Many years ago, when I lived in Toronto, a huge TV favourite for me was a late-night talk show hosted by Dick Cavett, a very erudite gentleman, with a great sense of humour, and this keen eclectic interest in everything under the sun and for a quirky but sharp sense of humour; Cavett was a joy to watch.
One of the striking things about everyday living in Guyana is the number of foreign accents one encounters here frequently and in parallel the variety of pronunciations of Standard English words in common use by people living here.
Media experiences are an integral part of your life if you are a musician creating songs for public consumption and, as you would imagine, they can vary from exhilarating to painful, and of course you never know in advance which it will be.
The standard of expression one encounters on the various social media, even on Facebook, can range at times from low to quite high, and shades in between, but in the midst of that melee salient points or insights can emerge so it’s up to us to pick and choose.
Given my own interests in cultural matters and the arts, generally, coupled with my wife’s own interests in other areas, it’s fair to say that evenings in Georgetown will often find me in various gatherings where those subjects are on the menu and, as to be expected, these occasions can vary in quality from official to exhilarating, and so one can go to these things hoping to encounter the latter.
One of the consequences of my having written a number of songs that have become popular with Caribbean people is, as I’ve previously mentioned, that upcoming Caribbean songwriters will ask me for tips on songwriting or, sometimes, with help on a specific problem in a song they’re working on.
Sometimes things seem to happen in pairs. Right now, for instance, we are going through a tempestuous time in Guyana with a range of voices and concerns connected with the country’s looming development as a producer of oil, with the back and forth an almost daily experience.
Following my frequent exhortations for us in Guyana to tell the story of stalwarts among us as useful knowledge for our young people, I’m doing my own bit for one of them, the well-known sports commentator and organiser Reds Perreira, or the Pomeroon Man as I often refer to him.
It cannot be news to anyone who pays attention to our various news media that a column on one topic can trigger, and will trigger, topics for another column.
In recent times in particular, Guyanese have become more aware of the various bounties that nature and, by extension, mankind, have provided for us in Guyana from the well-established locations such as Kaieteur and the Rupununi and our various mountain ranges.
One of the many consequences of being a musician who has written some songs that have become popular in your homeland is that aspiring performers will engage you on the subject of song-writing looking for advice on how to proceed.
Over the years, writing this column, there have been some short ones, but the one today will be the shortest I’ve done.
It didn’t come to me like a bulb lighting up; it took a long time for the realisation to dawn but when it did come it landed with so much force that I remember it left me thinking, “Halle-lujah; I never thought of it before, but that’s true” and what I’m referring to is the fact that the most gifted calypsonians were those who had the advantage of having lived a very focused life, of having taken part in or seen or heard of unusual things, and – this is the key part – then being able to find a novel way of expressing the idea or the behaviour in a humourous or sardonic manner in a song.
We don’t hear much reference to it, but a major factor in the development of artists or cultural agents in a society is the interactions with influential persons of the day which are a natural consequence of their work.
Now and then, in the day-to-day, you will find yourself engrossed in something when an idea for something quite different comes to your mind like a light turning on.
It could well be that my time as a musician has left me prejudiced, but I have long felt that there are striking examples of creative genius about in the musical world that we glide by without noticing or appreciating what is sitting right there before us until some circumstance or occasion brings the condition clearly into focus.
Over the last 50-plus years since Tradewinds started, I’ve done a boatload of interviews – radio, TV, newspapers, magazines – in a number of countries, in the Caribbean and North America – but just this week, in a wide-ranging email from a fan, a lady from Grand Cayman came at me with a new one: “A lot of things have been written and said about Dave Martins, and while you may have to think about it I wonder if you could say how do you see yourself?”
If we are truly open to them, we will gain lessons in life from the usual sources – parents, teachers, religious leaders, writers, etc.
An integral part of the life of someone involved in the arts is the recognition or attention that comes from the public reacting to the particular area of the artist’s work.
In a recent exchange on social media, I ended up reminiscing about an impressive two-storey house at Schoonord, West Bank, Demerara, set back from the main road, known as Coghlan House, that was believed to be haunted.