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.
All and sundry agree: the words “Georgetown” and “garbage” are synonymous. We all know the complexities, largely political, behind the situation, and it’s been going on for over a decade, but for those who live here and should be inured to the sight, it is still a shock with certain parts of the city (Quamina-East Street; Church Street facing Bourda) bordering on revolting.
It is often the case, if you have your eyes open, that you’re engaged in an encounter on one level and you suddenly find an awareness on a completely different level that is so strong and so vivid that it makes you draw a sudden breath, as from a fright.
Going in I admit I’m frequently complaining about things wrong in Guyana, and I make no apologies for that; we have many things wrong and we should do more complaining – me included.
I have no idea how many read it, but following the recent Guyana Prize awards, a lady from the University of Leeds in the UK, Lori Shelbourn, herself part of the jury deciding on the awards, wrote a review of the collection of poems by Cassia Alphonso that won the Guyana Prize for Poetry 2012.
We’re taking our time in the Caribbean writing our musical history. Jamaica, as usual in front in such matters, has become involved, but in the Eastern Caribbean, apart from the work of Gordon Rohlehr, and two books by George Maharaj, we have been rather silent.
Sometimes, in the everyday course of life, an interaction comes along, out of the blue, that is unusual and startling and revealing all at the same time.
I have previously mentioned that when I meet Guyanese during Tradewinds performances overseas, they are often curious to get a read on “life in Guyana” from someone who has relocated there, and their tendency is to grill me who is not seen as an establishment person who might be inclined to gild the lily.
Opinions will differ as to what is the most important quality God gave man for coping with life.
The curtain is only just down on the recent Limacol Caribbean Premier League cricket tournament, enjoying sold-out games and strong sponsorship, and here comes the usual wailing in the press about the demise of cricket propelled by the T20.
Every time I go away to play to audiences outside I hear from Guyanese in the diaspora on the coping-with-life-in-Guyana question.
I’m writing this in Toronto a few hours after a concert at the Richmond Hill Centre for the Performing Arts, designed to help raise funds for the Burn Care Unit at our Georgetown Public Hospital.
In a column in this space in mid-January 2012, in the aftermath of the general election, I wrote the following: “The playing out of this scenario, in very public view, of a President sitting in a Parliament, where his party is outnumbered by the coalesced opposition, is going to mean that the normal ruling party dictates will not be operating in Guyana, and this manoeuvering for consensus, by its very nature, is going to require exemplary people, people of character, for the governing apparatus to work.
A recent note from a Tradewinds fan about the design of a particular album cover took me back to the time I had begun recording with the band in Toronto in the late 1960s.
As Guyana’s interest in tourism appears to be gaining momentum, it is useful to reflect on the development of that sector in two Caribbean countries – St Vincent and the Cayman Islands – that moved into tourism at approximately the same time in the 1960s.
I always travel with a little scribble book where I make notes to myself (books or CDs to get; observations; a reminder to me or to a friend, etc) and browsing through it recently I found the following reference to an incident that had completely left my memory.
First of all, “the book” is ultimately not about Guyana. Yes, it took place here, and it involved many Guyanese, but it’s essentially about a US State Department sub-culture bubbling in the US visitor-visa scam that is found in several US embassies around the world.
(This column originally appeared in the ‘Caricom Review Magazine,’ July 2013) We have been at it as far back as 1921, when the Jamaican legislature saw a motion to ask the British Colonial Office to consult the other islands on the idea of a federation – this notion of regional unity, that is.
Barely a month passes in the English-speaking Caribbean without a reference on some stage or in some letter or political speech to the deleterious effects of colonialism upon us.
I’ve always been intrigued by the process in which the apparatus of a culture is gradually modified, even mutated, by persons migrating from one culture taking up permanent residence in the host one.
Most of the truly riveting or memorable things we’ve seen reside in still photographs that freeze a fleeting moment and hold it for us forever.
It is often the case in life that you see absurd behaviour taking place and you immediately know the reason; like a driver running a red light at full speed.
Airline travel these days is often a taxing and frequently painful experience. Late flights are common (the usual hollow excuse is “the aircraft is being cleaned”); all the jetways are occupied so the plane has to sit on the tarmac; you arrive, but your suitcase doesn’t; your suitcase arrives, but it’s minus the handle; the list goes on.
There is a Guyanese organisation in Toronto called the St. Stanislaus College Alumni Association which has done stellar work over the years raising funds to help maintain the school.
I get a modest monthly American Federation of Musicians Union pension cheque which I deposit in the bank here, but it takes 30 working days, yes 30, for foreign cheques to clear (money laundering; fraud, etc, is the reason you’re given) which means, taking in weekends, foreign holidays and ours, that it’s actually closer to 45 days.