Useful as they are, dictionaries are inadequate when we are trying to define certain intangibles.
One of the striking things about the Guyanese culture is our disposition to improvise, to use our ingenuity, to use our wiles, to try and overcome.
In the early 1990s, during the ‘mo fyah’ disturbances, a prominent Guyanese political figure called me in Toronto with the suggestion that I should write a song to help calm tensions.
Every now and then you run into people who are true masters at what they do.
Out of nowhere, sometimes from a complete stranger, sometimes from someone who knows you intimately, a chance remark will come to you and set you thinking about a subject you had not previously considered.
I approach the columns I write for Stabroek News appreciating that, among other things, they are likely to trigger discussion.
Approximately 15 years ago yesterday, a young man from Berbice arrived at Niagara Falls, Ontario.
Within a month or so of returning home to live, I found myself in a well-known lawyer’s office in town to have a document notarized.
I’m driving with this Canadian lady heading for “cottage country” in Northern Ontario.
This started with a comment from my friend Henry Muttoo, the theatre whiz, following a piece of poetry by Louise Bennett I had sent him.
I hate to travel. When Tradewinds became popular in 1968, we were doing a lot of travelling.
When I formed the Tradewinds band in Toronto in the late 1960s, we played frequently at a small bar downtown on Yonge Street (the main drag) called the Bermuda Tavern.
I’m a big fan of the American evangelist Bishop T D Jacques. The man is simply the best preacher God has ever made; he deals with people trying to cope with life as opposed to parading in some edifice we go to on Sundays.
About four years ago I travelled from Cayman for the funeral of my friend Bobby Clarke who had died in Castries after a tough two-year battle with cancer.
Hardly a day goes by without someone, in a private gaff or a public forum, waxing eloquently about “the good old days,” and how great things were then, and how unfortunate our young people
This may surprise you, but it has taken me a long time to realise how deeply my songs have penetrated the Caribbean culture generally, and particularly that of Guyana.
The progression of the prominent, the ones who appear before us as elected politician, social activist, business tycoon, etc, is intriguing for the different stages in the professional lives of these individuals.
Living in a generally benign climate, Caribbean people have a close relationship with the creatures of nature, but there’s a particular relationship with dogs (another subject for another day) and, to some degree, goats.
I’ve talked before about nonsensical ideas we repeat as mantra – “Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can never hurt me” and “Time heals all wounds” are two of them.
Election time will inevitably turn the temperature up on every issue under the sun, including lately complaints about the media displaying lack of veracity, lack of balance, and misinformation.
A friend of mine living outside, Alex Neptune, recently sent me a photo of the Caribbean fruits and vegetables he grows in his backyard in New York and remarked on the number of fruits we have in the region, and that we appear to have lost some.
It is part of the fulminations of life that nothing happens in isolation.
Getting inside a culture and unravelling it for someone is tough enough if you’re from that culture.
I was living in Toronto, 44 years ago, playing music full time with the Tradewinds band, when the annual Caribbean festival in Toronto known as Caribana was born.
I sometimes play this game where I ask persons to complete the following sentence: “You know you’re in the Caribbean when…” You get some delightful responses and often surprises; you should try it some time.
My Caymanian daughter mentioned to me recently that she had not paid much attention to dogs growing up (we had several), but that now they’re a joy in her life.
There are athletes who naturally impress us with their magnificent physical achievements of power and style that leave us gaping at the display, but the ones whom we take into our hearts, the ones we come to feel affection for, are the ones who also show us their excellence as people.
In recent weeks I have heard vehemently from several persons, here and abroad, about the need for Guyana, in the midst of all the bad news, to be shouting about the positive stories that are around.
Joe Brown, the original bass player of the Caribbean Tradewinds band, would not eat breadfruit because it was “slave food.” Joe came out of the steelband movement in Trinidad and had been the leader of a Laventille steelband; he could be a very principled guy on certain issues, and he was right about breadfruit.
A beautiful chicken hawk patrols the area behind our house. A vigorous flyer –you know the species – it surveys the territory from a perch high up on a GT&T telephone wire, swooping down occasionally to snatch a kreketeh or some other delicacy.
Among the frustrations in modern life are things so ridiculous, so patently illogical, that when you run into them you are propelled to ask, “When are we going to stop this?” I have heard from several motorcar owners here of the local traffic police practice of pouncing on drivers who overtake on a double line.
We all do this. We see something or hear something – it could be in a brief moment, or it could be a long enduring condition – and in the absurdity of it, a momentary query, along the lines of “why is that going on?” passes through the mind.
There was a time – and not so long ago at that – when the mass distribution of a personal opinion was a very restricted process.
In recent years, with so many lacklustre Caribbean cricket teams frustrating us with their poor play, and particularly with the sad state of the once supreme regional team, you lose some enthusiasm for cricket, and even end up not watching some games at all.
It’s the middle of the day. A quite sophisticated Georgetown lady is parked in her car on Church Street, waiting for a friend, with the doors locked and windows up.
Visiting a country for short spells, no matter how frequently they occur, can leave you unsure if a social behaviour or condition in that society is entrenched or not.
Given the fractured and dislocated conditions of our history in this region, Caribbean people have had a hard climb up the ladder of self-worth.
I hate souse. I really don’t know how people enjoy that stuff. Before you start in on me, be assured that this is not a hasty conclusion.
Since I first saw Mashramani in 1968, the festival has had an uneven history.
Some music fans just enjoy the music and let you know, and that’s it.
I’m driving up to a house on a side road up the East Coast.
Early in my reacquaintance with driving in Guyana, I was introduced to a phrase, numbingly illogical, that will become very familiar very quickly to anyone coming to grips with the traffic rules in the country.
Let me take you back about 10 years. I was living in Grand Cayman, with my Pomeroon background, out in the country on a big piece of land, and I would often take a break from my fruit trees to watch West Indies cricket.
I love dialects. An Irishman in full cry, particularly under some drink, can be a pure joy, even though we may not understand half of what he’s saying; it’s a musical experience.
Some of the worst advice you can ever get in life often comes immediately after the expression, “Let me give you some advice.” Many of these pronouncements, frequently given with
One of the most substantial planks in the structure of life is that of blind discovery – that sudden encounter with something so delightful that almost always the consequent thought is “Why didn’t I know about this before?” These new awarenesses come to us like a gift, adding small enhancements or significant ones to the fabric of our lives.
When I was youngster I worked for about three years at Atkinson Field (now Timehri) which was originally an American base.
When I first went to live in a big city in North America, my almost immediate impression was the astonishing level of order in the place.
I had completely forgotten that almost 15 years ago, living in Grand Cayman, I had sent my friend Colin Cholmondeley (then living in Jamaica) a short column from Wisden Cricket Monthly by BBC broadcaster and writer John Arlott on the West Indies cricket tour of England in 1950.
When I returned to Guyana in 1968, after a gap of some 12 years, I was standing in my aunts’ shop at Hague Front, talking with a rice farmer from Hague Back who had known me from a boy.