Beach Bar None – The Dune Preserve, Anguilla
Beach Bar None – A Diary of Decadent Delights, Day & Night
Hang out on Anguilla for a while and almost inevitably you’ll meet Bankie Banx, the island’s reggae superstar and owner of the Dune Preserve, a combination beach bar/nightclub/restaurant/concert venue. You can’t miss him: multi-hued dreadlocks perfectly framing a bushy beard, warm smile contrasting with ultra-cool shades, and a guitar that he carries so gracefully, so naturally that it seems like an organic appendage. You know the term, different drummer? Bankie has always marched to a different beat, and the fun funky “Planet Dune” (the fond nickname “because there’s no place like it on earth”) reflects his philosophy and lifestyle, overflowing with character and characters.
I have lived too long in doubt/ To drown in morality/ They’re gonna try and shrink me out/ And question my sanity (from “Moonshine”)
The setting is idyllic: a two-acre strip of prime beachfront on seductive Rendezvous Bay caught between lapis sea and towering ivory dunes as curvaceous as Rubens nudes. There have been several incarnations of the bar (and Bankie himself, who’s taken many roads, musically, spiritually and literally, during an eventful three-decade career). It was devastated by hurricanes in 1996 and 1999; each time he rebuilt it, bigger and better than before: a testament to Bankie’s indomitable spirit and that of his fellow Anguillians, as well as their passion for their island.
He first pitched a tent back when he and his band, The Roots & Herbs (a playful pun on both the roots style of reggae and the Rasta dedication to … medicinal plants) were just making a name for themselves in the early 80s, Bankie started touring the region, then “hit the Europe circuit. I said I’d leave for six months, it turned into six years… I was a self-imposed exile, running from this bad record contract while chasing my dream and recognition too… Funny since I’d turned down Eddie Barclay when he left Polygram to start his own label, said he’d set me up solo to produce albums, I said ‘You wanna take me to a swimming pool in Paris, but I got the ocean here …’ I been a total island boy all my life; it was always about coming back home to rehearse and create.”
“I got so homesick in Europe,” he continues, “I kept dreaming about this particular spot, sketching it” (he now sells that moon-and-stars design as a T-shirt). Yet his career beckoned him stateside, and he spent several years based in New York touring East Coast. Closer to home, he was able to build a family house on the hill above his land, then a cabin which he dubbed Backstage. In 1992 he built a stage in front, put the first real beach bar up in 1993, then decided to return home for good the following year.
I’ve been a dreamer a long time ago you know/They grow with my life, they slowly but surely grow/ Dreams are for dreamers/What wings are for sea birds/7b fly far away… to New Horizons (from “New Horizons”)
Bankie’s buddy Bullett maintains the old Anguillian tradition of building and repairing boats. “If a boat loses a few races, you take it apart and try to fix, improve it. Bullett became a boat surgeon, He’d cut it in half, stretch it out, move parts around rather than rebuild it entirely … Some beautiful pieces were discarded; guys would burn a fire for fun … I said to Bullett, ‘We gotta get this shit right away.’ We started throwing salvaged boat parts down, had no idea what to do with them just knew they were cool… We made them into roofs and counters, getting wilder and wilder every day.” Bankie also collected old fishing dinghies and driftwood, “I’m into living art, love funky inventions.”