I cannot recall who invited me, but approximately a year or so ago I was in the audience when Trinidadian Dr Keith Nurse gave a sterling presentation here dealing with regional issues relating to Caricom. One week ago, Dr Nurse was again in Guyana piloting a Caribbean Development Bank programme to propel the Caribbean music industry. I cannot speak for the other Guyanese music people present, but for me this also sterling discourse brought to the front of my mind the extreme difficulties our industry faces.
The most pressing one related to Dr Nurse’s advice that our music industry in Guyana must embrace fully the digital revolution, as well as the spinoffs from it, which has taken place in music worldwide. We have to achieve such things as industry-wide digitisation, playlists of recordings for producers, categorising of our music product, and essentially being able to bring combine music catalogues for the market, if we are to have a music industry that can function effectively internationally. Without that, he says, we are doomed. Anyone in the bowels of the music industry here would be aware of how enormous a leap is being proposed for us in that suggestion. Many of the fundamental aspects of recording and marketing music – enforced copyright laws, a copyright fee collection agency, affiliation with international agencies and promoters – are not in place here, despite much outcry about it from various music industry principals. To put it another way, the engine is not in place and neither, it seems, are the circumstances to create it.
Indeed, to step back from that infrastructural dilemma and look at the business at ground level, is to notice that even as fundamental an aspect as the simple existence of places for musicians to play is also missing. With the exception of Pegasus Poolside, and occasionally the Marriott, places offering music to patrons in Georgetown are almost exclusively using DJs, or recorded material – live music is a rarity. In the engine, therefore, that creates a music industry – musicians playing live to resident audiences – we have fallen short. Furthermore, we are also minus the important ingredient of foreign audiences, essentially tourists, drawn to the region by our various festivals, as is the case with Trinidad, Barbados, Jamaica, Antigua, etc. Mashramani, which employs some musicians here for a few days, is not widely known internationally, and is not a very powerful draw even for Guyanese living abroad. Overall, the opportunity to play and learn and improve and promote, is not here for local bands and, as a result, persons seeking a musical career – Dennis DeSouza, Eddy Grant, Keith Waithe, Tameka Marshall, Jumo, myself – have had to go abroad for it…..