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.
Among the many items on the varied ‘to do’ list for Guyana’s new government, the problem of falling standards in our society is being raised frequently by social commentators, and in the very early days following the election President Granger has raised this matter, both specifically and by alluding to it, in several of his speeches.
Here are two incidents with a common thread. The first came in a recent interview on the Charlie Rose television programme in the USA.
With the election dust almost settled, I have some suggestions for important items the new government needs to tackle as soon as it gets in harness, but I am sure there will be a flood of other voices raising suggestions – some have already begun – so I’ve decided to shelve my big items for now and focus on some of the minor irritations or inefficiencies that we have to wrestle with every day, in the hope that the folks coming into power may be listening.
Sometimes in life we are in the middle of a major social transition on a national scale, but the intensity of the movement and the frenzy of it can often reach such a pitch that we are not able to see past the furor and recognize, at a deeper level, the fundamental alteration that is taking place.
Sports psychologist and medical doctor Rudi Webster, who has written often on West Indies cricket, gave a very detailed speech on that subject at a recent sport seminar in Barbados where he outlined some qualities missing from our recent teams.
From the time I launched Tradewinds in Trinidad in 1967, I have been to Guyana almost every year, sometimes twice a year.
In the building of reputations, be it in tourism attractions, or in a doctor’s practice, even for the best laundry soap, nothing is as immediately effective as the power of word-of-mouth.
Frankly speaking, as my columnist friend Alan Fenty would say, I have mixed feelings about the English.
I’m not big on “long time” – I remember it as a lot of hard time – but there are instances where I suddenly regret some aspect of life from that era that’s no longer around.
When I was growing up in Guyana in West Dem, we had no electricity in our house, no telephone, and, in the early days, not even a radio.
From in front, be clear: I love a lot of things about America.
Two things you should know about me: one is that I’m Guyanese from head to toe.
Given the aggravations of daily life in Guyana, citizens are in need of some occasional light-heartedness to restore the human spirit, and this week, with the politics at full boil, one came for me via an email to his friends from Alex Neptune, who lives in New York with long roots reaching back here.
Historically, trends in popular music are gradual processes moving in small increments, so that, for example, the demise of big-band music of the 1940s, the era of Glen Miller, Woody Herman, Count Basie, etc, was a slow decline, gradually giving way to the small groups and combos that would dominate the music scene 20 years later as rock-and-roll was born.
There can no longer be any serious debate about it: wherever we aim our gaze, the evidence is clearly before us now that Guyana must find a way to get off this fractured political path that has bedevilled us since independence.
Guyana is awash, virtually daily, with an array of ‘bad news’ stories. The ‘good news’ items are around, but they don’t always make the headlines; they remain invisible.
Life in Guyana can be a series of puzzlements or strange behaviours that often remain unexplained, or not attended to, sometimes for years after they emerge.
You can identify change in the world by reading lengthy polemics, or by examining complex data, or by attending scientific forums.