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Sunday, May 07, 2006

All in Wan for Independence

The Scene

Renowned Guyanese musician, singer and songwriter Dave Martins has conceptualised and written a special show to celebrate Guyana's 40th Independence Anniversary.

All in Wan, a two-hour extravaganza, which will be on stage at the National Cultural Centre on May 26, 27 and 28, will reflect, as Martins puts it, "the vibrant and dynamic culture that is unique to Guyana". In non-stop entertainment, the show will include dance, music, comedy, drama, and spectacle ranging from Diwali to Masquerade Band to Mashramani and everything in between.

The cast will include some 70 Guyanese, including Keith Waithe from the UK and Terry Gajraj from the US.

Directed by Ron Robinson and produced by Gem Mahdoo-Nascimento, the show will also feature original music written by Dave Martins and a set designed by Henry Muttoo and built by Ansford Patrick.

According to a press release from Nascimento's GEMS Theatre Productions, the National Cultural Centre stage will be transformed into an elaborate bamboo grove with special lighting effects.

Actors Howard Lorrimer, Kirk Jardine, Michael Ignatius and Marlon Braam will be the hinge on which the show swings as they deal with our language, our sense of humour and our attitudes, the release said.

Among the special treats will be a musical treatment of a Martin Carter poem. Performers will also include the Marigold Singers, the Ruimveldt Boys Choir, Leeanna, Lady Tempest, Oliver Basdeo and his quintet, Classique Dance Troupe, the Cove and John Ashram drummers, the Nityrageet Dancers and the Amerindan troupe. An unusual feature of the production will be the use of footage of Guyana's interior, shot by Mike Charles, and projected in big screen images on the stage.

The show is fully sponsored by the Guyana Telephone and Telegraph Company (GT&T) and its CEO Major General (rtd) Joe Singh, who is the impetus behind the idea, said, "We've put together a team of Guyanese creators and performers here of the highest calibre. They will bring something to the Cultural Centre stage unlike anything seen there before. This show will leave Guyanese feeling good about their culture."

Martins, who conceptualised the show, was born and raised in Guyana, at Hague and Vreed-en-Hoop. Though he now resides in Canada, Martins is Guyanese and Caribbean to the core. He is known throughout the Caribbean as the founder/leader of the popular Tradewinds Band that rose to the top of the charts in 1968 with the hit song "Honeymooning Couple", which he wrote.

Over the years, he has produced a collection of witty and insightful songs of Caribbean and Guyanese life that have become favourites across the region and have put him in the top rank of creative Caribbean artists - a reputation that remains vibrant 38 years on as the band plays selected engagements in the Caribbean and North America. Some of his other well-known and well-loved songs include "Copycat", "Cricket in the Jungle" and the fervently patriotic, "Not a Blade of Grass" and "Is we own".

Among his writing achievements is the book and lyrics for a full-length Caribbean musical Raise Up, commissioned in 1988 by Guyana in commemoration of the 150th anniversary of full emancipation. In the creation of All in Wan, he has combined his skill at songs, comedy, drama and poetry in a reflection of the vibrant culture of Guyana.

Waithe, who describes himself on his website as a "flautist, vocal trickster and poet" is elsewhere recognised as an award- winning flautist, composer, teacher and expert proponent of vocal gymnastics.

Waithe, who produces and promotes an international musical style, exploring an original fusion of jazz, classical, African, Caribbean, Asian and Western influences, has rearranged the local piece "Sohani Raat" specially for All in Wan. He said it has been done in a contemporary music style employing the elements of jazz, Afro and Indo motifs/rhythms, his vocal gymnastics technique and the melody of the flute.

It involves five or six members of the Cove and John Ashram, a similar number from the Conga Niah Group and George Reid on Bass as well as himself. Waithe said he would also be doing some pieces with a masquerade band during the finale.

According to a press release from Essequibo Music, Waithe first learned to play the trumpet from his late father in Guyana and during his formal music training there, transferred to the flute. He developed a passion for the instrument, mastering it at the University of Surrey and the Royal Military School of Music, Kneller Hall, where he gained an LRSM Diploma and the PGCE Teaching Certificate. He lives and works in the United Kingdom.

Waithe formed the Macusi Players, (taking the name from the powerful Macusis, an Amerindian tribe) incorporating the diverse influences and origins from within the group; blending the Indian tabla, African drum, vocal gymnastics, modern keyboard wizardry and of course his 169 flutes.

He has successfully conducted several music workshop sessions and performed with the BBC Symphony Orchestra, as part of its 'A taste of Africa' 2005 series.

Gajraj was born in Fyrish, Corentyne, Guyana, where he was constantly surrounded by music.

Since his first record was released in 1990, he has gone on to release 18 more albums and has had number one records on all the Chutney charts in the Caribbean, North America and Europe.

He does everything from Bhajans, Hindi, Pop, Chutney, Soca, Reggae and Ballads.

Gajraj is the only Chutney singer from Guyana to perform with all the top names in the Soca/Calypso arena, from the Mighty Sparrow to Arrow. He has also toured with celebrated Indian performers Babla and Kanchan.

He has represented Guyana at major carnivals in the world, including Trinidad (Spektakula Tent), Miami, Caribana (Toronto) and Nottinghill (London).

Gajraj's repertoire also includes drums, keyboards and guitar and he has composed and played all of the music for some of his songs.

Gajraj, also well known as Guyana Baboo, now lives in the US.

Stabroek News

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