Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Stars shining in the darkness

 At the same time that we were looking further and further into the deep political and civic darkness enveloping us, some stars shone in the dark, one at the Cloth in Belmont, one at the Oval. I will take the latter first.

I saw Evin Lewis bat on two consecutive days last weekend. In his stroke play there was everything to remind us that there is still hope for this place because we have the youthful raw material to raise our game.

Despite the pressure in the limited twenty over form of cricket to voup at every ball, Lewis played with superb footwork and timing. In the Sunday game he executed a straight drive past the bowler to the commentary box end that will remain in my mind as vividly as a square cut that, as a very young schoolboy, I saw Everton Weekes execute.

Of course, the political power personages can easily ruin the potential of this young man by latching on to him to bask in his reflective glory.  For decades those personages have lost all ability to see an accomplished person as anything more than an exploitable partisan political commodity. I pray that Keshorn Walcott will recover from the extravaganza into which he was led and will throw his javelin competitively with those hungry for his crown.

Trinidad and Tobago Red Steel won three straight games last week. I laughingly said to someone leaving the Oval that there might be a public holiday on Monday.

A few evenings before, we went to Belmont to The Cloth Propaganda Space in Erthig Road to attend a presentation on music as therapy with particular reference to the use of pan music.

The area was not unfamiliar. The children of my generation invariably had friends and family in Belmont.  My cousins, as young girls, lived in Erthig Road and recall walking across Archer Street, where other family connections lived, to a parlour at a dead end to buy press. For my younger readers, press was the predecessor to sno cone.  The block ice was shaved and pressed by hand and dipped in syrup.

My best friend in my teens had a ping pong (table tennis) board in the yard and his father had been a competitive player. I rode my bike from Woodford Street, Newtown to Belmont to play but got regularly beaten at the game. Perhaps that is why I do not take defeat personally.

Anyway back to the Cloth.  Jamal Glynn is a qualified music therapist and works with the mentally ill or challenged.  The progress of his life and career is another star shining in the darkness.  He got involved in pan at age thirteen and in his words, “but for that he might have gone in a different direction”.  He explained what the panyard meant to him as a community and even as a place where he could get a meal in hard times.

Jamal held two practical demonstrations using volunteers from the audience to show how a group of persons who did not know each other and were not all musicians would bond when required to play music together.

The bond was established simply because the members of the group had to study what each other was doing with the instrument they were playing. In the second of the two demonstrations members of the group exchanged the instruments they had played in the first demonstration.

At the close of the demonstration Jamal elicited their testimonies of how the volunteers managed.  In one form of words or another each of the volunteers, of whom my wife was one, basically said they wanted to follow what the neighbouring player in the circle was doing and not to dominate.

Jamal went on to give an audio demonstration of what patients–he calls them clients- did when similarly placed in a group and how they progressed over a continuing period of musical therapy.

I am not going to repeat the case for making the panyard and other performing arts spaces the centre of a massive, properly funded, non-party politically driven regeneration of our youthful raw material. The testimonies I have described are simply practical proof of the thesis.

It will not escape readers that a simple evening in a community space made available by the enlightened citizen, who runs his business there, produced an embryonic life music programme, no millions, no bobol, no party political muscle involved.

Of course, the reference to Evin Lewis and Jamal Glynn as stars is not used in the bling sense or to confer a misplaced sense of celebrityhood. The country can be rescued from the darkness and violence but the effort is required at the roots, for the roots and by the roots.

Most importantly by the roots means by those already labouring in the vineyard of youth, the birdsongs, the skiffles, the pamberis to name a very, very few.