Born and raised in Guyana, and coming back every year as a visitor since 1968, I assumed I knew the country well.
In countries around the globe, mankind in his diverse locations, is now generally very well served with information about his/her life now and in earlier times.
On the way back from a recent trip to Canada, it occurred to me that although there are still airline problems in the Caribbean, it is nothing compared to the headaches that used to exist.
Anyone who writes will attest that one direction leads to another. In my So it go notebook, for instance, there is this one direction that deals with the origin of the word “soca” and the reminder is there for me because the explanation we frequently hear is that when Lord Shorty combined calypso and American “soul” music in this new rhythm with higher tempos and more emphasis on drum track in the recording, he named it soca from that “soul” American influence and from the calypso origin.
Going back to the ‘30’s and the ‘40’s, an enduring message for young people growing up in Guyana was that the white culture was supreme.
In an earlier comment about song-writing I made the point that while talent has to be there, the more critical quality is observation because that is almost always the ingredient that sets a song apart; the writer has turned a light on something in the society, or in an individual, that would have otherwise escaped the rest of us in the populace.
Calypso achieved popularity with the arrival of calypso tents in Port-of-Spain, particularly from the first commercial recordings in the 1930s, and from the spread of the tents after World War Two ended in 1945.
In the bewildering variety of things that come over the electronic transom we now have on the internet, there occasionally comes a gem that stops you in your tracks; even more rare is the gem that gives you goose bumps.
This week, in the aftermath of the Category 5 hurricanes ripping up the Caribbean, some gripping videos and still photos are making the rounds, and a standout in the lot is a BBC documentary on Hurricane Irma titled ‘Apocalypse and the Aftermath’.
As anyone who has seen me perform knows, I frequently go off in some good-natured commentary on various things cultural, and one of them is the effectiveness of our dialect, so that a reaction from Bernard Fernandes, a diaspora Guyanese, lauding a point about dialect I recently made, leads me to shout, as I have before, for the value of our dialect and to consequently object when it is attacked.
This past week I found myself once again being asked to explain to someone in the diaspora why I chose to remain in Guyana.
Before I went to live in Grand Cayman in 1980, I felt that I had some idea of what a hurricane would be like – high winds, plenty rain, houses boarded up, stores closed, and, in the case of low-lying islands such as Grand Cayman, a few feet of sea-water coming ashore.
Caribbean media was awash this week with reports of Chris Gayle, playing for the St Lucia Stars in the CPL, as opposed to the Talawahs, the side representing Jamaica in the national tournament, running into some concerted booing from the crowd at Sabina, purportedly because of his disloyalty, or rejection of his roots.
With the current CPL Cricket Tournament in full cry, a very nice lady from the local media called asking me to write something, in a lighter vein, on the event.
It is sometimes the case, in this age of the extensive flooding of information on subjects of the day, that a particular item can be of such long standing and of frequent and vigorous treatment, that we lose sight of the original propulsion in the matter.
I have made passing reference to it previously in references to migration, but in the midst of learning new things about the country we’ve moved to, we are also often coming to realize, outside, something about the homeland, and one of the latter for me, during my years in Grand Cayman, was the powerful impression visiting Guyanese sports teams left on that country, year after year.
There was a time when air travel for Guyanese didn’t offer many choices, and even jetways were scarce ‒ on my first trip outside, Toronto didn’t have them; it was come off the plane in sub-zero weather and walk to the terminal ‒ in my case, run.
Several years ago, at a Tradewinds night in Orlando for the Guyanese American Cultural Association of Central Florida, I gave a speech on ‘Being Guyanese’ that went around the world online and appeared in the Chronicle here.
Within the first year of my returning to live in Guyana in 2008, I set about recording an album of new material, in the established Tradewinds format, at Krosskolor Studios in Campbellville, using local musicians.
Sometimes in the middle writing column A, I will suddenly be caught by a thought for column B (it happens the same way in writing songs) so that although I admit some weeks it’s a close call, in fact one never runs out of topics.
Again and again in recent months one continuously hears harsh criticisms of Caribbean cricketers who are accused of being money-grabbers and not doing what their predecessors did in “playing for country” without regard for the dollar.
He’s widely known as ‘Reds’ Perreira but his passport name is Joseph, named after his grandfather Joseph Francis Martins, who, in later life, was my father after he married a second time.