“NOTHING lasts forever/Nothing stays the same”. The lyrics of the enchanting, classic but sombre jazz piece, ‘Everything Must Change’ by Bernard Ighner.
It beckons us to contemplate the infinite nature of the cycles and currents that govern the organism of humanity. But it cannot be denied that within each cycle are the veins and pulses that enabled us to transcend the previous change of seasons.
Though nothing stays the same, it is the same that changes on the foundation of its accomplished consciousness; the need to explore and then preserve the special talents that have passed our way, spurting innovations, whether through groups or by individuals in the multiple areas that expanded our world from its tribal origins to nationhood; be they sports personalities, manufacturing industry, suitcase traders, fashion, military and paramilitary, culture, medicine, lawmakers and leadership. Measuring the challenges and the temerity that transcended ‘the same’ of its day, initiating change, knowing well the price that comes with the courage to challenge, yet they persevered, and made a difference. This is what generates the swell of the spirit in the confidence that our lineage is gifted, and that we have no hindrances to pursue whatever paths to excellence we dare to endeavour with is the evolving movement of Emancipation.
Mere days ago, we lost Hector Stoute. Also gone is ‘32’, the Mighty Canary, Billy Moore, and numerous others, agreeable that ‘nothing stays the same’. However, we have abdicated the task of tapping into their memories to reconstruct what today is considered ‘The Vintage’ period, or the same of their day that is the impulse of tomorrow in the visible timeline of our lineage, where today sadly, ‘the nothing’ of that period is all that in its formlessness exist.
I had this talk with Sean Bhola some years ago on preserving aspects of our National Heritage that resides in the oral realms of the memory of individuals, because, in their time they were performing outside of the orthodox mainstream British Guiana culture, thus extensive biographical data about their activities do not exist, or is not known of as yet.
Sean explained some difficulties in communication with the political authorities in Culture pre-1915, so he opted out; his knowledge-base was not suited to such a task.
THE SAME CORRICA
It is commendable that Allan Fenty recently wrote a biography of the late Malcolm Corrica [Mighty Canary]. It was the same Corrica I had to consult in 1995 when I published the first and only issue of ‘Folk & Culture’ magazine; it was printed in Trinidad, and I was unaware that Caribbean Quotations were presented in US$, while I had calculated in TT$.
So, though the ‘mags’ sold, my yard budget was bankrupt, as the advertising was sold to the TT-to-G$ conversion. I had also done a piece on ‘Sam Chase’, and only had some old newspaper photocopies to go on. Corrica had lived and interacted with Sam Chase, and provided the essence of the story, capturing much needed imagery of that day. “They used to come on boats. You had Spoiler, Pretender and Lord Melody, and they would perform at popular Vaudeville shows given by Sam Chase and Madam O’Lindy.
“As a youngster, I would go to those shows and afterwards collect copies of the Calypsos. At that time, records were not popular. I would practise the songs on my own while I worked as a cabinet maker.”
What is lost is the content of the Vaudeville Shows from a living participant who could have recaptured the essence of the atmosphere when these shows were conducted in the 1930s and 40s.
Though, by all means, Sam Chase was an extremely talented performer in an age when local performers were in the least appreciated by the local colonials, who reflected at times with more extremes the colonial master [Britain] who was also tormented by the burden of overbearing class consciousness.
The last item on Madam O’Lindy [born Elila Louisa Marques in the village of Beterverwagting] that I was able to extract was a July 23, 1967 Sunday Chronicle article titled, ‘FORMER STAGE QUEEN NOW LIVING ON CHARITY’; sad story of O’Lindy by Steve Narine.
It provided insights of a life that would be envied by any ‘2017’ performer. These performers were only part of what was going on in our ‘Vintage period’. Closer to home during that period, my mother would recall singing as an early teenager at the Ovaltine competitions, and expressing a very modern problem of having a hard time collecting the prize money from the promoter.
That period is the template our young people should be launching from; changing what was ‘the same’ of that time into the excellence of today, rather than performing surreal restarts.
Hector Stoute had promised to provide me with some further insights on the Sam Chase period. Now that he is gone, I have one other option that I will explore, if that option is up to it.
To be loyal to the varied depths of Emancipation, no period of living achievement must go without diligent cataloguing and skilful creative packaging, in the same way ‘Vintage’ American pre-and- post WWII fashions and hairstyles have made an assertive comeback, though I’m not even sure that our local people in those areas have made that connection. If they haven’t, then it’s because we haven’t done the work, and continue to disenfranchise them aesthetically and economically.