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.
A Caribbean lawyer friend of mine, a very perceptive gentleman, occasionally sends me pieces of writing on this subject or that on the basis that they will interest me.
I came back to live in Guyana in 2008 with no illusions, no pipe dreams, no blindness to the reality of life here.
On Tuesday this week I’m walking up Carmichael Street about to turn into Lamaha, and a man comes running out of the business on the corner and hails me: “Boy, I’m glad I ran into you.
A few months ago I’m visiting my radio broadcaster friend Vic Fernandes in Barbados.
Usually I come to this space with a column percolating in my mind; occasionally something crops up that catches me.
My son Tony, who writes for an ad agency in Ottawa, Ontario, is working on a book about Tradewinds, and I have had some interesting exchanges with him on a range of topics that fall under that remit.
In my early days travelling the Caribbean with Tradewinds, my head immersed in music, tourism to me was essentially a somewhat monolithic operation, made up largely of airplanes, hotels, white-sand beaches, and blue water; that’s how it struck me.
From time to time on this ubiquitous internet that parades things before us, one often sees presentations reminding us of aspects of our lives that are no more.
Among a number of vexing matters grinding us in the Caribbean, one of the most vexing is the state of our cricket and, in parallel, the raging controversies about our West Indies Cricket Board (WICB).
In last Sunday’s column “How Come” I wrote about a young man in my family who was travelling as a passenger in a car recently that was hit by a speeding vehicle, driven by someone under the influence, in the kind of lunatic driving that is routine in Guyana.
One of the things I’ve noticed about people in the arts field – writers, painters, architects, etc – is that they are unconventional thinkers so that although they are people who obviously operate vertically, they are also observers, in an almost horizontal manner, of mankind.
It goes back to my youthful West Dem days in the 1950s: with no TV or CDs or Facebook, I found laughter in behaviours around me, in characters I’ve mentioned before, such as ‘Four Foot’ and ‘Big Os’, and the shopkeeper Tony Vieira at my aunts’ shop at Hague Front.
After last week’s column on empty cricket stands at the Queen’s Park Oval, I ended up, as I often do with these writings, in an interesting exchange, in this instance with John Aaron, a Guyanese who lives in New York, and with voices ranging from the man on Irving Street selling coconuts, to the widely dispersed views of Ron Sanders, Ambassador from Antigua to the USA and the OAS.
In recent days in Trinidad, a truly phenomenal event took place in the form of a regional 4-day cricket tournament.
In my time as a musician travelling about, one of the spin-offs was the development of friendships, in diverse places, that would not otherwise have come my way.
It’s not something that strikes you if you live in Guyana and don’t travel much, but if you are based outside for some time and then return here permanently, you immediately notice the obvious shortage of systematic approaches, in both government and private sector, many of which impact directly across the society on a daily basis.
This week, amid the turmoil in Guyana over parking meters coming to Georgetown, I ended up, along with Mighty Gabby, on an NCN interview promoting the weekend’s Rupununi Musical Festival event in the city.
From a youth at Saints, I was not the scholarly type. I hated homework, I hardly ever studied, and when I went to the British Council Library I wasn’t boning up on school subjects, I was reading Horatio Hornblower and the erotic stuff I could find nowhere else.
Early in my music life, when I was trying my wings, a major influence was the work of the late Louise Bennett of Jamaica.
This week in Guyana came news reports about the Junior Calypso Competition for Mashramani drawing some talented performers in the final of the event.
Media interviews are part of a musician’s life and the best interviewers – Vic Fernandes in Barbados; Carlton James and Wanita Huburn here – will come at you with stuff that makes you turn inward and unravel things you learned along the way but never articulated.
As I’ve mentioned before, for many years, living abroad, I have kept a kind of informal journal not as a record of daily events but as a storehouse of various thoughts or ideas or observations that come to me during the course of a day.
Maybe as I get older, I have less patience. But there is no maybe about the fact that I don’t have much tolerance for rhetoric.
I was in Miami airport recently, waiting to check in at Caribbean Airlines, and I ended up in an intriguing conversation with a Guyanese, living in Florida, who was travelling to Trinidad on business.
Hard on the heels of Donald Trump’s ascent to be President-elect of the USA, comes a striking example of racial tensions in that country with an incident involving public comments from Pamela Taylor, Executive Director of a government-funded non-profit group in Clay County, West Virginia.
There’s a narrow trench running along the side of the road where I live on the East Coast, and it’s often fascinating to watch a chicken hawk diving down from the overhead utility wires to snatch an unsuspecting Kreketeh from the edge of the trench.
In the course of some time spent this week with a visitor from Barbados, I heard a question I’ve been asked many times: “These songs you compose; where do they come from?” and while the answer to that is fairly complex, there are two fundamentals in play: One, fairly obvious, is that it is a gift a person is born with.
Popular music used to be a river or a stream or even a tiny brook tinkling out some fragile notes; now it’s a waterfall, a thundering sound, actually a force, carrying us along; it reflects the time; but it has always been so.
Two of the most disturbing aspects abiding in mankind – egoism and racism – have been front and centre, as well back and sideways, in the recent presidential election melee raging in the USA.
Sports watching can be one of the most engrossing pastimes, particularly in these days of live television and rebroadcasts of singular events, and while the overwhelming victory has its moments – sometimes the mathematics of what has taken place in a blowout are staggering – the highlight for me is almost always the finely balanced contest that turns on a miraculous play or a last-minute singular effort that turns into a heart-stopping victory – for our guys, of course.
In recent days, I made a brief appearance in Orlando hosting a Caribbean American Passport Connection (CAPC) function honouring Guyanese immigrants who had made important contributions to Florida.
Over the past couple of years, even casual attention to social conversations leaves us with the impression that crime and lawless behaviour is on the rise.
This past weekend I was in Orlando hosting the Caribbean American Passport Connection event (I had the name wrong in my previous column) where they honoured outstanding Guyanese contributors to America as part of our Jubilee Year celebrations.