A Calypso Icon in Geoffrey Phillips has fallen and the plight of those affected by the inability by this and previous Governments to enact copyright laws is more glaringly exposed.
Our talented singers, dramatists, writers, poets, dancers, calypsonians, musicians, and many others who decide to use their God given talent to eke out a livelihood often end up mired in poverty because those in authority seem not to understand the role the Arts can play in promoting social, cultural and economic development and know that they are the ones fueling this unbearable underdevelopment of our young people who are mostly affected by this state of affairs.
I observed and I listened as I attended the funeral ceremony of the Mighty Rebel at the National Sports Hall , that was graced with the presence of our Honourable Minister of State Mr Joseph Harmon who spoke glowingly about the Mighty Rebel and his contribution to the Arts over the years being the founder of a String Orchestra named the Hermits in which he was one of the lead vocalists. Rebel later in life would turn to performing Calypso, where he would go on to win six titles in the yearly held Mashramani Calypso competition. He fought along with many others to see the introduction of Copyright laws. He died along with many others who never lived to see their intellectual property protected. I have written poetry and published my first book of poems in 1987, performing my work on Radio and Television and have never received a dime.
The only time I received the right price for my work is when I travelled to Barbados and Trinidad to market my work under their copyright laws.
Rebel lived as an icon and died as a pauper, this has been the destiny of all those artistes who left these shores before him and who thought that they were going to see changes in their lifetime. Sitting next to me in that Sports Hall was Eze Rockliffe, Icon and leader of the Band “The Yoruba Singers” that needs the support to stay alive and guide our youths into the music industry for the benefit of all Guyanese. Why are we allowing the Arts to go down?
Those who made it to the top had to run away from home to see their work recognized and marketed internationally, such as Eddy Grant our Guyanese Icon.
We continue to neglect our Arts and Sports in a big way, our communities are overrun by overweight men and women, young and old, fuelling the growth of a society plagued by diabetes and hypertension, which is quickly becoming a burden to our economy due to a rising National Health Bill.
Sports and cultural development should not only be left to the Department of Sports, but all Public and Private Sector entities should join in the quest to fix the playfields around the country and provide buildings on these grounds to accommodate indoor physical activities and meetings of groups. We must work to establish a dynamic Sports and Cultural Tourism Industry which can only be achieved with total involvement of all communities across Guyana, the NDCs and RDCs must play their very important role ,
We cannot only focus on the Providence and Leonora Sports Stadiums, we have to work on all grounds to see real development in Sports, while those buildings will be used to carry out technical and vocational skills training. These are ideas to effectively reduce the incidence of poverty and crime.
The Rebel has left but we must carry on, Calypsonians along with all those suffering due to the non-enactment of the laws to protect our intellectual property must pick up from where he left off and continue to agitate for change.
Oil is on the horizon, businesses are coming, tourism will be big business. How will we benefit. Copyright laws seem to be coming on a turtle’s back, hope it gets here sooner than later.
Ras Aaron Blackman