The name Saiku Andrews has had tongues wagging in Guyana for some months now since the release of his album ‘You’ and “Pillow Could Speak” has been one of the most requested crossover songs in Guyana, making Saiku possibly the most sought-after artiste in the country.
Just last Saturday night, Saiku made a guest appearance at the Guyana Conference of Seventh Day Adventist organised Advent Praise Annual Concert held at the National Cultural Centre and his onstage presence caused quite a storm among the young people in the audience who sang along to his songs, word for word.
Each song was an amazing performance and a listen to the lyrics tells one story after another; a story of a man who struggled and found God through it all.
Aside from “Pillow Could Speak”, Saiku is also known for “Mess to A Messenger”. What many may not know is that he was the man behind the lyrics of the famous Guyanese group First Born’s anthem “How Are We Gonna Survive?”
“I remember lying on a top bunk in one of those range houses. There was a commotion going on in the neighbourhood. Usually it was somebody getting stabbed or something like that. As I was lying there I was wondering how will we survive if we keep on like this…,” said the singer, speaking about how he came up with the lyrics.
The name Saiku is fast becoming a household name in Guyana and easily so because fans can relate to the issues he sings about. But in fact, the name is peculiar in Guyana and Saiku may be the only one with this name in the country.
While Saiku’s mother was pregnant with him back in the 1970s, she had a dream in which an African king told her to name her baby Saiku. She had never heard the name before and the king in the dream spelled it for her. She had always thought the name to be of African origin and of royal background and that was the meaning she embedded into Saiku from since he was young. Then when he was old enough, curiosity got the better of him and he went in search of it’s meaning on Google where he learnt that Saiku is an African name for musician of a king. But some years later, when he checked again, he found it to be a Japanese name that means ‘craftsmanship’. Whether musician of a king, or craftsman, Saiku has long ascribed his own meaning that being that whether he belongs to royalty or not, he is rely royal being linked to a heavenly King.
But not only do his mother and siblings believe him to be someone with royal background, they also believe him to be a miracle baby. Here’s why: When Saiku was born he was frequently sick and it was always serious enough so that he ended up at the hospital. Because he was constantly ill, he was a tiny child. According to Saiku, his sisters would tell him they never expected him to live and his Godmother would often say to him how amazing it is to see him alive as she too thought the same. He believes just like them he’s here for a special purpose and uses his voice to not only bring honour and glory to God but also to deliver a message to his listeners, one of hope and reassurance that with God all things are possible.
Many who are familiar with his songs probably imagine that Saiku grew up in church singing but that was not the case. “I discovered singing around the age of nine. I remember vividly that I was beating on a car top and making up a song. I liked to listen to the Jamaican artistes and so me and my friends would go around singing at each other’s house. By the time I reached my teenage years, I hooked up with another artiste Lambert Semple [former member of First Born]. We entered my first competition in 1995. I had written songs for them… I was knocked out in the first round,” Saiku shared.
Although he was eliminated from the competition, Saiku backed his friends and kept writing songs for them. The promoter, a man by the name of Franklin (only name given) saw Saiku and chose him to be part of a team to sing at Caribana in Canada. This team also included Major Joe B and Troy C but the plan fell through and nobody attended.
After this, Saiku entered his second competition, the Assemblies of God Youth Ministries Competition where he placed second. Soon after he was invited to go to church and gave his “heart to the Lord,” he related. His friends who were secular, including Lambert asked to use one of his songs for their album, it was “How Are We Gonna Survive?”
It was after he placed second in that competition that he met Denise Harris, who was assigned the project of getting the top songs and making an album of them. It was called ‘Restoration’. For the competition he had written and sung “If God Be First”. Today, Denise is his manager.
He said, “Music is like life to me. I could do a business and be happy but music is like a second wind. It makes me feel complete and gives me purpose. It allows me to address [societal] issues… Music is a tool to make an impact on the lives of others.” He added that no matter what cultural background one is from, whether rich or poor, we all face the same challenges at some time or the other and it’s our challenges that help to connect us. Because he sings about such issues fans can easily relate.
One of his toughest times, he said, was when he was in secondary school. Saiku attended Richard Ishmael Secondary School and resided in West Ruimveldt. He was tasked with getting to school every day on foot. Just when he was preparing to write the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate examination, he felt the pressure of going to school even more and often thought of dropping out, yet he continued. While on his way to school, he would sing, and it always seemed to him an escape. Reflecting on his life, then cramped in a house with nine other siblings and his mother, growing up without the father he never really knew since he died when he was three, or just pondering on the distance he walked to school everyday made him sing about a positive life, the total opposite, what he called the flipside of his life then.
Fast forward to last year, Prodigal Son came to Guyana for a concert and his promoter, also a Jamaican, sought help from Saiku to get around the country. Saiku did all he could, including taking them to Linden for a concert there. Prodigal Son did not know Saiku was a singer; he thought he was one of the contracted helpers. However, when it was time for Prodigal Son to perform, Saiku was asked to do introduce him and he did a song while doing so.
Prodigal Son, realizing his ability, wanted him to work along with them. Shortly afterwards, Saiku, through Vizion Sounds, released his single “You” and Prodigal Son invited him to Jamaica to work on a second song.
That song turned out to be better than expected and so they thought to do an EP of six or seven songs, but when they were on their last song, they were enjoying how excellent the songs were and went ahead and did a full album ‘You’ consisting of 13 singles. Two are collaborations with Prodigal Son: “Try” and “Pillow Could Speak”.
He began his second single “Pillow Could Speak” in September of 2016 and in less than eight months on May 20h, Saiku launched ‘You’ at the National Park. The launching of his album saw more than 10,000 people in attendance and he sold 10,000 copies of ‘You’ at this event. It was said to be the biggest launching of an album in Guyana.
One of the challenges of being an artiste in Guyana is getting airplay. Some time ago, Saiku took to visiting the radio stations and he was told by one that they only played the Top 40 Billboard songs. This didn’t discourage him. He put his song on YouTube and shared the link on Facebook. He shared it also to his WhatsApp friends and Maxwell Thom of 93.1 FM heard two of his songs and began to play “Pillow Could Speak” heavily on air. HJ 94.1 FM then picked up on this, and soon enough 98.1FM was also playing his music.
Another challenge of being an artiste in Guyana is that promoters would easily spend US$5,000 on foreign artistes yet make a fuss about spending US$2,000 or US$1,000 on locals, who Saiku noted, put just as much time and effort into preparing for a concert as their foreign counterparts.
Saiku added that even the ministers of different denominations can help to promote their own people by taking them along with them on their trips as this not only promotes them but allows them to reach a wider audience through music.
Asked about some of the precautionary measures he takes as an artiste, Saiku said he tries not to shout a lot, tries to stay away from cold beverages and wears hats. People may think he likes wearing hats, but it’s part of protecting his head from the dew or the sun to prevent himself from getting sick.
A great many of Saiku’s fans are youths and he said often he would see young people pointing out the glamour of stars and wanted them to know that most of these people worked their way to the top. In fact, the artiste shared that at different points in his life, he counted papers for Stabroek News, was a cobbler, an office assistant, an accountant at Kuru Kuru Cooperative College and also worked in the backdams among other odd jobs. “I want people to know, especially the youths, that my life today didn’t happen by magic. My favourite scripture is ‘And Jesus looking upon them saith: With men it is impossible, but not with God: for with God all things are possible.’ (Mark 10:27). What I try to do for others, especially the youths, is to give them that reassurance and let them know that not some but all things are possible through God. I want for them to understand also that life is not all about the destination but about the journey and its challenges. Achieving the end is possible but at the same time, everything takes time.”
Saiku sees himself taking the international stage in the future and his desire is to receive a major award for Guyana.
Saiku is a husband and father of three, two girls and a boy, and when he is not working or taken up with his music, he spends his free time with his family.
His hobbies are watching basketball or football on the television and working on his music.
His album ‘You’ is available for the price of $2,000 or US$10. With every purchase comes a digital copy that allows persons to download on their computers and phones. The other songs are “Battle Field,” “Confidence,” “God Never Sleep,” “All About You,” “No Other God,” “Gifts,” “I Love You,” “Holding On” and “Lie”.
CDs are available at Andrews Supermarket and Kester D Music Centre. The songs are also available on iTunes, Google Play, Amazon Music, Spotify and Tidal.
For bookings, Denise can be contacted on 603-4848.