The Indo-Guyanese community in NY lost two of the greatest classical traditional singers in the passing of Aunty Nylon and Aunty Margaret, phenomenal old timers who entertained tens of thousands on the Corentyne. They and other performers of their era cast a mellifluous magic spell on listeners of all ages in Berbice. They will forever remain etched in the memory of those who knew them. The cultural history of Port Mourant will never be complete without a mention of their names.
The duo are doyennes, performers par excellence. They carved a niche for themselves earning great acclaim for excellent singing, drumming and dancing. It was a joy to be around them at various festivals as they strutted their stuff with grace and elegance. Their golden voices still ring in my ears and echo in my heart.
The duo passed away in their 90s with Aunty Nylon missing her century by a mere four months and Aunty Margaret scoring 93. They were the last of the Port Mourant old timers and the community will miss them enormously. They were among a coterie of singers which included Maddie, Kumbley, Dukhney, and Sughaney, who went from village to village on the Corentyne performing at weddings (matticore), and Hindu festivals. They were a rare breed of traditional artistes of the folklore tradition, complete artistes who could sing and play traditional musical instruments as well as engage in folk dancing, especially at Phagwah.
In their younger days, these artistes, although they did not perform for money, would be ranked alongside today’s Guyanese entertainers who are earning big bucks for their recording and stage performances.
They went on excursions to Nickerie and Upper Corentyne singing and playing music along the way on private buses. Their singing at Mattikur attracted huge crowds with passersby crashing the events to hear them.
This fabulous group did not seek compensation for their performances. They were selfless and honourable folks. They felt it was their duty to entertain the community and to pass on their skills to the younger generation to continue the tradition. They believed that the young could learn by simply following the elders.
The contributions of the group can never be compensated. Although they did not receive official honours, in the peoples’ hearts (who knew them), they deserved all the honours a government could bestow on anyone.
I should note that most of the ladies lost their husbands at a young age and most of them joined the weeding gangs on the estates cutting grass for pennies a day to raise their families. Their descendants have gone on to become success stories in America and elsewhere.
The people of Port Mourant in NY paid tribute to these wonderful personalities. They will be remembered forever. Their demise is a great loss to the Guyanese community which follows traditional classical music.