Why have we overlooked one of our own icons?

Dear Editor,

There are times when you see the obvious staring you in the face, and you wonder if it is just you or are there others, too, who might be seeing and thinking the same.

Just recently I was reading Time magazine’s ‘10 Questions’ feature in the February 27 issue in which Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was the subject. One of the questions posed to the 64-year-old, and the NBA’s most prolific scorer and author (38,387 points and seven books) was “You’ve just been named a cultural ambassador for the Department of State, even though your reputation as a player was for being sullen and aloof. How did that come about?” Well, Kareem’s answer, though humble but assertive, none the less raised another question in my mind.

Why have we overlooked one of our very own icons, one who after several successful years as an internationally acclaimed and award-winning song writer and international performer, good enough to be Chairman and Cultural Advisor to the Cayman Islands, and who obviously has so much to offer but is not being exploited to Guyana’s benefit.

The icon to whom I refer is – yes, most would have guessed – none other than ‘we own’ Dave Martins of Tradewinds fame, who fortunately for Guyana, has chosen to come home to roost in his semi-retirement years.

Dave is a musical maestro in his own right, not just loved by all, but who also possesses a perceptive mind, much in tune with Guyanese and Caribbean culture and lifestyles. As an artist and songwriter, he sees situations and events differently from most of us who miss their essence and who take these very situations for granted as we go about our day-to-day lives. Just follow his ‘So it go’ newspaper column, and this perceptiveness becomes only too obvious.

As a dynamic, professional and international performer, songwriter and arranger, Dave Martins has produced comedic as well as serious songs in his very distinctive and captivating style, laced with witty and catchy lyrics which have become local household and regional favourites. The Tradewinds, with musicians from Trinidad, Barbados, Grenada, Cayman Islands and Guyana, are a regional presence.

From his one-time popular We Place base in Toronto, Canada, Dave entertained Caribbean and non-Caribbean audiences backed by his renowned Tradewinds band in the decade of the 1970s. His wealth of musical and cultural experience includes winning the Cross Canada Song Contest from over 2,000 entries and going on to record over 100 of his own songs which have become staples across the Caribbean and in Guyana. In his 40-year musical career he had also produced numerous advertising and promotional jingles for Guyana, St Lucia, Cayman, and Barbados; his Ricks and Sari jingle in Guyana still enjoys air play after 30 years.

In addition to his music, Dave Martins has written cultural and social columns for the Cayman Island press and as mentioned earlier, is the author of the popular ‘So it go’ weekly column here in Guyana. Along with his wife Annette, this multi-talented individual has produced documentary videos on mangrove restoration and local places of interest.

While living in the Cayman Islands he was Chairman of the Cultural Foundation for almost 10 years, and for 18 years wrote an annual comedy revue Rundown, directed by Henry Muttoo, based on island life, for which he also wrote 5 new songs each year.

In 1988, Dave Martins was engaged by the Guyana Commemoration Commission to write a musical on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of full Emancipation. He spent weeks doing research in the UG Caribbean Reference Library with help from the late Joel Benjamin and too from Vibert Cambridge which led to interviews with an amazing Buxtonion lady, Mavis John, whose great-grandfather had been on one of the last slave ships landing here.  The resulting play, Raise Up was directed by Ron Robinson and staged here at the National Cultural Centre and later abroad, and won Musical of the Year in Guyana.

Among Dave Martins’s numerous accolades are the Guyana Golden Arrow of Achievement, the Cultural Foundation Pioneer Award from the Cayman Islands, the Barbados/Caribbean Association Icon Award, and the Sunshine Award from the US given to international artistes. He is also the recipient of several awards from various Caribbean and Guyanese associations in North America (New York, Toronto, Miami, Ottawa, Orlando, Boston, Winnipeg, Edmonton, Vancouver, etc).

Without further ado, it is my humble opinion that the vast talents and experience of this proud son of Guyana should not be allowed to go to waste, lest we regret in time the meaningful contributions which could have accrued to the benefit of the present and future generations.

Dave Martins, to use a chorus from one of his own songs, is ‘We Own.’ Let’s show our appreciation the way others do with their heroes in their respective countries.

Yours faithfully,
Bernard Ramsay

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