Six years ago, within weeks of my return to live in Guyana, I was in conversation with a very well-known Guyanese – someone I admired but had never met – and he suddenly said to me, “Dave, what are you doing coming back to live in this godforsaken country?” I pointed out to him that he was also still here, and we both laughed over the remark.
It pops up constantly. It never truly goes away. This week, it came at me again in an email from my friend Ken Corsbie, living in North Carolina, as he relayed a collection of complaints from folks in his generation; their problem was dissatisfaction with the state of popular music today, and the language was on the strong side.
As we sit right now in the middle of a firestorm in the media and elsewhere enveloping the West Indies Cricket Board following the abrupt cancellation of the India series by our team, one is left to wonder how long it is going to take to convince us that our regional cricket arrangement needs urgent revision.
Hardly a week goes by without some reference in the media to the depressing statistics of the number of Guyanese who continue to migrate.
There will be disputations about this one, but I will stand my ground: overall, in a region of powerhouses, with many different island cultures competing, the Jamaican version today is probably the most dynamic of them all.
I enjoy writing these So it go columns partly because I’m free to pick my subjects (which annoys some columnists, but who’s stopping them from doing the same?) and partly because of the feedback from readers – in online comments, in phone calls, or in face-to-face encounters in town.
His name is actually Jerry Goveia, but folks refer to him as ‘Banks Jerry’ (he worked as a manager at Banks DIH for many years before his retirement) to differentiate him from the other guy, the pilot one, with the same-sounding name, and he actually came to mind recently after a column I wrote on flamboyant Guyanese from times past, not in the sense of being flamboyant but as one of those people who leave an impression on you that endures.
I am likely to get a lot of flak from some Guyanese for saying this, but it seems to me by just looking around at the kind of people one encounters in our country these days that we had far more flamboyant folks in times gone by.
In the Cayman Islands, where I once lived, a part of the culture there, as in Guyana where I grew up, is a toy called ‘gigs’ (our word for it is ‘tops’).
In the case of Guyana, we’re talking about two contrasting, even conflicting, sets of values and priorities for living, gradually formed and developed and ingrained, for over 150 years.
Punctuality is a big thing with me. From a boy, as the Jamaicans say, I’ve been that way mainly, I believe, from the example of my mother who was always on time or early for everything.
I don’t get golf, and never did. People say that’s because I never played the game.
I’m admitting it from the start: I am not a fisherman. I never was.
Like any poor country, Guyana is replete with occasions for despair about standards in everyday life.
At some point, almost every time I perform, I make reference to the value and beauty of our various Caribbean dialects.
In recent days, with the CPL centre stage in the Caribbean, concurrent with England/Sri Lanka Test matches in the UK, we are seeing quite a contrast in cricket compared to the sport most senior folks grew up with in the region reaching back to the Union Jack days.
Song-writers are essentially observers; that’s where the process begins; that’s where the ideas or interpretations or slants that song-writers present in a song originate.
Among human beings caught up in a hectic life, it is often the case that a thought will come across our mental screen, sometimes from a comment overheard, or a sign encountered, or even from a prolonged and heated public discussion, and the thought flits in and flits out and is gone.
God knows if I’ll ever finish it, but after several proddings from various quarters I have begun writing a book.
We have rock stars in the Caribbean; we don’t call them that, but, in the North American meaning of the term, that’s what they are.
The folks in tourism have it right when they talk about the Guyanese treasures we have, particularly in the interior, for visitors.
When I was a youngster growing up in West Demerara and going to Saints, we usually headed for the Pomeroon in the August school break.
In my early life, that stretch when Tradewinds began, a young man from Linden, living in Toronto, got very annoyed with me over a song.
The cliché about a picture being the descriptive equivalent of a thousand words remains relevant because like every cliché it conveys some essential truth.
Bert Carter is a national treasure; let’s start from there. If you needed any persuading of that, you should have been at Moray House on a recent Monday when he spoke to a very attentive crowd on the drainage infrastructure of Georgetown.
On a recent trip to Orlando I saw a comment by Sam Roberts, son of former Guyana Police Chief “Skip” Roberts, on the widespread Caribbean practice of pinning nicknames on people, especially males, and he noted the almost amiable nature of the practice in that, most of the time, nobody takes offence to the monikers even when they could be seen as disparaging.
About to conclude a column for So it go I am aborting it to write, instead, on a sudden impulse, about Helen Bartlett, a mother in Point Fortin,Trinidad, who is big in the news this week over a video of her beating her 12-year-old wayward daughter.
A letter in Kaieteur News this week, by Mr M Maxwell, made the trenchant point that our forefathers came to Guyana already imbued with the racial prejudices of their ancestral homelands; that those ethnic divides, while recognized and exploited by the British for their own advantage, were a pre-existing condition; it was certainly used but just as certainly not created by the colonialists.
For each of us there is the memory of a particular performance of a song at a particular time that stirred us deeply in some way, creating such an impact, for different reasons, that the memory stays and stays.
My very first visit to Trinidad in 1967, to try and launch Tradewinds in the Caribbean, was a whirlwind affair – a lot of hustle and hurry.
As Guyana continues the current tourism expansion push, persons in the industry must be encouraged by the number of interesting travel outreaches that have come to Guyana in recent times – cruise ship in Georgetown last year; birding groups in the Rupununi; visiting ocean-going yachts; a National Geographic cruise ship in the Essequibo, etc.
Memory is often not the best storehouse for trivial information – it’s an arbitrary process which often excludes something that turns out to be important – so I have developed this habit of jotting down, on a notebook or my computer, transient thoughts or reactions on a range of subjects.
For all of us, at whatever strata we live, episodes come along on our journey that transform us significantly purely from the realization or understanding those encounters generate.
Almost every time you get on an aeroplane to go somewhere, several learning experiences come your way.
This is not my story; I’m only the conduit. It’s a story of individual fortitude, and of people rising to a challenge.
I am tired of hearing it. I heard it again this week. In a private group and later in a public session I heard it again: Guyanese are an ethnically divided people, with racist attitudes, and (here’s the tiresome part) it is shameful that we are unwilling or unable to overcome this problem.
Some things remain the same: political turmoil, taxation, potholed roads, and bad food in restaurants being four examples.
Among the number of significant social forces in the apparatus of daily life one encounters in the more developed world (US, Canada, Europe, etc) is the array of institutions functioning in those societies that serve, ultimately, to convey the opinions or positions of the average citizen to the persons and political parties in positions of rule.
In recent months, observers of Guyana’s tourism industry have noted the contributions coming from both government and private sector in a number of energetic moves that translate into very hopeful signs for the industry.
My mother was an unusual woman who had, among other attributes, an inclination to laugh at anything and everything.
Professional musicians can operate in the large developed cities of the world without ever leaving the familiar comforts of their home town, but when, through recordings, they become known internationally, being “on the road,” as musicians term it, becomes a significant part of the way they live.
Guyana has a range of introspective people, and you meet them in the most unexpected places.
It follows that people are very idiosyncratic about what they consider essential things in their life; what’s essential to one could well be meaningless to another.
Sometimes you’re sailing along, minding your own business, and an idea will land on you, totally unsolicited, that is so startling in its acuity it almost makes you jump.
We have this picture of dogs as frolicking creatures, leaping about in an open area, splashing happily in water, and never seeming to tire of playing games of fetch.
Guyana’s foray into bone fide tourism was recently given a boost within a fortnight by two developments – one from abroad and one from home.
As someone involved in the entertainment business generally, not just music, I am always intrigued by the circumstances in our country’s history that provide so much fertile opportunity for songs, literature, sculpture, plays, painting, dance, etc, to come before us as part of the entertainment landscape.
One of the edification spinoffs from being in the entertainment business is the number of lessons one learns that prove very useful in other businesses or circumstances.
The recent tepid performance by the West Indies cricket team touring India has triggered yet another barrage of media outcries about our place in the sport that leaves us far removed from the world champions we once were.
Watching the West Indies batsmen in India in the current cricket clash, one is reminded of the instances in everyday Caribbean life where we run down the wicket, swing vigorously, and miss.