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.
The absurdities are everywhere, conspiring to tax your brain when it needs a break.
I grew up in Guyana hearing that our capital was labelled ‘The Garden City of the Caribbean’, but it was something that never engaged me.
Someone approached me out of the blue this week outside a store on Sheriff Street to ask for advice on the music business; he was not a musician, but interested in recording and was wondering how to proceed.
One of the things that emerged with renewed vigour during the run-up to the recent elections, and continuing since, is the argument that Guyana must address the dilemma of the ethnic divide that is hanging like a millstone around the country’s collective neck.
Recent returnees to the homeland may not know this, but longtime dwellers who have endured through successive Guyanese governments will tell you that finding the person responsible for a particular aspect in the various departments set up to serve us is an almost impossible task.
Guyanese under 30 years of age will likely have no knowledge of it, but there was a time in our country when there was a ritual, common in many of the middle class homes, that involved the process of bringing wood floors to a shine by buffing them by hand using wax.
It was talked about frequently during the years I lived in the Cayman Islands, but it hasn’t happened yet.
A reader asked me in a recent blog (actually, he asked me twice) why I continue to live in Guyana despite the problems.
In recent years, in an effort to diversify its economic base, Guyana has been putting increasing emphasis on improving and expanding its tourism industry, a push to which the private sector has responded and from which some results are already apparent – sport fishing in the Rupununi; various bird-watching tours around the country; foreign yachts in the Essequibo, etc.
Our Caribbean cricket woes continue to make headlines with a variety of explanations and theories ranging from lack of systems, insularity, inefficient West Indies Cricket Board, aborted tours, etc.
Among the many interesting aspects of my time in Tradewinds going back to 1968 was becoming familiar with some of the popular performers of the day, many from Trinidad.
Two people in a chance encounter recently asked me what were my favourite songs – whether something I wrote or from another song-writer – and I was in a hurry and promised to write them a reply, but I lost their email (I hate being late, and I was truly in a hurry), and in my embarrassment I’m hoping to redeem myself today by answering them now via this column My favourite from my own work is usually the song I’ve just finished writing.
From a boy of 10 or so, growing up on West Dem, it was there in front of me – the difference between Indians and Blacks, what we refer to today as the ethnic divide; I never heard the term back then.
A very wise woman, who also happened to be my mother, once told me: “If you know something good or hear something good about somebody, you should pass it on.” Today I’m doing as instructed by telling you about a few gems I stumbled on recently.
Over time, numerous experts in a range of fields have come to Guyana and contributed expertise, training and sometimes equipment to various sectors of our economy.
At the outset, I’m not a big techno guy. As the new gadgets come out, I’m often one of the last ones to get on board.
Following recent musical explorations in the country, including Dr Vibert Cambridge’s excellent book, Musical Life in Guyana, the current depressed state of our music industry is once again a topic of discussion.
I have known Vibert Cambridge for more than 40 years, going back to 1970 in the We Place nightclub home of the Tradewinds in Toronto.
Following the election, the press has understandably seen numerous suggestions from citizens concerning things in the government that are in need of urgent attention.
Coincidences can be an intriguing part of life. For the past two weeks, for example, I had been in a back-and-forth with a publisher, Desmond Roberts, of the Guyana Diaspora Times magazine, produced electronically in New York.
I have come to the conclusion that it will never stop – persons telling you angrily that today’s music is “garbage”.
From I was a youth, as my Jamaican friends would phrase it, I have always been one of those “let me see for myself” guys.
We’re getting a good dose of negative Guyana news of late and justifiably so – whatever the process requires we have to work through these things; I will spare you the list.
It often happens when I get engaged with Tradewinds fans that I end up relating little episodes from my life with the band.