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?” I had never heard the question before, but I didn’t have to stop and ponder.
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.
As it is wherever one lives, a part of life in Guyana is the frequent complaints on various matters that confront us, day to day.
Across the media we’re exposed to in Guyana, one is seeing what seems to be a resurgence of the horrendous ill-treatment that Guyanese display towards animals and birds in their care and even to each other in their circle of family and friends.
This column today is, virtually word for word, something I wrote recently when a Tradewinds fan overseas, himself venturing into songwriting, wrote me, asking that I elaborate on the process to help him in his efforts.
It’s generally true for most folks that over the years, in the various areas of our life, we come to know individuals, or sometimes companies, that we turn to for our diverse needs based largely on the fact that we have come to value them for the standard of their work, to appreciate them for always “getting it right”.
I have been heard in recent times beating the drum for Caribbean people to take more notice of the achievers among us, but it is not a recent obsession.
Changes in the nature of what we refer to as our “popular music” of the day are part and parcel of the form.
It’s not new. I have sounded this trumpet before—on the need for us in the Caribbean to recognise the ones in our story, past and present, who have made significant contributions to the cultural fabric.
There is a lovely Rupununi hammock in our house; one which has given me much relaxation and sound sleep recently.
People ask me all the time about the experiences I have had since Tradewinds started.