Dispatch from Seat B315

By Iana Seales

Call this a dispatch from Seat B315 at the National Cultural Centre (NCC) on Sunday night during the Guyana Artistic Music Awards.

Why am I here? On a cold Sunday night when the winds are strong enough to toss my skinny frame and the weather is more miserable than it has been in days, I am sitting here waiting for this thing to start. Typical Guyanese and their disrespect for time no let me rephrase that, typical Guyanese and their poor sense of punctuality.

Why didn’t I wear a scarf? This place is cold, inside cold, outside cold and I am sitting here alone because my date bailed. I can easily rephrase this and say something more appropriate, but I will hold my tongue.

I think I see Mondale Smith standing at the podium about to say something. Finally! Oh no! He is offering an apology and pleading with us to be patient. But who is us? This NCC has about twenty people seated and the entire place was open for seating provided people purchased tickets. Maybe it is the weather, or not.

If this show does not start in another ten minutes I am going to opt for my bed instead and walk out of here. I doubt it would be missed though on a night like this you could pick an usher if she leaves that spot she usually occupies. I see about seven ushers and I counted them all because the place is so bare. I look around though and can pick out a few persons of class in here; myself included, we are dressed smartly, we look good and we are here to see a quality show.

The Guyana Artistic Music Awards might have been poorly promoted, but why pass up an opportunity to see people who once lived here and left to be creative in other places. Like Aubrey Mann, I am really looking forward to seeing him tonight. I heard he is good, he better be good! I came to see a few others like Donna Makeda. I mean who are these people? All I know is that they are Guyanese artistes now residing overseas; people who sing on international stages and have acclaim yet I have no idea what they sing and how good they are.

Mondale is back and this looks like it. I am one of three persons seated in my entire row and this is not good, I can see too much of what the other woman is wearing at my far right. I think she is confused as to whether she is at the NCC or liming at Jerries on a Friday night. The look is too much for me and to think that the NCC’s dress code is in effect. Please!

Yes! We are all ago and Aubrey Mann is taking the stage. This fairly-built, long drink of chocolate milk is about to sing. What a sweet voice! I think the number is called, “Stealing Love on the Side” and honestly I believe the man seated behind me is interested in doing just that. Why is he ogling me? Aubrey Mann is the real deal. Here is a Guyanese with a voice as smooth as silk and he is home to sing for us, twenty-something of us; sad. I like his voice; no I really like his voice. He did not just go there, the man is serenading me with “Have I told you lately that I love you”, made popular by Rod Stewart. This could be good and bad given this weather.

Now this is the way to start a night. I am feeling this and Aubrey Mann was certainly worth the wait. Mann left Guyana many moons ago and he now sings out of Canada and as he has revealed tonight, “It feels good to be home and singing for a home crowd”.

I wonder who is next, okay he is on stage and I might I add, that was quick. It’s Redemption and I remember him because he only left for the US three years ago. His voice is still as strong, positive and sweet as I remember it.

Redemption is the kind of culture singer who moves you because of how pure his lyrics are and when he sings you get the sense that it is coming from someplace deep. He is on fire tonight! Imagine this was the same guy who used to walk the streets of Georgetown selling Ital food because no one wanted to sign him and or record any of his music. Today, he is singing out of the US and performing live at concerts across the country.

There are a few other people who are trying something on the stage, but not enough to hold my interest. Johnny Baff was just honoured and so was Neisha Benjamin for their pioneering work in the local music industry. Donna Makeda is coming up and she is one conscious sister, great voice too. I like this tune, “Don’t go breaking my heart”. Sing it sister!

There is now a slew of culture/reggae artiste and I am not really feeling this vibe, but I have to be honest and say that they still sound better vocally and lyrically than many of what we have to sample here on a daily basis. Imagine that, their poor rates as good here. If only some of the local artistes had showed up tonight then they could take a few lessons in how to entertain people with just your voice, no antics, no big stage drama, just plain old singing.

Singers Zebulan and Kapa Shanti were great as well, both singing out of the US and both established singers who left this country very young. It is a pity but I have to leave before the show ends, it is getting late and this weather is not letting up. I did manage to witness awards being served up for singers such as Yonette Hooper; Jumo Primo out of X2; Cherylyn Maloney and Jory Hector. Now I really have to go!

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