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.
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.