Defining culture and creeds
MATT’S Record Bar was my definite intention to celebrate, but verification of all the data I have will take some time to complete because all the authorities are now to my knowledge residing overseas. But Matt’s was enveloped by a world that transcended the later years of being forced to sell pirated music and movies and was legally acknowledged to pay taxes on that merchandise.
Matt’s was part of a popular culture that transcended the urban wards that were defined by record bars that included PICWIC, GEM’S, Alphonso’s, Mohamed’s, Bibi’s,and Auto Supplies, where Madam Baptiste worked among other music sellers. But it was indeed during the worldwide Entertainment music concert featuring Buju Banton that the copyright issue hit us in the face. We were taking Buju on the promotional walk around town. MATT’S was the first showplace. Upon entering, Buju and team turned reverse on us, on recognising that everything we were selling in Guyana was pirated, and it has been that way ever since. Of the most recognised sources of music in post ‘Oil Crisis’ from 1973-80s Guyana, when piracy became the expedient normal, in that era, Matt’s stood out. Most of the others started by buying cassettes, then to CDs from Matt’S and converted them as their master copies, except for Majestics and Jacks, and a guy over the recent years, that knew his music, he played around Bourda Market, but hasn’t to my knowledge frequented there for a while. The music shaped our imagery, captured far-flung issues and enveloped us in ideas, values and ideals that captured the cultural and political issues of our time and across times. Jimmy Cliff took us into the world of combat with his song ‘Vietnam,’ while touching on the same era. The incredible ‘Swamp Dog’ in his symbolic piece ‘Sam Stone,’ allowed us to imagine the torment of the drug-ridden veteran, that tune and Bobby Womack’s ‘Harry Hippie’ were frightening, causing conversations of hope among my peers, that such callous exploits would avoid our shores, you know the rest, we hoped in vain.
MAJESTICS evolved as an institution of reggae music. Though other music was available, Reggae was the staple that most clients sought. This was the open period of Reggae concerts in Guyana, led by Worldwide Entertainment, the dismal copycat by the Drug Cartels of music concerts, which were yet to come. Jacks was the initial Music Cart system that peddled music across Reggae, Rhythm and Blues and oldies. His was the most copied system, in that it allowed individuals to earn by peddling their merchandise, individuals did set up similar systems, from my knowledge, Jacks licensed his own fleet of music carts. His encouragement blossomed, here, there and everywhere. But ‘Matt’s always retained a significant edge. Aubrey Baptiste her son, was well schooled. An independent archive of musical tastes across the classics, and I’m talking about every subtle era of classic music era, movie music, Broadway music, Jazz era, Motown, Calypso, Rocksteady to Reggae, popular icons that reached every inspirational taste and mood, local, Caribbean, Latin, and the Anglophone realms. This also went for the movies, you wanted a copy of ‘All the young men’ the only place to go was Matt’s. Why this entertainment provider was important is because they represented a knowledge base that was rooted on the unique perspectives of a very special experience, that cannot be replicated in substance, by just ‘New money fuh invest’; the knowledge has to be there, learned and honed into a sharp resource of knowledge , by constant attention. For example, years ago when I heard Jackie Wilson sing a song named ‘Night’ that was all my CD had for cut number six. I liked how he handled the song.
I didn’t know the song before, it was different, full of drama, we were listening to this Jackie Wilson’s very best from Matt’s, on Hoppie’s auto system in Robb Street when this fellow who frequently wore a suit and at times would be singing concert music as he walked along, came over, addressing the song as ‘Into the Night’ from the Opera Sampson and Delilah. But , Jackie Wilson didn’t do Opera we insisted, he merely concluded, an Opera by the French composer Camille Saint-Saens. Like doubtful Thomas I investigated, the concert singer was right, I never saw him again to tell him how grateful we were, I’m told he lived/or lives in Alberttown or Queenstown. Every time the world or nations enter troubling and uneasy periods, music becomes a quiet balm. I miss Matt’s, because CDs tend to deteriorate. There are Jazz, Rock steady and music of solitude and inspiration that I’ll have to buy on the internet. Though there are musical sources around, there’s a vacuum in the broad-based culture that remain fractured, when expertise that are taken for granted becomes absent or end their tenure, and only memory remains, without the present means to instantly grab the baton and continue to endeavour, add and repackage.
There is a peeve I cannot express until I contact Aubrey Baptiste to verify a matter concerning the very human legacy of Matt’s. Hence, until then, understand how we evolved, how musical gifts enveloped and empowered us in so many profound ways.