approach and versatility enable him to deliver a distinctive signature sound that has garnered him success internationally. Having had the pleasure to see him perform live during the St. Lucia Jazz Festival as a teen, I have my own appreciation for Boo’s sound and rhythms. It was a given to showcase Boo on the Caribbean Essence platform, and to obtain a bit more information about the artist and his career to date.
Photos provided by Ronald 'Boo' Hinkson
Boo’s earliest memories of music are of his mother singing and playing the guitar and his father part of what was called the West Indian Regiment which was a contingent of the British army during the Second World War. “Because of that interaction he brought home Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Ella Fitzgerald, and Duke Armstrong and my mom sang a lot of these songs so I grew with that influence alongside what was popular in the Caribbean at the time so that gave me a very broad taste for music” Boo shared. And when listening to his music you can definitely still hear the jazz influence he speaks of. His mother he explained, encouraged him as his interest in music grew, teaching him what she knew and lending any support she could.
During his years as a student at St. Mary’s College (a high school), Boo and friend Michael Alexander got together with a small group of friends and some family members and formed the Tru tones. After recording a lot of primal material with West Indies Records out of Barbados Tru Tones gained some popularity outside of St Lucia and beyond the Caribbean.
When posed the question what it was like growing up in St. Lucia, Boo shared “My growing up in St Lucia at the time was a bit unique in that because I started young I was able to do things my friends couldn’t do. Having a band while going to school traveling and so on was not the norm for any young boy in St Lucia. We would get booked to go to another island and flew on chartered flights which would have to get us back to St Lucia in time for school on a Monday morning after having performed out of St Lucia over the weekend.” Indeed what an experience for a youth, though this naturally prepared him for the years to come later in his career.
Boo and his wife Dona at the Grammy's
“Tru Tones was afforded a really unique opportunity because West Indies Records had an ongoing deal with an international label if my memory serves me correctly it was Warner Brothers. They marketed artists beyond the Caribbean for West Indies Records. So when Super Bowl XIII came about, a Caribbean half time show was planned and the Tru Tones came up because our music had already been heard in the US,” Boo explained. “And what an experience it was performing to almost the entire population of St Lucia in one venue. That was a bit of a shocker to me at the time”, Boo added. Some years later after garnering success with the Tru Tones, Boo went solo he stated “I decided to go solo because of a few reasons one of which was I thought we had out grown St Lucia and secondly I didn’t think we were on common ground in terms of the musical direction we should take. So I folded up and started a solo career.”
His unique ability to blend genres and yet remain true to what comes natural to him as an artist, has helped to make him a sought after and well respected artist among his peers. Sharing the stage with scores of musical greats including Al Jarreau, India Arie, Earl Klugh, George Benson Grover Washington and Stanley Jordan speaks to that in of itself. Boo has performed in many countries and of course many a times in his homeland, however, there is one experience that is embedded in his heart. “These are experiences that I will never forget. I recall being on, my way out of Pigeon Island, St. Lucia, after one of my performances during the jazz festival when a security personnel came running up to me saying I was needed back stage. When I got there I was told that there was an amp set up for me on stage because George Benson wanted me to play a song with him. Well the nerves set in because this is Mr. George Benson, the best guitar player in the world, and in the middle of his set he says is Boo in the audience come on stage. Well I went on stage a nervous intimidated wreck. I must say George was very encouraging and a wonderful human being and we are still in touch. Al Jarreau was equally supportive and the one thing about all these individuals is that they are all just so eager to share their knowledge and experience.”
Boo with George Benson
Boo draws inspiration in many different ways. “Sometimes it’s simply out of something someone said in a conversation, an experience I had, sometimes it’s a new melody that comes to me or something rhythmic. I must say also that it often comes from the scenic beauty of St Lucia.
It is very important for this gifted guitarist to keep a Caribbean influence in his music because it makes his sound different and unique in the contest of a festival where everybody’s doing smooth jazz. “Sometimes I may add Caribbean percussions or instrumentation to give me that unique sound and sometimes the Caribbean influence may be just in my phrasing that I can make very obvious or very subtle. It is important that I do this so that create my own identity and sound,” Boo said.
Boo and Al Jarreau
In 2013, to commemorate Caribbean Heritage Month, Boo performed at a state function for former President Bill Clinton. He had the chance to showcase his talent on the daytime television show "One Life to Live", BBC, BET Jazz, and Bravo TV which have also aired live performances.
Boo’s brings a fresh and innovative blend of jazz and Caribbean music, should you have the opportunity to see Boo live in person, don’t hesitate you’re in for a treat!
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