Dune Preserve became one giant installation, linked by vividly painted platforms, crowned with giant cutouts of guitarists. “I do pencil art, charcoal, sketches, sandpaintings” (some of which hang on the walls). “The tables are also my art, glass with sand and seaweed displays inside, in different shades of green.” Totally natural, found art, the Dune Preserve embodied green architecture long before the term eco-conscious became trendy, Bankie passionately preserves not only Anguilla’s cultural but natural heritage. In 1999, the Rendezvous Bay sand dunes were flattened from a combination of hurricane damage, shifting tides, and new construction. Bankie collaborated with the Anguilla National Trust on restoring the once majestic dunes through patient hand-raking and redistributing beach grass, palms, mauby, and sea grape trees to help prevent erosion.
Over time Planet Dune developed satellites. Planet Dune Night Club presents live music on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday nights where Bankie and/or guests perform for such fans as Jay-Z, Kevin Bacon, Beyoncé, Uma Thurman, Jimmy Buffett, Justin Bieber, even Bill Clinton – many of whom join in on impromptu jams.
But the big deal is hosting Moonsplash. Held the end of March around the full moon, it’s a howling good time that started as an outlet for Bankie and friends then evolved into one of the Caribbean’s top music and cultural fests, luring leading reggae artists, while showcasing emerging talent, even featuring local food and traditional Anguillian crafts. Bankie always assembles an extraordinary constellation of stars to join him and Roots 8c Herbs, such as Grammy-winning reggae icon Bunny Wailer, fellow pioneer Derek Morgan, Cat Coore, Benji Myaz, Corey Stoot, Alana Davis, Joanna Williams, Tony Ruption, Steel Pulse, Tarrus Riley, Masud Sadiki, and One White Chic. Whether the style is roots or dancehall, the music is rousing, the charged lyrics politically and spiritually inspired in true reggae fashion: “Not that post-80s watered down, overproduced, gimmick beatbox crap without human contact,” Bankie exclaims.
I was cruising on my yacht called Ganga/ With my friend white Rizzla handling the sails/ We met the royal yacht Britannia/On bo ardí chat with the Prince of Whales/He said he’d like a trip on Ganga/ He just couldn’t stand those long cocktails (from “Prince of Wales”)
But any time of year, Planet Dune resembles a barge set to sail off on some quixotic odyssey of discovery and adventure: Bankie’s dream of “a gathering place where I could sit and do what I do, a cultural chillout spot where people can just be themselves,” HOUSE SPECIAL: Dune Shine. “My Mom was born on St, Kitts but grew up on Anguilla. As a teenager she became famous for making ginger beer from an old Kittitian recipe. When I opened the “vegetarian” Dune Preserve – people don’t come to the beach to diet, so that part didn’t last – I served her special ginger beer. My late bartender, Rude Lee (his name was Lee Carty, and he was really a lovely guy) said, ‘It tastes like wine,’ threw some overproof rum in, some juices like pineapple, some grenadine. We called it Dune Sunset because of the color.
Traditional rum punches are sweet. But I took out the grenadine, which made it drier, and turned it into Dune Shine. I make High Shine, too. It’s the same base, but you add fresh ground ginger marinated for 36 hours, then strong alcohol like a dry rum, fresh pineapple juice, some other things.”
Like everything else at Planet Dune, it’s otherworldly.