As promised last week in the first installment of my Singular Guyanese column when space ran out, here is the second half of that creature. In this post, I’m raising a shout for some more folks who either make important contribution to our lives, indirectly, by their work, or directly by some kind of personal example we have become familiar with.
One of them for me is businessman Dennis Dias, who I knew only slightly before coming to live in Guyana. Since my marriage to Annette, however, and based in town for the first time, Dennis, as it turns out, lives just half a block away from me and I have built a close relationship with him, one which I believe is more beneficial to me than it is to Dennis because I have come to know him as a formidable resource in a number of areas in everyday life. As anyone who knows him can tell you, Mr. Dias is a very congenial soul (it occurs to me writing this that in the 10 years I have known him on the East Coast, I have never once heard him shout or even raise his voice to anyone. In my own case, he has been a constant source of information on everything from where to buy certain obscure items, who is the best mechanic, the name of the guy operating the tool sharpening business on what street, or… well, the list goes on. Time and again, I will call Dennis with some odd request, such as recently for someone specialising in television set repairs, and he will either provide it right away, or, as in this case, assure me he will “ask around” and two days later you hear from him. I can phone Dias early in the morning or late at night with one of my odd “help me out here” requests and not once has the brother showed any irritation. He is a bona fide, 100% unstinting friend, with his wife always presenting solid support; the man smoothens a lot of bumps in my life and others who know him, attest to that quality, as well. Dennis is a boss neighbour.
Making a contribution, quietly but efficiently as well, is taxi man Raphael, with whom I hooked up originally when he operated out of the Pegasus. Any time I’m going to or coming from Timehri, I’m in Rapha’s care (no, he doesn’t play tennis). The man is superb behind the wheel, drives briskly but never speeds, knowing when to talk and when to shut up (a trait many taxi drivers lack) and almost any subject you care to bring up, you can be sure he’s going to contribute something to the gaff. Almost every time I go away, I arrange for him to pick him up on my return, and he hasn’t let me down once. Like Dennis Dias, his knowledge of services and sources of supply in Georgetown is formidable; if Rapha doesn’t know himself, he will know someone who knows.
As someone involved in media, first as a musician and then as a columnist in Grand Cayman, and lately here with Stabroek News, I would be remiss not to mention some standouts in that area, including Anand Persaud, the SN guru, who remains unflappable whatever may be raging. I don’t know for certain how he is with the SN staff, but for me he is always the calm in the storm. There are some other standouts in the media field: one of them is certainly Adam Harris, of Kaieteur News, not only for his own writings, but for the uninterrupted strain of humour that flows from Harris, on big issues or small, legendary figures or unknowns, on any day of any week. And there is a measure of decorum, even reticence, which is a feature of his writing and is, on reflection, also a measure of the man. In the same breath, I would raise the name of another columnist, Alan Fenty, who brings experience in a range of areas to his work, and who is often a useful reminder of various aspects of Guyanese history. Ralph Ramkarran, while generally tending a more political soil in his writings, waves a very measured hand and will often intrigue us with an almost throwaway reference to some important figure or occasion from Guyana’s past, often with insights that, in my case anyway, deal with something I did not know. In that sense, Mr. Ramkarran, morphs into that area of teacher as many of our prominent columnists are, which leads me to mention the somewhat controversial presence of Freddie Kissoon on my list. More hard-edged in his approach than most, Mr. Kissoon is known for not pulling his punches and, as his fans will attest, will take up challenges that other columnists ignore. Freddie tells it like it is, that’s his style, he does not duck the prestigious or the powerful as he goes, and indeed I have heard directly from his fans that they fully expect him to take that approach.
On the musical side, since my return to live in Guyana, and performing here with three local musicians – Oliver Basdeo, James Jacobs and Colin Perreira – I have to take some space here to publicly mention their contribution to what I do on stage. Oliver is the heartbeat of the trio, bringing his schooled musician skills to doing notations for the songs, counting off tempos, while faithfully reflecting the arrangements and instrumental lines from the Tradewinds recordings which make up the bulk of our repertoire. James Jacobs, the guy on the bass, is a superb musician – I cannot recall him making a mistake, literally – and when the mood takes him he will come with a different approach to a section that gives it a fresh twist. Colin Perreira, the drummer, is an excellent time-keeper (not all drummers are) and displays none of the temperamental behaviour that can sometimes be there in percussion egos. All in all, a singular trio of singular musicians doing very professional work and never leaving me, in the middle of a tune, suddenly turning around at some improvisation that leaves me asking, “What the hell was that?” Of course, having that said that, knowing musicians, the next time we play out they may surprise me – but so far, nothing like that.
On the musical topic, I can’t pass without mentioning recording studio guru Burchmore Simon, with whom I’ve done several recordings since returning to live here. A fine musician, himself, Burch brings a fine ear and a wide knowledge of the profession to bear when you record with him, so that his judgement adds to the measure of a session. More importantly, unlike studio dudes, his ego doesn’t get in the way; he gives you your music how you want it.
As was the case last week, I have run out of space on this topic. I had planned to mention two other singular Guyanese I interact with; one of them being musician and businessman George Jardim, who is a singular person in many ways, and another being Gordon Forte, one-time Tradewinds agent here, known to many for his observations on Guyanese life – but that will have to wait for another time.