By Michelle Nurse
First Born on Stage at a Raggae Sumfest 2005 in Jamaica
Artistes lounge just across the road from the studio-under-construction in front of a building whose signboard proclaims it a Chinese restaurant. It really is the temporary quarters of Vizion Sounds. A blend of accents, predominantly Jamaican, greets the passerby. Two DJs and a boxing champion are there, chilling.
Troy Azore of First Born breaks out in song, but is soon silenced by a round of sudden hammering. In the building, a flag, hoisted on a short stick and stuck in a box, flutters. The flag which carries the image of the majestic lion against a background of red, yellow and green, is the pennant found in almost every photograph that features First Born.
First Born, the quintet of young Rastafarian musicians had gathered at Vizion Sounds – which manages the group - for a conversation with the Sunday Chronicle on the state of the local music industry and the group’s position in the scheme of things with respect to Caribbean Creative Economy, a relatively new term that encompasses all things cultural in the region.
Quickly buying into the concept, and upholding music as the foundation upon which this new economy will be built, group member Lambert Semple pointed out that “music is definitely one of the most prevalent things in pushing culture. It’s a vehicle for the culture; music has a great influence on people, on the world…”
First Born said, however, that the environment must be created locally to nurture a credible music industry. Their very grounding in a cappella, successful though it was, First Born members said, was really a manifestation of the absence of a vibrant music industry here. It is a factor that has stymied many an artiste, and which places Guyana in the unenviable position of playing catch-up with the rest of the region.
“There was no industry here. That is why First Born started a cappella… no industry, no instruments. Most people who owned the instruments wanted to tell you what to do, so we … started a cappella. We had some hard problems. A lot of people would know that we started with eight members and through the years, because of the hardship, some members moved on, and some migrated…” Azore, the group’s leader said.
The real hardship was encountered in getting the music “out there”… into the industry where it happens, where the world could hear your music…,” he recalled.
Many of the local artistes, First Born contends, do not possess the resilience to stick to the work it takes to penetrate the market.
“But First Born came through with Vizion Sounds, and we have come to the point where we now have a stable, which is the Vizion Sound label, with artistes from Guyana and Jamaica, and we’re working out of Guyana. As we travel to Jamaica and return, we find that more and more people are beginning to love the music, and respond to it.
“This same struggle went on in Jamaica, at times when people never listened to their own music. They only listened to foreign music. Now, Jamaicans can enjoy themselves without a foreign act,” Trayon Garrett, the youngest member of the group, pointed out.
“Guyana is not yet really known as a place that produces top-notch artistes, and with no musical industry, it is hard work now to get them to love their own music, to love what they represent…” he noted, adding optimistically that “we’re moving” in that direction.
In their own words
“For now, we have to start speaking well of Guyanese people, responding to what First Born and other artistes are doing… A couple of nights ago we had the launching of our fifth album, Irits, and the people really responded… So now, we have to start talking better of our Guyanese people, because they are trying to understand the programme. Many times you have to meet them and explain what’s happening, because they’re ignorant about music and music business. So sometimes you have to find that time and sit and chat with them. And they’re receptive to it, you know, so now, you can’t talk bad about Guyanese,” was Rolston Richmond’s take on the situation.
Rolo, as he is familiarly called, was, in fact, echoing the sentiments of Guyanese international superstar, Eddy Grant, and Third World founder, Jamaican Ibo Cooper of Freshear Music, who both spoke at a workshop for journalists in Jamaica, the region’s mecca of culture, late in February. The forum’s subject was creative industries and how the Caribbean could better capitalise on them to position the region’s arts and culture to fill the slot that would soon be vacated by the traditional exports such as sugar and bananas.
According to Grant, the problem the Caribbean encounters in the realm of its culture industry is its lack of knowledge and appreciation of who its people are, and where they came from.
“We need to love ourselves, love the things we make or create, buy the things we make or create, thereby demonstrating to others their value,” posited Grant, who has been a strident voice against the piracy business and one for the introduction of copyright laws in Guyana to protect the work of our creative people.
First Born is well aware of the dangers piracy poses to its livelihood and its ability to help move the industry forward. It holds the view that it is only through education that the scourge of piracy will be obliterated.
“...now the pirates, we have to educate them too,” Richmond pointed out, adding, “just before you came, we had to stop one of them and take away our CDs and reason him and let him understand the struggle that we go through to make these things possible…We don’t get anything (from the sale of pirated CDs). He understood, and he left, but we don’t know if he will continue to sell pirated CDs. So we give thanks for the understanding and we will still continue to educate the people because we find that it’s a lack of knowledge that is causing people to (pirate music),” he said.
Semple wants the National Assembly to address the issue of copyright laws to “really help the people who are creating stuff in this country to lift their standards.”
“I really think that the government knows what it has to do because there is a Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sport…it’s just to start doing it, and playing a part in the schools, start bringing more music in the schools at an early age. A piano needs to be in each school in Guyana. They need to keep the vibes rolling, then we wouldn’t have time for all this gun `ting; we’ll have musicians creating…” Richmond added.
It’s a challenging enterprise to keep the pirates at bay, particularly when, as Grant pointed out, the very agencies that are strongly against piracy of creative material are the ones that produce the apparatus - cassettes, CDs, DVDs etc. - through which the theft of intellectual property is achieved.
Not an easy road
For the group’s road manager, Mr. Dennis Adonis, “music is not an easy road.” He cites the regular, costly trips between Guyana and Jamaica to continue the group’s momentum there and for collaboration with more recognised artistes.
The group’s link with Jamaica was made through Vizion Sounds’ Walter Fraser and reggae music.
“Reggae music was born in Jamaica and so to be a part of reggae, you cannot be apart from Jamaica; you have to go to Jamaica. Mr. Fraser, through the years, lived in Jamaica, worked from Jamaica, went to London, worked with Brother Bob (Marley) … Lambert said.
First Born, Adonis said, must “give thanks for the love and respect that Jamaicans give Guyanese. Jamaica is a learning ground for First Born. We learned from them what it takes to develop an industry from being in Jamaica. You learn how to deal with studios; how to cut times and cut costs.”
The quintet’s debut album `Exodus Chapter X111 Verse 2’, was recorded at Leggo’s Studio in Kingston, Jamaica. The others, `Confident’, `Wake up Call’ and `Irits’ were also recorded in Jamaica. Irits was recently launched here.
From a cappella, First Born’s sound is now a morphing of different genres of music.
“Now we’re on rhythm tracks, and we also build rhythms from tracks, but we …wouldn’t go away from a capella. We do a collaboration of all the different genres of music. Everybody writes and everybody sings. Firehouse and different other musicians in Jamaica would play the instruments, but each member is currently learning to play an instrument,” Azore boasts.
The group has done live performances with artistes including Buju Banton, Bounty Killa, Beenie Man, Capleton, Sizzla, Gregory Isaacs, Luciano, Mikey General, Glen Washington, and Shaggy.
Group members point out that though there have been no “big gains as yet because we are putting in more than we are taking out.” Other persons need to “see this and invest in the music. Through the years, we have not been looking for an immediate profit, but we knew we had to build the business, build the capital… before we can start making a profit and that’s what we are working on right now.”
And when that new economy driven by music takes over, First Born promises they will be right there.
For Dr Kay Kyte-Shako
Dreams do come true
By Jeune Bailey Van-Kerick
DREAMS DO COME TRUE: Dr Kay Kyte-Shako at the University of Guyana’s 2004 Convocation.
But dreams do come through, and, after completing a one-year internship at the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation, Dr. Kyte-Shako, is ready to assist hundreds of Guyanese with the prevention and treatment of diseases.
A former staff nurse/midwife, Kyte-Shako, said, her years of study at the University of Guyana, where she obtained a Bachelor of Science Degree in Medicine and Surgery, were very challenging, but rewarding.
''There were many critics, and many trials, but I have learnt to use criticisms to motivate me to achieve my goals,'' she told the Sunday Chronicle.
The doctor, who is the third daughter of Ralph and Mary Kyte of Lot 98 Amsville Housing Scheme, New Amsterdam, commenced her medical training in 1984, when she joined the New Amsterdam School of Nursing as a professional student nurse. In 1987, on completion of her studies there, she became a State Registered Nurse.
The following year, she did an out-station stint at the West Demerara Hospital, and upon returning to the Ancient County in 1989, commenced and completed the midwifery programme.
In 1993, she completed a one-year stint at the Skeldon Hospital and thereafter returned to the regional health institution, in New Amsterdam.
Between 1996 and 1999, Kyte-Shako, became a part-time lecturer at the New Amsterdam School of Nursing, and during that time also obtained a certificate in the Health Science Manager's Programme at the University of Guyana. At the completion of this programme, Kyte-Shako, graduated with a distinction and earned two awards from the Guyana Nurses Association, and the Ministry of Health respectively.
Not satisfied with that achievement, the mother of two daughters commenced her study in medicine in October 1999.
Kyte-Shako, whilst encouraging others with a similar aim, urged persons to “stay focused, concentrate on their dream, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching out to those things that are before them, and press firmly to what they dream.”
In the not-too-distant future, she will return to the lecture rooms, where she hopes to specialise in a particular branch of medicine.
Her mother, she said, supported her greatly by caring for the children, Ahaiziah and Anasticia. She was also ably supported by her siblings, Magistrate Kim Kyte-John, Attorney-at-law Kavern Kyte-Williams who is attached to the Attorney General’s Chambers, Karen and Kendra, a pharmacist and a final year University student respectively.
She expressed gratitude to her husband, Pastor Clarence Shako of the Mount Sinai Assembly of God Church, in Vryheid, West Canje, Berbice, for his spiritual and financial support.