It has been said before, but bears repeating – there is not much scope for talented locals who desire a career in music. Worse still if they have no money, no prospects and live outside Georgetown.
Late last month, The Scene carried an interview with Ulanda Fraser, who lives on the Essequibo Coast. Ulanda is 18 years old and has a great voice. So much so that she won a singing competition called ‘Essequibo Star’ last year. But guess what? Who knew? Not many people. Not even all of the people who live on the Essequibo Coast. In fact, many of them still do not know. But ask the average resident there who is Rihanna or Nicki Minaj and they would be able to tell you.
Ulanda bemoaned the fact that if she wants to record the songs she has written she needs must travel to the city. It can be a very expensive, not to mention risky undertaking for a young woman, especially if she has no relatives in Georgetown. But there is no alternative; there are no recording facilities in Essequibo.
Now the Essequibo Coast is not the remotest area from the city – you can actually one can travel there and back in a day, if you leave early enough and use the speedboats between Parika and Supenaam. However, it is cut off. Its television signal does not reach the city and vice versa; internet is shady at best and not all areas have telephone service.
If this were not the case, singers like Ulanda and the many others who must exist could launch themselves via the internet. I mean Sam Smith started on YouTube and look where he is today. But that’s far, far off for Essequibo stars and those in the Hinterland and other far-off rural communities. And yes, it is sad to be writing this in the year 2015. But it is what it is and that is exactly what it is.
Before now, Ulanda and other would-be stars might have been aiming at entering the GT&T Jingle and Song Competition. This contest has been the launching pad for quite a few talents starting with that of Timeka Marshall back when it was just the GT&T Jingle Competition. The talent scouts had gone far and wide across Guyana holding auditions and making sure that the most talented made the grade.
When it was last held early in 2013, Ulanda’s older sister, also a former Essequibo Star, had made the cut. However, in the end it was Georgetown boy Ryan Hoppie who won the car, the $1 million and the accolades. By then, GT&T was also doing a Bollywood competition and that was won by Bibi Halima Khan, who also received the same prizes. Both were well-deserved wins.
But given all that has occurred since then, and with no word from GT&T to expect otherwise, the assumption by many today is that the competition has been shelved for now.
Unfortunately for Ulanda and others, there is no other corporation waiting in the wings to offer the level of investment in time and resources towards helping to develop local singers and the industry. More’s the pity.
There had been other competitions in the past, mostly city based and not on the scale of GT&T’s, but they all fizzled out for one reason or the other. Essequibo promoters have to be commended for continuing to hold their own. It cannot be easy.
Singers looking to make it big in others countries have numerous options. Aside from access to YouTube, there is “The Voice”, “American Idol”, “X Factor” and variations of these in other countries. Singers and musicians willing to put themselves out there have a chance; they are able to reach an audience. And often, even the ones who do not win are able to move forward with their dreams and to take them as far as they can. This is also possible in the Caribbean – in Jamaica and Barbados for example where there are recording facilities and exposure.
For now, our local talents in Essequibo, the Berbice River, the Hinterland and other far-flung communities can only dream.
All that being said, props are due to the US Embassy Public Affairs Department for including local talent on the QVLN & OVEOUS concert programme billed for tomorrow evening and to the Guyana Defence Force’s 50th Anniversary Committee for doing the same on its ‘Love is Contagious’ concert scheduled for April 30.