Most likely in celebration of our 50th Independence Anniversary there will be honours, laurels, awards, etc, that will be bestowed on many outstanding personalities and groups in recognition of their steadfast service and contribution towards the preservation and promotion of our rich and unique culture. No doubt these will encompass a very wide spectrum, the A-Z of our journey as a nation. Well, I don’t know, but I think that those tasked with this responsibility do have their work cut out, since our cultural curriculum vitae is inexhaustible. Still, for my part I think that within the department of the fine arts, the performing arts, music and other somewhat over-lapping areas, it’s going to be a tall order. We have produced quite our share of creative minds and fine craftsmen/women, but I will confine myself within a narrow path: Bill Rogers, Johnny Braff, David Campbell, Dave Martins, Roy Geddes, Eddy Hooper, Eddy Grant, R B Greaves, Harry Whittaker, King Fighter, King Cobra, El Cid, Lord Canary, Terry Nelson, Keith Paul, Yoruba Singers, Cannonballs, and the once phenomenal Oracles are some who have enriched our musical landscape.
Then there is the Theatre Guild, Edgar Mittelholzer, Shiek Sadeek, Cleveland Hamilton, Habeeb Khan, Wordsworth McAndrew, Ram John Holder, Cecil Jones, Grace Chapman, Harold Bascom, Ron Robinson, Ronald Hollingsworth, Margaret L Lawrence, Francis Quamina Farrier, Ken Corsbie, A A Fenty, Mark Matthews, etc. Look, I’m just trying here with some random selections as I hobble through the maze of our cultural artistic icons and ambassadors. Yes, its tough! I agree, for there is James Sydney and B L Crombie among other formidable radio personalities.
Bill Rogers weed song is a classic. I doubt if there is another song like it anywhere – on whatever subject – to match this weed song composition. It is a phenomenal piece of work, with that teasing and provocative saxophone carrying on in between. Bill Rogers must have called well over one hundred kinds of weed. Eze Rockliff and his Yoruba Singers band will certainly stand out; 45 years and counting ‒ that’s an achievement.
Some names became household names, such as Johnny Braff, who has deservingly commanded his place within the scheme of musical entertainment. When Johnny Braff entered the music arena he took a generation by storm; teenagers and 21 ups were smitten, whether it was ‘It burns inside’, ‘Neville’ or ‘I don’t care’, it was the Johnny Braff craze. We don’t need a lecture on Eddy Grant; he stands tall. Folks like Roy Geddes and Habeeb Khan just are not easy to come by, and I need say most emphatically that we have not to date produced anyone to match Habeeb ‒ none!
Master Dave Martins looms large, stands out like a beacon. Through the years he has been constant, and continues apace without letting up. He epitomises for me what Maya Angelou said: “You cannot exhaust creativity”. Martins just isn’t easy; from the days of the Tradewinds to the present, his compositions have touched almost every nuance of West Indian life, tantalizing and naughty songs in Guyanese dialect: ‘See am nah get am’, ‘You can’t get’, ‘Is we’, ‘Its Traditional’, ‘Caribbean man’, ‘Tell me yuh love me’, ‘Who civilized’, ‘Bush’ and ‘Boyhood days’ in which he employed one of the ‘baddest’ figures of speech I’ve ever heard: “Kiss a girl and feel as if the back of yuh head fall out” ‒ one can only come to grips with that from practical experience. His ‘Not a blade o’ grass’ became a sort of rallying chant that was on the lips of almost every Guyanese who sang it with delight like a nursery rhyme. Really this brother deserves a special page.
Edgar Mittelholzer exists all in a class by himself; I say no more. Editor, it will be so not right for me not to include the irrepressible Linden duo who birthed the Kashif and Shanghai organisation, the de facto mover of football that took it to another level. Oh yes! Say what you will, those two brothers, then young men, for 22 years stood steadfast and craftily planned what resulted in unmatched sports organising. To their credit football found its way onto our calendar as a national event; the brothers did more than any other organisation had ever done before or since where football is concerned, including bringing the world’s supremo of soccer, the master King Pele. Like I said, these are just my rambling thoughts about some of the personalities who should be in consideration for awards for our 50th Jubilee.