Overheard at the Bourda Market: “Now Mash coming round, dey gun kill we wid Guyanese music! I like it though!” But just what is Guyanese music? This country is truly a melting pot when it comes to music.
Calypso and chutney are of Trinidad and Tobago, but Guyana has Calypsonians of merit and chutney singers who have challenged the Trinidadians.
Reggae and dancehall are as Jamaican as ackee and salt fish, but listen carefully and you will hear Guyanese singing both genres and sounding Jamaican as well; we’re not sure if they’re eating the ackee and salt fish also.
Filmi, Indian classic, Bollywood, India right? Not exclusively. They’re all right here in Guyana.
Locals are not just playing all these types of music, no, they are making music. They are influenced by particular sounds and they sample some of it; adding their own lyrics and fitting into the genre like it’s no big deal.
So just what is Guyanese music? Really, it’s just music that has been written, performed and recorded by Guyanese. And Guyanese have done practically every genre of music: classic, jazz, gospel, hip-hop, rap, dance hall, reggae, soul, chutney, calypso, pop, soca, ringbang, filmi, Bollywood, Indian, African, masquerade; you can add to the list. It’s safe to say that if Guyanese have heard it done, they will do it; or at least try. But is there a particular sound you might hear and say ‘Ah! That’s Guyanese!’ Not really.
So when the lady shopping for greens at Bourda Market welcomes the bombardment of local music that she hopes will hit the airwaves during this period, what she’s really talking about is hearing Guyanese singers performing songs they would have written to enter the calypso, chutney, soca and road march competitions, expected to be run off next month. She might also be referring to the steelpan music that comes alive at this time, as well as the masquerade bands.
It is during January and February each year, as we celebrate Guyana’s Republic anniversary with our Mashramani festivities, that original Guyanese music is ventilated the most. At least 20 new calypsos, another 20 soca songs, perhaps a similar number of chutney songs and steelpan music; all of it original. Some of it is good, some passable and others just plain awful. But the creativity is there. As Rudy Grant sang in his iconic Mashramani anthem, “Mash in Guyana//People going crazy”.
We have said, argued and practically pleaded for local singers and musicians to get more airplay; not just around this time of the year, but all year round. We might be pushing the envelope here, but we want to also urge corporate Guyana to use local more music in advertisements and to pay the musicians for the use of their music. It’s only right. It’s only fair.
Meantime, we have heard that within the week, the preliminary legs of some competitions will begin for this year’s Mashramani celebrations. And we’re also hearing that since the end last year, the designers have begun to look more sharpish; the Calypsonians and soca singers have been completing their music and lyrics and honing their voices; the masqueraders have been practicing their steps; the steelpans have been tuning up. We like what we’re hearing. And like the lady at Bourda Market, we say ‘kill we wid we Guyanese music!’