As a voracious reader going back to my school days at Saints (Stanley Greaves had introduced me to the British Council Library to my delight), I remember once being struck by a comment from then US President John Kennedy which went something like this: “Mankind has two things he can draw on to deal with life’s many problems: one is God and the other one is sense of humour.
In another time in my life, when I was domiciled in Grand Cayman, I wrote a musical about the early beginnings of development in that country (the 1950s) when the first major tourism hotel, financed by UK money, was going up on the island’s now famous Seven Mile Beach.
I cannot recall who invited me, but approximately a year or so ago I was in the audience when Trinidadian Dr Keith Nurse gave a sterling presentation here dealing with regional issues relating to Caricom.
More and more that’s how I feel: that the traumas besetting mankind around the globe that we complain about are not about to abate.
There are two slants to this missive today. The first is that over the years, starting with when I lived in Grand Cayman, I have developed a very productive connection, mostly by frequent email, with some pivotal persons in the Caribbean which has made for some interesting exchanges over time.
By now you may have noticed that I am a dialect man. I’m not sure when that emerged, but it could well have been at university in Canada where, in a linguistics class, the value of our dialect first hit home.
Amid the various discussions of the diverse factors in play, the fundamental piece in mainstream Caribbean tourism is blue water and white sand; traverse the span as I have, from Puerto Rico in the north to tiny Bequia in the south, one will see that, and it is an understandable pull.
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.