Celia took a dance
Some years ago my revered teacher and I fell into a brief discussion about the possibility of life after death. Being a priest he was satisfied that there was a hereafter and that we would reconnect with our loved ones, although not in a material form.
Whatever the truth about the hereafter, pretty much everyone may feel a connection with a deceased relative from time to time if only because events stir memories. Music is a strong stimulant to memories and emotions. Within our music the drum is a chief stimulus and at the end of this column I make a proposal about the use of the drum.
I recently followed Ray Holman to Naparima Bowl to his concert entitled, Mama Dis is Pan. One of the distinctive features of Ray Holman's concerts is that he does his own commentary on what is being played. He does it with his characteristic softly humble approach and obviously sincere respect for the work of fellow musicians and composers.
In Mama Dis is Pan, he spoke of Kitchener, Sparrow and Merchant in the context of his personal relationship with each of them as a prelude to playing their music. I left the Naparima Bowl clear in my mind that I had not hitherto been properly aware of what a formidable composer, musician and performer Merchant was, even though I knew many of his compositions. Drawing my attention to Merchant increased my awareness of how lacking we are in developing a repository of our musical traditions.
Much of Caribbean music is as evocative of feelings and memories, as is R&B and other genres. At Holman's concert there was dancing in the isles to "Penny Lane" and "Du Du Yemi" otherwise known as "Natasha, Black Beauty from Africa".
The Kitchener pieces brought my deceased mother, Celia, into the room. I re-lived vividly being grabbed by the hand to go into the road "to take a jump". I blessed her all over again for the delight she took in Kitchener, All Stars and, later on, Despers, after a chance meeting with Wilfred "Speaker" Harrison in the bookstore where she worked for long hours, which would now be considered oppressive. Celia took a dance in Naparima Bowl that night and I was able to make some sense of my revered teacher's explanation of how persons might communicate in spirit.
Another unique feature of Ray's concerts is that he is generous in his encouragement of young talent. On this occasion he introduced us to a young woman named Jerrelle Forbes, who sang in more than one genre and whose last selection was Shadow's "I Come out to Play", a composition which every pan follower associates with Curepe Scherzando's 1974 Panorama Semi Finals performance.
As luck would have it, I went the following Sunday to Scherzando's panyard on the occasion of an evening of performing arts entitled, Caribbean Re-awakening. This was the opening event and prelude to a week of conversations, which the Lloyd Best Institute of the West Indies had arranged in view of the coming 50th Anniversary of Independence to examine where do we want to be in the next 50 years, entitled Common Sense Convois.
I had not been to that panyard before. It is an impressive performance space. Its potential as a performance space and the atmosphere exuding from the backdrop of breadfruit and mango trees was brilliantly used by a variety of performers and their choreographers, directors and producers. It is a space, which is the antithesis of NAPA, and as authentic as a Caribbean space could be. It is of a character and specification to accommodate the breadth and vigour of our performing arts.
I was fortunate to be able to engage face to face with Laurie Andall, the President of the Scherzando Steelband Co-Operative, a person with whose vision of "the sheer joy of shared music" crossing otherwise divisive barriers I respectfully agreed in this column six weeks ago.
The event at Scherzando was also a re-affirmation that a common thread of our performing arts, crossing all boundaries and encompassing every creed and race, is the drum. One of my ideas for promoting the value and uniqueness of Trinidad and Tobago culture is a rebranding to position Trinidad and Tobago as a leading exponent of expression by drum.
The entire first quarter of each year should be devoted to expansion of the Carnival market to include expressions of the drum, which are not related to Carnival. I foresee huge potential in the theme of Trinidad and Tobago as the cradle, the melting pot and the primary inter-cultural exponent of the drum in its different forms.
In this column I can't always business with the hollow politicians and dem when there is so much to say about the value of our culture. I will be returning to Canboulay, the Caribbean Re-awakening and the Convois.