I was a country boy of almost 21 when I migrated to Toronto, but almost immediately after my arrival there I began to notice the disposition in Guyanese to improvise, to fix things, to repair and recondition, which was not nearly so widespread in the Canadian community where there was a tendency to discard and buy new, instead of restoring or repainting or patching up.
To be living in Guyana and coping with the daily dysfunctions in this and that, is to notice that while we are aware of the various big projects needing attention, the creeping feeling of despair rather comes from the small malfunctions that seem to confront us – some of them going on for years – on a daily basis.
This past week, even as we mourn the loss of calypsonians Lord Canary here, and of King Austin in Trinidad, the subject of calypso as an art form is again getting traction with comments by Trinidad & Tobago President Anthony Carmona delivering the feature address at the Top 20 Stars of Gold Show presented by the country’s National Action Cultural Committee (NACC).
I haven’t noticed much mention of it but in the recent maelstrom emanating from Donald Trump’s run at the US Presidency, it is striking how much the choice of words coming from various persons in the campaign confuses the issues completely.
As a youngster growing up in Guyana and going to Saints, my friend Stanley Greaves (yes, the painter) had introduced me to (I hope I have the name right) the British Council Library in Georgetown.
Starting out, I have to admit I am a basket case when someone is badly injured or wounded and the blood is flowing.
Anyone who is fascinated, as I am, perhaps even enthralled, by Caribbean history, would have to have noticed our disposition for disregarding what has gone before.
I didn’t know him when I lived in Guyana, but in my years in Toronto I became very close to Terry Ferreira from New Amsterdam who had migrated there.
I came into music at a time when comedy was a big ingredient in the popular music of the Caribbean.
Our esteemed Kaieteur News pundit Adam Harris, known for his daily fanciful dissertations, has dealt with some intriguing subjects in his time, but I cannot let Brother Adam’s recent comment on persons wearing “dark glasses” pass unchallenged.
I did a television interview here recently along with Al Creighton and Ron Robinson on the subject of the arts as a propellant for social cohesion.
This week as the world is agog with the outstanding track performances by Jamaican athletes in the Rio Olympics, it’s interesting to reflect on the remarkable ability of this relatively small nation to produce such a high standard in athletics.
One of my earliest awareness moments upon my return to live in Guyana (I have mentioned it before) took place in a visit to a major hardware store in Georgetown in search of some half-inch bolts to secure the posts of a wood fence.
Most people I meet have this impression that the life of a travelling musician – as we say, “on the road” – is one big joyful experience, seeing new cities and countries, playing before ecstatic crowds, doing well financially, meeting famous people, after hours parties, nuff woman and food and drink, as well as the harder stuff, with the pattern repeated more or less every day, on and on.
Like so many Guyanese who have migrated to North America, I have a special place in my heart for Canada as the place where I matured as a person and developed as a song-writer and a band-leader.
Patrons of the current T20 matches in the CPL, whether at the stadiums or via television, are witnessing a non-stop array of diversions – carnival outfits; steelband music; scantily clad dancers; one-handed catches by spectators; individual mask contests; etc – that mostly begin before the first ball has been bowled and often continue long after.
In a recent column I made a passing reference to a comment from Stabroek News writer Alan Fenty who had posed the question in his column whether “one could be Guyanese – spiritually and culturally – without being Indian, African, European or Chinese?” I answered Alan at the time saying the answer is “no, because we are made up of all these strands from other places, plus the Amerindian one, so to be truly Guyanese you have to see all those strands as part of you.” However, I felt at the time that his comment called for more elaboration, hence my effort today.
I keep jottings of various things I come across in communications with persons or in various readings or observations.
This week the Caribbean Premier League (CPL) is back with us as the matches begin at Warner Park in St Kitts, and the second one, with Guyana’s Amazon Warriors meeting the St Kitts and Nevis Patriots, was a thriller.
Like most folks in the cultural field, I’m invited to various events or preludes to events, but since I’m not the most social of folks, I will generally pass.
Guyana’s music industry remains troubling to those of us involved in it, and while the issues surrounding intellectual property rights, including the contentious copyright aspect, are a key part of it, the problems are varied and complex.
I was in Barbados performing some time ago and a young lady interviewed me and asked about my approach to music and to song-writing and arranging and so on.
In the midst of the daily complaints in the media about this problem and that, it’s a relief to sometimes see the bright spots.
Grenada’s Prime Minister Dr Keith Mitchell fired a powerful salvo last week at the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) in the course of his Frank Worrell Lecture at the UWI Cave Hill Campus in Barbados.
From time to time in our local press, we are reminded of the rich diverse strains that make up what we refer to as Guyanese culture, and in most of those reminders we are asked to rightly reflect on the fact that right alongside that attractive span we see the disturbing signs of ethnic division among our people.
Here’s a coincidence: in 2016, as Guyana reaches 50 years as an independent country, the Tradewinds band is also 50 years old.
It’s the middle of the day on Alexander Street in Kitty; as I’m walking across the road a voice calls out from one of the parked cards I’ve just passed; “Dave.” I turn trying to identify which car it came from.
It happens sometimes that a singular occurrence, or a passage in something one reads, can open your mind to something that passed unnoticed before and you suddenly recognize multiple examples replicating that first light coming on.
Sometimes a pleasant surprise lands on your doorstep regarding someone else’s doings that connects strongly with you as it triggers memories in your own life or your own search.
Figuring out situations in life is often akin to watching a huge fire producing mountains of billowing smoke; you have to wait until the flames die down and, particularly, until the smoke blows away before you can get a clear picture of whatever destruction took place.
As opposed to just 20 years ago, news media these days is a hotbed of startling stories, bandied about almost simultaneously by the array of modern communication equipment operating in the media business but also readily available to private hands.
We speak about one nation in Guyana – we refer to it that way in our motto and some of us quote the motto as proof of our oneness.
We speak about one nation in Guyana; we refer to it that way in our motto and some of us quote the motto as proof of our oneness.
A long-time friend of mine, Tradewinds drummer Clive Rosteing, sent me an email this week concerning a news story about the American NFL star Cam Newton who had recently sent a very warm congratulatory note to retiring quarterback star Peyton Manning, publicly praising Peyton lavishly, and citing him as a role model for aspiring athletes.
For devoted sports watchers like me, it is often fascinating to see an athlete possessed with some singular ability in one area of his/her game that is so striking that it sets that individual apart; it puts him/her above the crowd.
Since living in Guyana again I have seen first-hand the need for us to hold up our own achievers, to shout about them, not only for the praise that is due but, more pivotally, for the powerful information about our worth that is passed on to the new Guyanese wending their way, here and abroad.
A friend of mine was away in the South Rupununi for a couple weeks, doing some work and checking on some family, and was telling me about his travels – he was all over the map.
Following some recent local shows featuring popular imported artistes, we’re hearing some clamour again from the adult crowd complaining about the decline in popular music.
I’m a notes guy, and not only for songs. I keep little jottings about things I notice or read, conversations I overhear, comical signs on car windows, etc.
With Valentine’s Day in the air and personal relationships under the microscope, it’s appropriate to note (as my Bajan columnist friend Vic Fernandes did recently) that if you see no difference between the male and the female brain, either you haven’t spent much time around women or you haven’t been paying attention.
That’s right, 50 years ago or now: when would you rather be living?
Sometimes the social revolution lands on us seemingly out of the blue, but sometimes we can see it coming.
Living in Guyana makes one very aware (I have written about this, as have others) that we simply don’t know many aspects of our country’s history that are essential to propelling us to see it in terms of unity as opposed to division.
The litany of Guyana’s woes continue every day; we all know the instances, as we are regaled with examples coming from established columnists, various letter writers, and social media platforms.
The sudden transformations in societies – email, cell phones – are often the result of an equipment revolution, and we spot them quickly; the slower transformations occur so slowly that we don’t even notice the shift until some sudden circumstance makes us aware.
Sometimes, epiphanies come in pairs. A few months ago, for example, after a lovely evening with visiting poet John Agard and his wife Grace Nichols (plus a few local pals) I had this epiphany where I realized how lucky I am in the number of enchanting friends I have living abroad (Henry Muttoo, Vic Fernandes, Vibert Cambridge, Clive Rosteing, Terry Ferreira) plus, and almost simultaneously, I had the second epiphany – that I owe the friendship of those people to the music I’ve created over the years.
As West Indies cricket reels again from yet another debacle on the field, the clamours are naturally out again for the sacking of the present West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) and for the restructuring of the body governing the sport.
I’m a think-positive guy, not from some Pollyanna position, but largely because that’s how my mind works.
I grew up in West Demerara when, unless you owned a boat, the only way to cross the Demerara River was the various government ferryboats operating between Georgetown and Vreed-en-Hoop.
One of the shocks for people new to Guyana is the frenetic driving behaviours on our roads – drivers cutting in and out of traffic; driving in the opposing lane to get ahead of traffic; obviously intoxicated drivers; ignoring stop signs; running red lights – the list goes on.