Eighteen-year-old Jermaine Kendall has been playing the guitar professionally for almost four years, after first starting with the instrument at age 12. He has played at numerous events, big and small, and just recently at the sashing ceremony for the Miss Culture Guyana contestants as accompaniment to reigning queen Romichelle Brummel when she sang “Titanium”.
“My grandfather, Oscar Kendall, is a pianist and at least two of his brothers are musicians; one plays the saxophone and the other, the guitar,” Jermaine shared. He grew up in a family of musicians, in particular his father’s side, although he laughed saying that somehow his grandfather never got around to teaching his father and his uncles to play any instruments. His grandfather had tried teaching him to play when he was five but he could never sit still long enough to learn.
He first attended West Ruimveldt Primary then Success Elementary where he was part of the school choir led by teacher Wilfred Success. Though he sang for years in the choir, he prefers to play instruments. After the National Grade Six Assessment he secured a place at Queen’s College and made friends who were playing instruments; they were his influence in joining Music Unlimited School which is run by the Sobers brothers – Christian and Jeremy. With a number of instruments to choose from, Jermaine decided on the guitar since his friends were already learning to play the guitar. He attended classes for four years.
Jermaine said that when his grandfather learnt he had taken up playing the guitar he was exceptionally happy and encouraged him to continue. His family attends the Lady of the Mount Catholic Church where his grandfather conducts the church choir. “He plans for me to take over when he passes on,” he said.
Like everything else new when he first began taking guitar lessons learning the chords were difficult. There are two types of chords – open chords and bar chords. The bar chords, he confessed, were somewhat difficult for him as they involve using more fingers. He explained also that at first it was painful using his fingers as they became callused and eventually he got himself a pick but after so many years his fingers have become accustomed to playing the strings and he prefers to use his fingers now. When he first started he practiced all the time, everyday; now he only practices when he has a show or a gig.
Queen’s College has a steel pan orchestra, but because he was already learning to play the guitar, he was never part of it. However, after he left school he was invited back to organize the songs and conduct the choir for the award ceremony. He also organized for the Annual Steel Orchestra Competition.
While in school he got into a bit of trouble with his guitar. On days he had rehearsals he would take it to school with him and would strum on it during class time which led to him being scolded by teachers. On one occasion, his guitar was seized, but he got it back at the end of school the same day.
“When you learn music theory and you hear it in the music you’re listening to, you begin to admire the music musicians make… you admire the complexity and the work they put into it. I was always tapping on my desk and still do now… tap on something, whatever my hand is resting on when music is playing. This happens subconsciously, especially when you’re now starting out in music or sometimes you’d always be singing a song in your head,” he said.
The guitarist was first inspired by music before he was inspired by the people who sang and played the instruments of course. He took a liking to Blues, Jazz, Oldies and Reggae. He admires the late rock guitarist Jimi Hendrix and said he hopes he can be as good as Hendrix was someday. Hendrix was famous for playing the guitar so well that he played with his tongue. John Legend and Stevie Wonder also made his list of inspirations. Now Jermaine inspires others when he plays his guitar especially his eight-year-old sister, Jenise who has been begging him for a long time to teach her to play.
Recalling his first time onstage, he said he performed at Upscale Restaurant where he played alongside another guitarist. They played “Kryptonite” by Three Doors Down. “I was nervous. The nervousness didn’t come from everybody looking at me but from the fear of messing up. We played well and the audience enjoyed. Constant practice makes a person more confident. Though [amateurs] may not be able to pick up on a slight mistake there are events that you play for where most of the persons are musicians there and one can’t afford to make a mistake because it gives you a bad reputation. Practice prepares you for events such as this,” he noted.
Apart from playing his guitar, Jermaine likes to mix and remix music. He has been doing this almost as long as he has been playing professionally. He is also dabbling in playing the keyboard, drums, bass guitar and steel pan, which he is learning on his own, adding that this would not be much difficult for him to catch on as he has already learnt the theory.
Listing the pros of being a musician, Jermaine said that allows persons more recognition, they have more travel opportunities and they get to meet lots of famous people. However, on the downside instruments cost a fortune and paying for classes can be expensive. Nonetheless, he still encourages persons who have a passion for music to follow their dreams. “Keep practicing… it pays to practice. Don’t ever stop taking music seriously; if you forget music, music will forget you. Enjoy the music you’re playing and the people you are playing with and for.” He also advises that it is never okay to throw away an educational opportunity for talent. “Education brings respect. You can even be educated in music. I would never advise someone to drop out of school to pursue music,” he added.
Currently, he is attached to the National Data Management Authority as a technician. He is also pursuing Network Engineering Studies online and hopes to someday earn a Master’s Degree in Data Communication and Networking.
In his free time the guitarist enjoys volleyball, martial arts, running and camping.
He has performed at the National Cultural Centre, OMG, Theatre Guild, the National Stadium and at various other places.
Jermaine can be contacted on Facebook at Jermaine Kendall or on Instagram at jermaination.50