Sunday, December 6, 2015

A letter to the late Scott Weiland

Dear Mr. Weiland,

I am gutted to hear about your passing, it was untimely, it was so sad but to many it was not a shock.

To me it was a shock. To me your sudden passing brings back all my memories of covering your songs in my band in Trinidad - Brothers Grimm back in 1994/95. We covered 'Plush', 'Vasoline', 'Big Empty', 'Still Remains' and 'Interstate Love Song'.

When I heard the news on Friday, I felt as if a part of my youth had died, a part of my own history.

I can't speak to your battle with drugs, I can't judge you for that. I'm sad that drugs had such a hold on you, and I will never know what hell you saw. I will never what you went through. I can only read about it in an article or two.

All I do know is that I have all of Stone Temple Pilots' albums, I listen to them religiously.

I know your songs took me places, were with me through great times of youth and perceived childish freedom, your songs were my anthem when I was going through my own rough patches. Your lyrics held my interest and your vocal melodies always inspired me.

The musicianship you had with Dean Deleo, Robert Deleo and Eric Kretz was undeniable. You guys were the modern-day Zepplin and Beatles. So many songs brought out a range of emotions in me and I was always intrigued by the tone, feel and production of each album. Not many a band can boast of six studio albums that were each well written and properly produced, usually after the third album a band falters and fades, but not you, not STP. I loved each album for a different reason.

You did it, you wrote and record great music for each record.

That's a feat in itself.

And even though I didn't know and never will, I knew a part of you with your music, and even though it sounds contrite and puny, I just wanted to say thank you Scott. Thank you for your great contribution to music. Thank you for being a part of my own musical library.

You will be forever missed.

God be with you on your journey to the next side.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Standing for your truth

Standing up for your truth is not an easy thing to do, especially when you've been taught to do otherwise.

Over a lifetime, we're shown certain ways to be, ways that are expected of us, for the sake of peace, and sometimes those ways aren't always the best thing for us.

We stifle emotions, we stifle our thoughts, we compromise our beliefs. And in the end we lose ourselves.

Eventually, things start cropping up in our life, things that we need to fix, else it keeps getting worse and worse, more intense, more detrimental to ourselves.

The last thing to suffer is our health.

It is at this point that one realizes that if you don't stand up for your own sake, you will drown in a sea of anger, regret and resentment.

Standing up, after an entire lifetime of being kept down is the hardest thing to do.

But it is worth it.


Sunday, November 22, 2015

Nothing without a fight

Some things in life arrive smoothly and without much fuss. Other things come when you least expect it and bring either trouble or fortune.

Then there's those situations in life that you have to work towards, those experiences that stretch you and pull you apart, that make you feel as if you're going crazy.  You may work towards your goal and then it falls flat, you don't get what you thought you deserve. Even worse, someone else gets 'it' sooner and without much work and gratitude.

And the hardest thing for you to do is accept that your path is a different one, and perhaps your reward is just around the corner.

The real lesson is in the journey, not the destination.

But, it's always good to have a destination in mind.

Life is a funny thing, it usually balances out when you least expect it.

But it's always worth the fight.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Moths

We have a mini-moth infestation of sorts.

It seems to be mating season, right inside our pantry cupboard - the bedroom? Pasta and rice of course.

In the process of throwing out stuff that we didn't even know existed in the pantry shelf, we again discover so many unused things that we haven't used in eons.

How did it get there? why is it there? Empty bottles, old seasonings, cake mixes, etc.

We've started putting things to give away in bags and some stuff we leave on our wall. I'm sure the neighbours think we have lost it by now.

The amount of clothes we've given away, the amount of bottles we've recycled, it's crazy.

Makes you wonder, had we not sold, we would've lived with all this unwanted stuff forever.

We really accumulate too many things in this life.




Sunday, November 8, 2015

Unwitttingly diving in the deep end

So in this on-going saga (I'm calling it a saga) about our house move, we're learning the rules the hard way -

- Please check out the house throughly before buying, i.e. go through ALL the rooms, open ALL the cupboards, visit the house at least twice and walk through thoroughly, check the floors, the tiling
- Get a proper valuation BEFORE making an offer
- Take a general contractor to the house to see what might need doing BEFORE making an offer
- Inspect the roof and electricity (the latter is good in this place, NOT the former)
- Check the plumbing, inspect the ceiling for leaks
- Talk to the neighbours about possible natural disasters, safety, crime, traffic (flooding, earthquake)

Of course, you're probably guessing by now that we didn't do most of these things until it was too late, and now we are learning the hard way.

We dove in the deep end first. Seems to the story of my family's life. We always learn by doing, even if it means making terrible mistakes.

My only silver-lining of hope is that when the house is renovated, we will have a very nice, fairly modern home on a quiet street.

And that little peace of mine may be worth all the expense.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Almost all packed up and nowhere to go

If it there was ever a JOINT POP song I thoroughly miss hearing whenever they play live is 'Nice Shirt'. I was addicted to that song. There was a line in it where Gary Hector would say rather casually  'Now I'm all dressed up and nowhere to go.'

Oh! how I loved that line. I always scream for that song whenever they gig out, but they don't perform it, they haven't since 1999. Ah! those were the days.

But now here, back on the home front, we're almost packed up our home, and now we can't move. Ha! isn't life funny. We're all packed up and nowhere to go.

We've sold our home of almost 50 years and bought another house. And we foolishly thought that after the previous owners had moved out, that we'd move right in. But we forgot to cater for renovations.

And now that our new home is empty, we see where we can change a few things and there are repairs needed, especially to the roof. That's the thing when buying a home, you always inherit the previously unattended repairs. That's just how it is in the real estate biz.

So here we are, almost packed up and unable to move for a bit till the new place is fixed up, might take a few months. And it's a bit overwhelming - renovations, all these unforeseen expenses when moving houses. It's definitely an experience. Perhaps we'll look back on all of this in a few months time and laugh.

But one thing has occurred to me since most of our belongings - clothes, bed sheets, cutlery and pots are packed up in boxes.

How much of this stuff do we really need to exist comfortably?

Probably not much.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Wasting my time

Recently over the last few years I've felt that I am wasting my time teaching, that there are few, if any of the kids I teach who truly respect what I do.

Sure, I have the ones who take lessons from me for years, making a certain amount of limited progress.

I have those who stop for no reason when they have such great potential. There's the students who disappear with no explanation (with unpaid fees as well) and there are those who cancel class without 24-hours notice (my only rule regarding lessons).

Then there was the little boy at one the two schools I teach who called me a 'witch' two weeks ago because my finger nails are long (I play classical guitar you see) for we classical men need long nails for this type of music. The little child is too young to know or understand that, I'm fully aware of his age, but still, his words only make me feel more certain that I am wasting my time.

It's like a gourmet chef who can only get a job flipping burgers at McDonald's where's he's told that's what the customers want.

No saying I'm a gourmet chef, or that I'm the greatest guitarist and teacher ever.

You see, the problem is this -

Most of my students only want to learn songs, no theory, no technique.

When I ask them what they would like to learn they mostly reply "I dunno, can't you recommend something?"

When I reply "classical guitar and theory", I get a confused look staring back at me.

I don't know if it's a Trinidadian thing, I don't know if it's an age thing, I have no clue if it's just the era we live in where everything must be attained 'now, now, now'. I don't know, but it's like a general malaise in the education field, especially with music.

Without a testing system students have no zeal to learn just for the sake of further the mind.

No, that seems pointless to them.

I only have one student who is my saving grace. And he's a 62-year-old retiree, he's picking his own pieces in addition to studying from a book, he wants lessons twice a week. He says he's making up for lost time when he first stopped playing.

He motivates me to keep going.

But honestly, if I could be unashamedly true with myself and the rest of my students, both privately and at both schools that I teach at right now, I would only have one thing to say to them all and that's this -

'YOU ARE WASTING MY TIME'

Sunday, October 11, 2015

October

This month feels like four months jammed into one. Many things are happening, too many at the same time.

I took on the gargantuan task of organizing my very first guitar concert with four other guitarists, and a young tenor. This will take place on Sunday, October 18th at Church of the Assumption. It was a monumental challenge, having to arrange so many aspects of the show, coordinate all the different people involved - lights, sound, bar, musicians. Then there was trying to get sponsorship which did not work out so well. Add to that trying to push ticket sales and I can honestly say that booking a gig is a piece of cake as compared to organizing a concert of your very own. It's going to be a good show, we've been rehearsing since August, but has it been a tiring and challenging experience.

Right after that, we move house, October 28th which also happens to the be the anniversary of my Dad's death. What a weird thing to say, what a strange thing to have to live with - someone's death. And packing up after living an entire life in this house is no easy task. But I am looking forward to building new memories in a new neighbourhood. There's some things you can't change, and the fact is that St. James has become a dump, a mechanics' haven and not a single government authority cares about the residents who are still living here enough to enforce the law or proper zoning. Welcome to Trinidad I guess.

Packing up, throwing out and unpacking is very time consuming, it's refreshing and sad at the same time. I'll be glad when November arrives.

I do have a little ray of sunshine, well, it's a big one actually. For the first time in five years, I've found someone. I'm in-love again and it's a great feeling, and she has come into my life at the right time, when all around me is change and chaos. She is my little piece of serenity and joy.

Peace and happiness in the midst of all these life changes is a good thing to have.

This story is unfolding as we all go along our merry little way.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Morning, morning but evening and goodnight

In Trinidad, most strangers in the neighbourhood and all offices throughout the country tell you 'Good Morning', it's something that hasn't changed much over the years here and for that I'm grateful.

Most in fact will tell you 'Morning, morning' to which most people will also reply 'Morning, morning'.

Why it's said twice is beyond me.

But what's even more peculiar is that this is not continued for other salutations such as 'Afternoon', 'Evening' and 'Goodnight'. There's only one of each.

But why two 'Mornings'?

It is one of the few peculiar things of our culture that I really enjoy.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Clearing the skeletons and giving them a name

So in light of us moving and selling (even though we don't know where we're going to), we've been sitting down and talking as a family about certain things in the past, this house, the neighbourhood and what it's deteriorated to and just everything that's happened over decades living here.

In airing out our fears about the sale, this house and our family history we finally came to an understanding - my Mom, my sis and I and it was a very good thing. Finally we understood what we each wanted from selling and moving, and finally after months of talking and debating, we had some level of peace of mind.

And it's ridiculous the stuff that we're finding that's not been used for decades, stuff that we're just giving away. It's amazing what one family can accumulate over 50 years.

We're the only family that ever lived in this house, built in 1966 and now we're leaving because our neighbourhood (St. James) became 'mechanics-ville' over a few years ago and now I have to haggle to get in and out of my driveway daily. And this country being how it is, appealing to the authorities to get proper zoning and help is like trying to get pork to taste like fish. Absolutely pointless.

So forget that idea, if you can't change your neighbours' way of thinking then you got to change your neighbourhood.

It has not been easy, this sale. For one we haven't found a house that we liked, after viewing ten properties for sale and rent. Then desperation set in on my part. Now, we're almost at the point where we've run out of time, the sale will close and we may have to rent back our own house but, in the space of one week, we made two offers on two separate houses. One we really like, the other one we were rejected in a bidding war.

The joke with the one we like is this -we can't afford it, we've offered way below the asking price.

So now is a time for a miracle.

But this entire process has been a very interesting one and a real test of faith and patience.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Aware

Are you aware? Do you feel when things shift in your personal atmosphere or are you asleep?

Clueless?

I've heard there's varying degrees of awareness, that most of us are still asleep. Some of us are waking up, others are fully cognizant of what they're doing and what impact their words and actions have on themselves and others.

And yet others have no clue at all that any of this 'mindful stuff' even exists. Everything is completely out of control for them and they're just reacting to it all.

I'd like to think that I'm somewhere on the 'upper-in-between' level.

Not quite there yet, still a bit reactionary but better at keeping things together.

I don't really meditate that much, I often fall asleep you see while that's happening. But, what I have been doing is observing more, biting my tongue in most cases unless it is absolutely necessary to say something. Observing my reactions and questioning why do I 'do that'? And so far it's been a very interesting discovery.

I believe when you show people what irks you, then they only do that very thing even more to annoy you. It's the messed up part of human nature that I will never understand, that sadistic part in all of us that gets a kick out of hurting someone.

It's all ego you see. When my ego is hurt, I will defend myself at all costs, even if it means hurting you in return.

But I've also realized something about myself - whenever I'm hurt or offended I cower inside, I retreat. In the past I would just stay there, nowadays I reflect and see what's hurting me and then I try my best to let it go.

If it's a friend who has said something unkind then I leave them alone for a bit. If it's an uncomfortable situation I just let it be for a while. I find other things to occupy my time, I'm quite good at finding stuff to do. I think everyone should be aware of how their words and actions impact on people. In doing so, more often that not the situation rectifies itself. In some cases, the wrong party realizes their mistakes and apologizes.

So I do think that we all can make an effort to be more aware of how our actions and words affect those around us. It's not impossible, for some that is.

For many unfortunately, I don't that will ever happen. Most people have a clueless, expectant attitude that it's their right to be blunt, sarcastic and abrasive.

To me however, that could never be right.

I believe in diplomacy.

Something unfortunately, many people including some of my friends, lack.


Sunday, July 5, 2015

Fear

Fear.

It has kept you in line for decades. You have questioned every move out of fear.

It is the picture frame through which you stare.

You make every decision with fear as your guide and council.

An entire lifetime of fear and the anxiety of fear.

A whole life of towing the line, always being the good daughter. Always being in the shadow of your sibling.

Never expressing your emotions to anyone.

An entire lifetime of being stuck in the middle of your mother and your husband hating each other.

Ignoring it and sweeping it all under the carpet to get the chores of the house done.

The house and responsibilities became your prison. And now, it's all you know.

Never questioning why to see if perhaps your way of thinking is wrong, that maybe there's another truth, not the one that you are telling yourself. Maybe there is in fact a more balanced truth, one that is closer to reality.

But you can't see it, it's too late.

Anxiety and fear dine with you at every meal, it kisses you goodnight and wakes with you in the morning.

Fear is all you know.

And if it is one thing that I have recently learnt from all of this, is that I will not live in fear.






Friday, June 19, 2015

Don't believe that inner voice

I have this voice in my head.

It says to me many things about my guitar playing like - 'why even bother to try, you'll never get better at playing guitar, you'll never master the harder techniques, you'll never be a faster guitar player, you're just not cut out to be great, you're mediocre at best, you suck.'

Where love is concerned this voice tells me - 'you know YOU have a lot of issues to deal with so best to stay single, you'll never find someone, you will be single the rest of your life, the kind of person you're looking for doesn't exist.'

Regarding my career, this voice in my head says - 'You'll never get anywhere, your music is too weird, only a handful of friends say they 'like' your music, you're wasting your time, best to quit and get a regular job.'

I hear this voice all the time, the voice of fear and doom, of safety and comfort.

And you know what? I'm starting to ignore this voice, and continue on in every area, even if I'm lying to myself to get through.

And you know what else?

By Jove it's working. Small improvements are clearing the pollution in my head.

I'm now seeing it, the voice has been lying all along and I'm finding out the real truth.

Never give up.

No matter what.


Monday, June 8, 2015

Champions League 6/6/2015 - Juve vs Barca

It's their second Treble, no other European team in history has ever won two Trebles. For Barca, they've won La Liga, the Copa del Rey and now the Champions League all in one year - AGAIN! First in 2009 with Pep Guardiola and now in 2015 with Luis Enrique. Both former Barca players from the same era, both friends.

Not only was this final special as it had my two favourite teams (although I'm a bit more partial to Barca but I am a huge fan of Andrea Pirlo and Juve) but also because both teams were on a domestic Double looking for their own European Treble.

It was historic for both teams, both first time managers at each club - Massimiliano Allegri and Luis Enrique. Both seem like really decent guys who know a lot about football. I was ecstatic that Juve had ousted Real Madrid (although a Clasico final would've been magnificent but only if Barca had routed Real in the end), and I was overjoyed that Barca had beat Bayern to get to the final.

Now the final itself came and started, and Barca took the lead after four minutes, and then the match exploded with pace, from one end of the pitch to the other. Both teams playing attacking football. Oh, it was beautiful, absolutely mesmerizing.

I hate defensive football where sides 'park the bus' (a few EPL teams will come to mind here), and this was not that at all.

This was full-on war. Fire, speed and guts. Ebb and Flow. At certain points in the first half I thought Barca would have three more goals, but Gigi Buffon did a great job saving his team. In the second half I thought Juve were the better side for well over 15 minutes, they played with so much gusto. After they equalized in the 55th minute with Morata's goal, I thought they were going for the jugular and they did, but no luck.

Luck however swung back Barca's way with Leo Messi and Luis Suarez getting the winning goal in the 68th minute. Messi is a magician and Suarez is a fighter who seizes opportunity, a real asset to the team this season. Neymar sealed the deal in the 97th minute and then it was smiles and jubilation for Barca and tears for Juve.

I was really happy for Barca but I was also sad for Juve. But I guess both teams can't win.

It was well fought final, one with top class performances on display. I remember my disappointment when Dortmund ran out of steam against Bayern in 2013, and I recall my disbelief when Atletico choked in last year's final against their wealthier rivals Real, it was heartbreaking for them seeing as there were only two minutes left in injury time, but it wasn't a well played final, it looked sloppy at best.

But not this year. This year's final between two great teams - Juve and Barca, was just absolutely brilliant.

Barca was the better team, the stronger team with an unstoppable front three in Messi, Suarez and Neymar. Their midfield dictated the game and their defenses held, as they did so many other times this season.

Juve were strong and fast, but Barca held on, and were better in the end when it counted.

This was a great final.

One that I will remember for years to come.

Thanks guys.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Tapes

Every weekend I go through various sections of the house to see what we are keeping and what we're throwing out. I just try to do a few hours at a time. How do you decide what to get rid of after living in a house since 1966?

Well, I wasn't alive in '66 but my mom was. In light of the fact that we sold our house and we're supposed to be out of here in July, we have the gargantuan task of evaluating and downsizing our personal possessions.

It's amazing the stuff you accumulate over a lifetime, stuff you forget and shove in a cupboard for 'safe-keeping'.

This evening, I went through cassette tapes. I've tossed out hundreds, but not before ensuring that I have those songs on mp3 format (now all in my iTunes folder), or that I will buy that music later on (I hate downloading for free, I just can't do that to another musician), there's also so many songs or artists that I only liked for a time but haven't listened to in years.

But when I think about all those tapes, spanning from the early 1980's to late 1990's, I must of spent hundreds of hours making my own mix tapes.

It was time well spent listening to music.

That music shaped my life.

Monday, May 25, 2015

25 days after the A - Z challenge

The A - Z challenge is over, since May 1st and I've only now gotten a chance to blog.

I had an entire routine everyday for a month, and when it was over I felt a bit out of whack, but I quickly filled the time with practicing guitar more.

I've been writing recently for a couple publications, music related stuff which has been fun and challenging.

Writing has become cathartic for me, it helps me clear my head, and once I put things on paper or on the screen as the case maybe I'm able to move onto something else.

I will make an earnest effort to be back here more often.

Thank you blogging challenge.

I can't wait for 2016.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Zan - the final post for the A to Z Challenge

So it's a made-up word.

It was 1990, the height of Warhead's short career, Corey Wallace had made up this word - 'Zan'. Out of nowhere.

It really stood for anything, and we started using it in sentences - it was a noun, verb, adverb, pronoun, present participle, you name it.

Zan was it. A versatile word that fit every occasion.

And best of all, it was all ours.

Only we knew what it meant. It was code. Our code.

Andrew Moffat, Nick Nathaniel, Mark Dopson, Corey Wallace and myself - Cesco Emmanuel.

We were so young and naive, with no clue what life held in store, but we were playing heavy music, sometimes we loved it, sometimes we hated it. We were seeing other parts of the country. We played in some really messed up hell holes, hardly any money, terrible sound, one occasion I got electrocuted while performing.

But hey, we had fun didn't we?

Yes indeed, we zanned it.

Those were the days.

I hope to never forget those great, young, innocent 'Warhead' times.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Yawning, Yapping and You

You know Trinis are a special breed of people that love to tell you about yourself, even when it's not their place. Even when it's not true.

Like the time when I lost weight, everyone had to tell me 'Hey you not looking good you know, you looking too skinny, are you sick?'

Trinis have no cover for their mouth and they don't really care.

Sometimes when I'm out, I yawn and almost every time without fail, I get a comment about how I'm always tired - "oh gosh, yuh just came out, how you yawning already?"

So I try to take it in stride, because if I didn't, I'd be upset and annoyed all the time.

Trinis, if they don't make you stronger, they'll will insult you to death (albeit in a funny way).

And that is just how we're all built here - boldface and blunt, always giving someone 'fatigue', not much in the way of political correctness, and lately it seems that common sense is losing ground here as well.

Trinis - we love to talk, we can spend hours just out on a street corner talking rubbish.

And we always, always tell you how we feel, or what we think of everything, we're all experts here, whether you want to hear it or not, whether it's true or not.

And most sentences start with "You need to do this" or "why don't you try this?"

Trinis love to give unsolicited advice. I get it all the time from my 'friends'.

But most of the time, what I would like to say is "Why don't you mind your own damn business?"

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Xanadu by RUSH

It started with guitar lines that faded in an out, whether Alex used a volume pedal or just turned his volume knob on and off on his guitar to make those notes swell and die quickly, I'm not sure.

It was haunting, sad at first, but it had this epic, nostalgia feel to it, you could tell something big was about to happen. The first few notes caught my ear and I was forever hooked on that song.

Then it built, slowly and softly till the entire band came in all at once, like an outburst of sound, Alex repeating this simple motif high up on the fretboard but it was so powerful. It just exploded out of nowhere.

Then there was a quiet lull, as if waiting for time to cease.

Soon Peart rolled in with this crazy drum arrangement and the bass line was just truly infectious, the song just grooved along, it almost felt like an instrumental.

The chords and melody line that followed in the verse had me lapping it all up like a starving dog.

By the time the end guitar solo came in I was confused and lost as to what part of the song I loved more.

It would remain one of my favourite RUSH songs of all time.

For their 30th anniversary tour, they played a little part of it and I was in heaven, for those two minutes.

Such a masterpiece, it's a real shame they don't play it more often.

So much great music over a career spanning almost 40 years.

And I liked every era of their music - the early stuff with just guitar, bass and drums; the keyboard era in the 80s, and the early 90s return to their raw sound.

There's just so many great songs to choose from.

One of Canada's greatest bands of all time, and one the most amazing, technically proficient power trios that ever existed.

RUSH - a musicians' band.

My favourite band of all time. A band I saw three times.

I own most of their albums, a few t-shirts, a tour book, two DVDs, and hundreds of songs. I've learnt many of their songs, I've changed my guitar tunings for their earlier songs.

They're a cult band, and they're still going strong, almost 40 years later.

Alex Lifeson, Geddy Lee and Neil Peart.

Three guys that made and still continue to make some amazing music unapologetically.




Monday, April 27, 2015

Will you come with me, I'm taking a little trip

Hey I'm going away for a while, don't know when I'll be back. Do you want to come? You only need a backpack - three clean pairs of socks, a few underwear, deodorant, some t-shirts, two pairs of jeans, two good pairs of shoes and an iPod.

That's it.

Oh, and a willingness to go on an adventure.

Where are we going? I have no set plans but it should be fun.

Let's start off in New Zealand, and then head to Australia.

Have you ever been to British Columbia? I've never been to the East Coast of Canada, I hear it's lovely.

I'd like to see more of Scotland, I only passed through for one day. Ireland is a must, I have some family ancestry from those two places. Maybe I have a long lost cousin somewhere there.

My great grandmother was Madeira, so we can go to Portugal for a bit.

And we will end in Spain, especially Barcelona.

Let's go to a football match at the Camp Nou, let's go see Barca play.

Yes?

When can you leave?

I'll call you tomorrow to see if you're packed and ready to go.

Let's get out of here.

See the world.

Just you and me.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Van Halen

David Lee Roth will always be 'the' frontman. Sammy Hagar did a decent job, but it just wasn't the same. I had copies of '5150' and 'OU812' and 'F.U.C.K', some decent songs there, but nowhere near what came before.

Van Halen was just raunchy, rocking band with a singer who sounded like he didn't care and was having a good time doing just that. A wild man. A ladies man. A party animal. David Lee Roth.

Sammy Hagar? Well.

It just was not the Van Halen we knew. It was a different band, sort of sounding like VH, but with a different lead singer, and then the tone and writing style changed. But honestly, how you can ever get better than '1984'? With songs like 'Top Jimmy', 'Drop dead legs', I mean c'mon?

Then came the strange period with Extreme's singer - Gary Cherone, biggest mistake.

It's like losing your favourite dog and having your parents tell you they'll get you another dog.

The only guy who was replaceable, sorry to say was Michael Anthony. But not Roth, as crazy as he is, and you can't replace Eddie or Alex.

My favourite album is actually 'Diver Down' believe it or not, there's a song - 'Secrets' that I just love how the clean guitar sound just carries the whole tune, the bass has a solid pumping beat with the drums and then Eddie rips in with a signature solo. So what? he wasn't as fast as all the speed demons out there, but he has something most guys don't - a sense of melody and placing the right notes at the right time. His tone and technique are easily identified. How many guitar shredders can you hear and not tell the difference? I put Eddie Van Halen about the whole lot of them.

Forever in the history books of music, Van Halen will be one of those epic bands that made great music and had fun doing it.

Thanks guys.

Friday, April 24, 2015

U2

Their early stuff was the best, now they just sound like a band that has lost the zeal and the fire to write good music.

Bono still has a great voice, but their earlier albums - 'Boy', 'War', 'October', 'Unforgettable Fire', 'Joshua Tree' and to a lesser extent 'Achtung Baby' will always be my favourites.

And my God can he sing. Bono. A real frontman. When he reaches those high notes, it's loaded with emotion and feeling.

Don't get me wrong, I still like hearing their later stuff, but it is just 'ok', not great.

Great was in the mid-80s. Then it just became ok afterwards.

It's not their fault really, it happens to almost every artist/band that we know, over the course of their career they will lose their spark, some bands find it back, others don't.

Lyrically, I think Bono is still a genius and the Edge's guitar tone defined an entire generation of guitar players. And they have always been innovative in their writing and their sound, so kudos to them.

I danced many a night away drunk to 'Electrical Storm'.

But with songs like 'Bad', 'Wild Horses', 'Red Hill Mining Town' and 'Unforgettable Fire', it's hard to top that.

Maybe they just couldn't. Maybe they didn't want to anyway.

All I can hear in my head when I think of them are these words -

'And if the mountain should crumble, or disappear into the sea, not a tea, nor not I'

Thanks guys for bringing me such great music in my youth.




Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Soundgarden

I played all their albums on cassette when they broke up in 1997, drove my mother nuts.

When they got back together in 2011, I pulled out all their CDs and blasted it to high hell. I saw them that summer at the Molsen Amphitheatre in Toronto.

What Joy! A teenager's dream lived. My heroes.

I was really a metal kid, but the first time I heard Soundgarden, I became a changed man.

They were, and will always remain the loudest band I've ever seen and heard in my entire life. It wasn't a volume thing, it was a 'sound' thing. It's hard to describe, but it felt like a wall of sound - ambient at times, dissonant, all sort of feedback from every direction but yet it was groovy and so, so dark.

It wasn't the tightest show, they weren't the tightest band. But still. They have this thing to them. They always did to me. This thing.

When 'King Animal' came out in 2012, I was the happiest guy alive.

Finally Chris Cornell, Matt Cameron, Ben Sheppard and Kim Thayil were back where they belonged - together.

Hallelujah! Praise Seattle. Thank God for feedback.

I would honestly say that to me they stand apart from the rest of the grunge/alternative bands that came out of the Seattle scene in the late 80s/early 90s.

Oh sure there was the great Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains, Mudhoney and Screaming Trees as well as a few others that made a name for themselves.

Each band good at what they did, each with their own sound.

That was one great thing about the Seattle scene in its' infancy.

And nowadays, Pearl Jam is still busy as hell putting out great music that's fairly accessible and touring non-stop, and Alice in Chains is having a go with a new lead singer since Layne Staley's death, but we all know it's not the same really, but they do deserve a 'Bravo!' for keeping it going and Jerry Cantrell is an excellent songwriter.

But Soundgarden to me had this dark, gloomy, slow groove that could just really have you beside yourself.

And their bizarre tunings. It's not just a drop 'D' or a drop 'C' on the 6th string while the rest of the guitar was in standard, now way, uh-uh. These guys will tune an entire guitar to the note 'E', just listen to 'Mind Riot' - a brilliant song with this haunting drone in the background.

So without further ado, here's a sample of some of my other favourites:

Badmotorfinger: 'Slaves and Bulldozers', 'Searching with my good eye closed', 'Holy Water', 'New Damage'

Superunknown: 'Mailman', 'Superunknown', 'Head down', 'Limo Wreck', 'The day I tried to live' and '4th of July'.

All those songs and more I killed repeatedly on my cassette deck back in the day.

And the tone of the guitars played by Thayil and Cornell, was so reminiscent of early Sabbath, it was a welcomed change from all the bright metal sounding guitars of the 80s. Not Soundgarden, their tone was stink and deep.

I just couldn't believe how they composed music. The guitars played these very uncomplicated melody lines that seemed perfectly placed to make each song seem darker, meaner, sludgier. The rhythm wasn't chunky but it had this chugging sort of feel. And Chris Cornell is one of the best singers of all time, when he screams my pores raise. I can still listen to the breakdown in 'Limo Wreck' and get goosebumps. Ben Sheppard's bass parts are so damn nasty and groovy and to top it off he's a damn good songwriter, and Matt Cameron is a phenomenal, intelligent drummer and a brilliant songwriter as well.

It's a killer combination really.

And when I got my hands on their digital download that very first day 'King Animal' was available, once more I smiled and shook my head when I heard 'Blood on the valley floor'.

Ah yes, my boys are back in business.


Tuesday, April 21, 2015

The 'Road' to hell is paved with good intentions

I always loved this saying, not that I think I'm going to hell, I just always thought it meant that sometimes you try to do good and sometimes it backfires.

Like the day I went to City Hall a few weeks ago and attempted to help by holding the door open for a lady, after all she seemed to have trouble pulling the door open herself.

So I grabbed the door and pulled it harder, not realizing that one of her fingers was still on the door handle, and poor thing she nearly went flying off in the direction of the door.

"Hmm, yuh nearly broke meh finger" she muttered under her breath.
"Yes, umm, sorry about that" I said.

And I quickly ran up the stairs hoping to not run into her again.

But my dear lady, I was only trying to help, honestly.

I do hope your finger is fine.

Sincerely,

Me.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Quaint & Quirky

Do your own thing. Dress your own style. March to the beat of your own drum.

Be quaint, be quirky, callitwhatyouwant, who cares what others think, the only person who will stay with you your whole life is you.

Everyone should mind their own damn business anyway. Just don't do it to garner attention to yourself. Never crave attention. That's a false idol, and besides someone's always going to come after you who will be cuter, faster and better than you. That's just how life is.

Be you, be authentic for all the right reasons.

Be humble. Make your own waves quietly.

For the sake of peace, try as much as possible to agree with everyone on the outside, never pick a fight but on the inside do what's right for you. Don't waste your breath trying to change people or what they think of you. Everyone's entitled to their opinion, even if it's wrong.

Your opinion may also be wrong. Know when to say sorry.

Save your energy for the more important stuff.

Plot your course of action, do a little bit at a time. Plan, plan, plan. Do a little something everyday.

Do something exquisite with your life.

Don't listen to what others have planned for you. You make yourself happy first, everyone else is doing just that.

You know who you are.

It resonates in the deepest part of your soul. Listen to that voice everyday.

If you're quirky, you're quirky. Big fat hairy deal.

Live it and love it.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Piece of mind


It was the summer of '86 and I had just gotten a copy of 'Piece of Mind' by Iron Maiden. It was the era of cassette tapes. I was so excited, it was my first original cassette tape by my favourite heavy metal band. Actually it was the only metal band I was listening to at the time, and the album actually came out in 1983, so I was a bit late.
.

The drums had a big sound, the bass was rolling and the guitars were delicately intertwined, the tone was rugged but melodic and the vocals were just perfect for that era of metal. It was raw as I could get at the time.

Messrs McBrain, Harris, Smith, Murray and Dickinson were my first Rock Gods. I got their posters, hung it up in my room. Scared the living daylights out of my parents.

I started playing air guitar in my room, bought a real guitar soon enough. I swore Adrain Smith and Dave Murray were the best guitarists ever.

Unfortunately, I didn't know that tapes warp and stretch when played too much.

I hit rewind and fast forward so much between songs like 'Where Eagles dare', 'Die with your boots on', 'Sun and Steel' and my favourite 'To Tame a land', that eventually the tape just gave up.

'To Tame a land' was a haunting number, based on an eastern scale. That tune had such great dynamics and a major breakdown towards the middle of the song that set the stage for a huge crescendo and interchanging guitar solo section between Smith and Murray. The song finally climaxed with a twin lead until it ended how it started, with a lead melodic line over clean tone guitars. I didn't understand it all at the time, how it was written, all those intricacies. I just knew that I liked it a lot.

But.

Some 30 odd years later, I can still listen to that album on my iPod and appreciate what Iron Maiden created so long ago.

Not only as a fan, but as a musician as well. Those guys knew what they were doing and they did a damn good job of it.

I wonder how many pop stars or 'bands' from this modern generation of 'music' will have that sort of effect and staying power 30 years from now?

Miley Cyrus? Beyonce? Jay-Z? Kanye? One Direction? The list can go on and on.

I seriously doubt it.


Friday, April 17, 2015

Opiate of the masses

Endless social and economic inequality.

Government corruption - over budgeting, tampering with contracts, tribal politics, racism and class prejudice.

Garbage everywhere, crumbling buildings, dilapidated hospitals.

Unsafe schools, unsafe roads, poor drainage. Poor sanitation.

People without money dying in public hospitals, being turned away by the private 'nursing homes'.

Sinfully rich doctors, lawyers, businessmen, politicians and public figures.

No accountability.

Government MP's who don't and won't respond to the needs of their people, the same people that put them in charge.

The more things seem to change, the worse it perpetuates the same.

Nepotism, narcissism, friends. Blatantly obvious with all their corrupt dealings, but who cares? No one gets caught.

Cutting corners, cutting deals, cut your losses.

Destroy any and all buildings of heritage value, build a car park instead.

Steal a car, steal money, steal other people's songs to use as your own.

Catch no criminals but demand a pay increase, hold the country to ransom by staging multiple road blocks until your demands are met.

An ego-centric TV host who thinks he's a politician and a policeman, pretending to solve crime.

All of this and more.

Teenage pregnancies, multiple fathers.

Inefficient public services.

Hostile postal workers. Corrupt licensing officers.

Drugs. Guns.

All covered up by two days of feting in the streets and the smearing of paint on other people's houses.

Mash up 'd' place. Mash it up.

Wine, grind and jam all day prior to Ash Wednesday, maybe get pregnant. Carnival babies are a normal thing.

Kids never knowing their fathers.

You pay $5000 and more for a costume that won't even last for two days. Take out a carnival loan, repay every year.

Go to a different fete every week in a different outfit, all paid for by you guessed it - a carnival loan.

Carnival - the opiate of the masses in Trinidad.

I actually don't have a problem with Carnival itself, at least what it used to mean years ago, although I do find most soca and chutney songs really garbage, and most costumes are just recycled ideas year after year.  But I just wish that as a country and as a people we could try to fix our social and economic issues, rather than just covering it all up and accepting every bit of nonsense that we have to tolerate and forget about it whenever Carnival comes around.

Carnival is not the be all and end all of our existence as Trinidadians and I wish we could just move from beyond that way of thinking.

But sadly, I don't think it will ever happen.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

You're a 'Nice Guy'

Sam:  You're a nice guy Joe
Joe:    Thanks Sam, but nice guys finish last
Sam:  Yea but the jerks always get divorced.
Joe:    Ha!
Sam:  What exactly do you like about her?
Joe:    She's a real person, she's been through her fair share of personal loss, like me. She's survived.
Sam:  So, that's it?
Joe:    Well, no, she has a good heart, you can tell she's a downright good person, and she's beautiful, I'm enchanted by every little detail about her.
Sam:  Wow! All that huh?
Joe:    Yup.
Sam:  You even had me getting a lil teary-eyed there
Joe:    Ha, thanks Sam, you're a good guy too you know
Sam:  Who me? Nah, I'm a nomad, a loner, I don't need love
Joe:    How long are you gonna keep telling yourself that?
Sam:  What? I don't know what you're talking about
Joe:    Uh-huh, yeah right, well the sooner you acknowledge what you are, the better
Sam:  Huh?
Joe:    It's a noble thing to be a nice guy
Sam:  Yeah but women view niceness as weakness, and that's the problem
Joe:    Maybe you've just been meeting the wrong women?
Sam:  Yea, maybe.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Moving on

We've sold our family house and now we must leave the only place we've known all our lives.

Growing up here was a dream almost, we lived on a quiet street and rode our bikes all around the place.

Over the decades, things started to change on our street and even though we tried to ignore it at first there came a point where we just couldn't anymore.

Our neighbourhood is not the same, hasn't been for years. What was once a residential area became semi-commercial. Without any warning.

And even though I have written relevant government authorities over the years, no one can tell me what's the proper zoning mandate for St. James. No one is interested in establishing proper laws for residential and commercial property in Trinidad.

If you take a drive around St. James you will see a place that looks run down, unkempt, basically in ruins. The sad thing is that, no one really seems to care how decrepit St. James gets. There's garbage on the street next to dog faeces. There's the smell of stale urine everywhere. There's businesses next to houses, there's rum shops and food joints. It's a misguided place with no real order. It's falling apart in sections and that's just the way it's gonna stay.

And so, without warning, quiet, lovely, simple St. James became a dump. Not overnight, but gradually.

On my family's street alone, there's a roadside mechanic (directly opposite our house), a printer, a gym and an ice factory, all on one short side-street.

On that very street that I grew up on, a once peaceful place, there is now traffic, car fumes daily, running engines and without fail everyday there's always someone parked in front of our driveway.

Everyday.

That's why my family and I were left with no choice. We were forced to sell the only place we've ever called home.

This house was built in 1966. It's not the greatest, there's a few things that need repairs, but it's home.

And now we must leave here, because we cannot enjoy any peace, in our space, in our place.

We have no idea where we're going, so far we haven't found a suitable place that we can afford.

But, one thing is for sure, we have to move.

Life is a strange thing, if you refuse to move even in the face of uncomfortable circumstances, then life will force you to move.

We got an offer and we accepted.

What happens next, is anyone's guess.

But I have to believe that there's someplace out there that's perfect for my family.

I have to hope that we'll find a new home.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Love - a proper definition

It's not a feeling.

Oh sure, it might start out by liking someone so much that you convince yourself that it must be love.

But it's not.

It's not how often you think of that person during the day, or how much your lives become entwined or how much you miss them when they're not around.

That's infatuation which turns into puppy love eventually. That's the honeymoon version of love, what Hollywood will have us believe.

All that will soon fade as the years frought with trials and struggles begin.

Then and only then will the real version of love truly show itself.

And love is a choice to the do the best for that other person, in spite of everything.

In spite of what you feel.

In spite of all the hurt, all the wrong, the anger, ego and false pretence. Everything that ever will go wrong in a relationship over the course of time, love will win in the end every time.

And in spite of all that, you have to do the right thing, for the other person.

It is not easy, not easy at all. It might break you, it might consume you.

It will test everything you know about yourself. It will force you to question what you think you know of 'love'.

But in the end.

You, I, we. We must do the right thing if we love someone.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Kites

Plastic and thin, shaped like an unusual triangle. A wooden spine with something resembling a tail at the end. Mine had a drawing of an eagle on it. I remember every week taking that plastic kite to the Queens Park Savannah, watching the wind take my eagle and push it up to the heavens.

The only thing that prevented my fragile piece of kite from breaking free and disappearing was the chord, the string, the cable, whatever it was called, wrapped around on a plastic stick with my hand clinging to it for dear life.

Sometimes it just floated up in the air, other times a strong breeze took the kite and it darted across the horizon. On a few occasions the breeze almost picked me up with the kite and took me away.

I remember every weekend. I remember me, mom, Cathy and you dad.

Sometimes we went for ice cream after.

We flew those kites till it was dusk.

I remember all those great times as a kid.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Jason Becker, Jimi Hendrix John Williams, John Mclaughlin, John Petrucci, Julien Bream and Django Reinhardt

Here's some of the guitar players whom I listen to, and their name just happens to start with 'J'

Jason Becker - I first heard of him when I was 16, he was part of the guitar duo Cacophony. He made a few solo albums before joining David Lee Roth, then he got diagnosed with ALS early in his 20s, given a few years to live. He's still alive, some 24 odd years later, and he still makes albums via computer software and sign language using his eyes. He's one of the most amazing guitarists I've ever heard in all my life. His soloing in songs like 'Concerto' and 'Speed Metal Symphony' is not only lightening fast, but technically impossible. His own solo work is reminiscent of a Baroque composer, albeit applied to an electric guitar player. An electric guitar player with blistering speed.

Jimi Hendrix - the only guitar player to play with complete abandon and disregard for whether he played a bad note or not, he just bent the hell out of it until the note made sense. Fearless. Way ahead of his time. Gone way too soon.

John Williams - Flawless. Speed and precision. A perfectionist who plays all the classics. Best rendition of Tarrega's 'Recuerdos de la Alhambra' and Barrios' 'La Catedral' I've ever heard. I can only dream to aspire to his level. I wonder how many hours a day does he practice?

John Mclaughlin - I'm not too sure what I like more, his earlier stuff with Mahavishnu Orchestra, his work with Shakti or his amazing acoustic improvisational live albums with De Lucia and Di Meola. His playing sounds so erratic at times, but yet it all makes sense. The first time I heard 'Vision is a naked sword' I thought this was complete and utter madness, it was scary. How did he write something so musically frightening?

John Petrucci - I had the joy of seeing Dream Theater live back in 2007 in Toronto. He made all his shredding and sweep picking look like nothing at all. As casual as eating a sandwich. And you can tell he takes his technique very seriously. Tone. Tone. Tone. A machine really. 'Under a glass moon' still remains one of my favourites.

Julien Bream - I just simple cannot stop listening to his rendition of Rodrigo's 'Tres Piezas Espanolas'. 'Zapateado" has me shaking my head in disbelief. Melodically, how did Rodrigo write these pieces Those three different pieces? And Bream executes each one to the point where I feel so excited that I can almost scream the guitar line. I must learn them. Might take me about ten years but it'll well worth it.

Django Reinhardt - Okay, okay, okay. So his name doesn't begin with 'J', but it sounds like 'Jango' doesn't it? How did he learn to play guitar with two fingers after his accident? That fast? And how in God's holy name did he think, play and execute that ridiculous run in 'Sweet Chorus'? It's not possible, completely disgusting and I can't help but laugh hysterically like a fool every time I hear it. I mean, what a lunatic!


Friday, April 10, 2015

Ignorance

This doesn't relate to everyone, but sadly it does relate to most people in Trinidad, regardless of creed, race and income/social status:

I don't care if I'm come across as ignorant.

It doesn't impact on me so I don't care. I will do what I want. I will drive how I want, not observing road signals. I will pullover when I want, hold up traffic on the road. I will blare my radio loud to deafen all who hear my music in my car.

I will spit where I want, on the roadside, on the pavement. I will throw my garbage out of the car window while I'm driving.

I'll piss on your wall when I'm drunk. I'll throw my litter over your fence as I pass by your street.

I'll fix my car on the open road, in front your driveway. I will run the car engine for a long, long time. I will park in front of your driveway.

I'll cuss in front of children.

I'll disregard other people's culture. I will insult my own history. I don't care where my musical heritage came from, I only want it loud and fast. I'll blatantly use music samples from other genres and claim it as my own for my beloved soca and chutney 'art form'. I will give nothing its' due credit.

I'll degrade women as objects.

I'll spray paint on your wall during J'ouvert, because it's fun and it doesn't bother me that it's damaging your property.

I will not treat my customers with courtesy and respect because I hate what I do so why should I be pleasant to people, it's just a job and to be honest, it doesn't pay much.

I will say and do what I want, no law will touch me, I am a law unto myself.

Because I just don't care.

I am a Trinidadian and I don't give an damn about my country or my fellow countryman.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Harbouring

Resentment builds like a wave, in the back of your mind, slowly and surely.

Subtly and dangerously. Poisoning your thoughts. Ruling your mind and body.

It will explode at the worst time, among friends of old, among family who have disappointed you over time.

Dwell on that very disappointment like a crutch, like a drug. You need to feel like a victim. You need to be angry at someone.

Time and time again those whom you love will hurt and let you down.

Maybe your standards are too high?

It will consume you like a virus. This hurt, this pain, this disappointment.

This very disease will dock in your soul.

If you agree with the feeling, then it will fester and grow, making deep roots in your being.

But, there is a way to win this inner war.

All you have to do is combat all of this with love, acceptance and forgiveness.

Let it be.

Time to let happiness dock in your harbour instead.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Gigs, gigs, gigs

I love playing shows. Even the ones where I'm exhausted. Just getting up on a stage is like a drug for me. I've played hundreds, maybe close to a thousand shows over the last ten years of my life.

But yet, it's only happened a few times, perhaps about four that I can truly remember, where there's this perfect synergy between band and audience.

Four times. From 1990 to present day.

These are those times: -

- Roxy Cinema, Trinidad (October 1990) - My first 'real' show with my thrash metal cover-band Warhead, at the end of our set, the crowd was screaming our name, I was 16. We played an encore. The band lasted another year before we called it a day. I thought my music career was over then. Little did I know it was just beginning.

- El Mocambo, Toronto, Canada (November 2008) - I played a solo acoustic show for a group of underprivileged migrant school children. They all wanted my autograph after. I've never experienced such gratitude, I was 34. They never heard my music before. Such honesty and appreciation.

- Womad Festival, London, England (July 2014) - Charlie Gillet Stage, 4pm show. The crowd was screaming for us (Kobo Town) in-between every song. They sang along to songs they never heard till that evening, I know this because we've never played at Womad before. It was the loudest and most appreciative audience we've ever played for, we signed autographs for almost an hour after, I was 40.

- Assumption Church, Trinidad (2001 - present) - The Saturday evening choir is sometimes a hit and miss, but every once in a while we get it right, and we play hymns the way they're meant to be played - reverent, with love and homage to God, and I can see the look on the parishioners, that they enjoy what we do, and for a brief moment, the church is filled with a sense of peace and love. God's peace perhaps.

Four times, over the space of 25 years.

Not bad. Not bad at all.


Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Famished and fervour (for the love of music)

Here's my attempt to explain music, at least how I feel about it.

Most days, when not practicing, my iPod or CD player is on constantly.

Maybe it's because I play guitar, and been in bands since 16.

I remember being a kid and listening to the Bee Gees in the family car, knowing every word to all their songs after a while.

This may sound strange, or arrogant even, but it's not intended to be.

I hear music differently to other people. I instantly start listening for the keys of songs/pieces, trying to figure out chord progressions.

I think of the phrasings in various bars, trying to chart out a score in my head sometimes. I look for patterns, hoping to figure out what's coming next.

I painstakingly go through every song of a discography numerous times to determine if it makes sense to me, and am I going to keep it. I listen to iTunes playlists over and over.

It may sound like madness, but I am trying to build a music library, a legacy almost, something to leave behind for my kids, whenever they do come into the picture.

Because God only knows, at the rate the pop market is churning out formulaic pop stars, someone's got to be documenting certain music genres and unknown artists for other people and hopefully my future kids to hear someday.

Before it's lost.

Monday, April 6, 2015

End of an era

My dad died last October.

I was 40 when he passed away. He died from a number of complications after rupturing his gallbladder. I told him goodbye and prayed and cried over him on that final morning. I didn't stay to see his final moment because I just couldn't bear the thought of seeing him go. It is something I will forever regret.

My life has not been the same. First the shock of it all, then all the changes and finally the emptiness of not having him around.

For the first time in my life, I feel like an adult. Sure sounds absurd doesn't it?

I'm 41 and I suddenly feel like an adult. I, all of a sudden feel the burden of responsibility.

Responsibilities that I never knew existed, because my dad took care of almost everything. He was that kind of guy. He put himself last, he did everything for his family, and I naively always took it for granted. I always appreciated what he did, I just didn't realize just how much work being man of the house entailed.

Not that I thought I was a kid all this time, every chance I got since the age of 18, I made sure to announce that I was a man to everyone I knew.

But I was foolishly thinking that my parents would always be around, to live my joys and sorrows with me, and I with them.

How wrong was I?

But still.

My safe haven of a life is finally over, at the age of 40.

I wonder how long it will take for life to return to some sort of 'normal' or some level of happiness? Or to even get accustomed to this?

For now, the happy part of my life, is on hold.

But I'm trying. I guess that's all I can do. But it's hard to admit it, that this era of my life is over.


Saturday, April 4, 2015

Depression

Battling depression is not as simple as just taking pills. It's not that easy to diagnose nor is it something casual to acknowledge. No one wants to know that they're being prescribed medication because of depression.

It's like being labelled with a curse or stigma, a certain taboo, an insurmountable illness.  An illness that can't be spotted, an illness with no real cure. Sometimes symptoms just abruptly appear, no warning, no preparation, no clear timeline to pinpoint where and when things started to go wrong.

It can lie dormant just waiting for the right combination of factors to trigger it - it could be a health threat, a financial collapse, death of a loved one, a harsh break-up. It could be any number of things.

And how do you get to the bottom of it? How do you not treat depression symptomatically? Like most if not all doctors who don't find the problem but just treat the symptoms with a pill. How do you avoid that pitfall?

How do you solve an invisible problem?

Like a vicious cycle, depression poisons the mind which in turn wrecks the body, and when you look at yourself in the mirror you feel even more depressed seeing yourself in this new, horrified way.

No one can really tell you how to prepare for depression, or how to deal with your own special case of it. No one can tell you how to cope helping a family member through their depression, even while you subtly feel depression settling into your bones.

It's contagious.

The hardest thing to do is to acknowledge it, and then living with it everyday, while trying any and everything to get out of it.

Talking is good. At the very least it alleviates any fear that you're going crazy.

Living with depression is a daily fight, a fight to keep one's head above water.

Support helps.

And never, ever giving up.


Friday, April 3, 2015

Cold

Cold. Hearted. Stone.

No compassion. Mindless. Selfish. Self-centered. Shallow.

Dishonest. Undependable. Lies and half-truths.

Voicemail. Unanswered emails. Lack of manners.

Run. Cowardly avoiding.

The modern world of hiding behind emails and text messages.

It's not what you say, it's what's left unsaid.

Read between the unspoken lines.

The selfish world of career and me, me, me.

Flaky women.

Lying Men.

Mindless sex.

Everyone's afraid to take a risk.

Fear.

Mine not yours.

The modern world of 'friends' with no time to see one another, planning to get together with a month's notice.

The big city life.

Is it so hard to say the truth? Or is it better to just be aloof and hope things are forgotten?

Ego.

The age of more virtual friends but no real ones.

Attention deprived syndrome. Post, post, post.

Post everything online.

The age of sad, single people with too much money who deny that they're truly empty inside.

It's a scared age.

Coward.

It's a sad, selfish age.

This modern world with too much thinking and not enough living.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Boris the bumble bee

Boris occasionally comes by the kitchen window on a weekly basis and when that happens I usually hurry to close it just in case he decides to fly into the house.

That would be fun, trust me. Bumble bee in the house? People screaming everywhere? Just like the time a bat flew in one Saturday night, mass hysteria.

Boris.

That's what I'm calling him anyway. I have no idea if Boris is actually male or female. The fairly large bumble bee looks like a Boris to me.

I wonder what the rest of the garden inhabitants (birds, lizards, flies, spiders and insects) think of Boris? Do they just think he's a cool guy, or are they annoyed with him? Are they scared of him? Do they think he flies too fast? I wonder what the other bees think of good ole Boris. Do they carry on conversations in bee lingo? Do all the bees get along in the bee kingdom?

My late father once held onto a bumble bee, he said he saw the stinger come out and puncture his thumb, he felt fire enter his hand, burned like hell according to him.

I wonder if that was also the same bumble bee, I wonder if that was same ole Boris.

But most of all, I wonder exactly what is a bumble?


Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Adagio, Andante and Allegro

I keep forgetting what these terms means. I should technically remember, after all I've seen those same musical instructions for years but yet I keep mixing them up.

'Adagio' generally requires playing a piece slowly. 'Andante' means at a walking pace and a piece of music marked with 'Allegro' is one that must be played briskly and lively.

Added to that is all the range of variations such as Adagietto, Andantino, Andante moderato, Allegretto, Allegro moderato and the list could on to include well over a half a dozen more.

I often wonder if composers start off playing and charting out their new piece at the desired speed or if they try out different tempos and see which one fits the music.

It has to be trial and error unless the composer hears the entire piece in his/her head and knows from the start just at what tempo the piece will be played.

I'm always intrigued at exactly how a piece of music is scored, and how many edits and corrections are made along the way, must be endless.

Take for instance H. Villa-Lobos' 'Suite Populaire Bresiliene', in particular #2 Schottish - Choro - if played any faster than stated (Modere) the entire piece would lose its' beauty, quirkiness and sway. Contrast that with Augustin Barrios' epic masterpiece 'La Catedral', the third movement is to be played Allegro Solemne. If played at a moderate or slow pace, the entire movement loses its' intensity and sounds lifeless.

And that's just two contrasting pieces.

I would like to hope that all the great composers spent many a long hour, labouring over not only the choice of notes, phrasing and embellishments, but also the speed of the piece(s) as well.

And truly, not an hour was wasted defining the correct tempo.






Monday, March 23, 2015

The A to Z challenge


So because I'm a member of Write Club I got sent an invitation to this event, this challenge - to blog everyday for 26 days, except Sundays about every letter in the alphabet, starting April 1st.

What exactly am I going to blog about? Hmmmm, I'm not too sure. Seeing as this is my first year I think I'm going to let each day guide my train of thought and what I write about. At the very least it's gonna be a very interesting experience.

April 1st, here we go.

Here's the link if you're up for the challenge.

http://www.a-to-zchallenge.com

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Pride of ownership

Sweden, Canada, Holland, Germany and Trinidad, just to name a few for my sample observation.

I've visited about twelve European countries, travelled all over the United States and Canada playing music, and what always struck me was how neat and orderly the cities ran. How neighbourhoods always seemed well maintained. How people knew to put their trash in garbage bins, how to recycle. In a nutshell, how to care for their surroundings, their town, city, country and by extension the environment.

Whenever I'm in Trinidad I'm always saddened how we take care of our country.

In many of the lower-income areas some houses are literally falling apart - no repaint jobs, derelict walls, crumbling roofs. In St. James and Woodbrook most of the pavements are broken, the drains smell stink and there's garbage strewn everywhere on weekends when there's no garbage pick up.

Whenever I take a drive throughout the country I see garbage thrown out of car windows as people drive on by, it's as if we get a kick out of being nasty.

Along the highways between the East, West, North and South, there's garbage along the roadways.

After carnival every year, taking a drive throughout St. James, Woodbrook, St. Clair and lower Maraval we can see signs of J'ouvert - many of the masqueraders splash paint on people's houses, even the walls of churches aren't spared, so much for the sacred spaces.

There's no respect, no law and order here.

St. James and Woodbrook once used to be residential areas and then slowly without warning and without proper paperwork and zoning bylaws, businesses started popping up everywhere. My family's historical home in St. James is now huddled on a street next to a roadside mechanic, a printery, an ice factory and a gym, in what was once a residential area.

Cars blare their music at all hours of the night for everyone to hear. People spit everywhere. Drunkards piss on innocent walls every weekend.

Trinidad is a lawless country, every corner, every crevice. Every person learns from a very young age by observing their parents how to be a reckless 'Trini'. Our only saving grace is our weather.

But it is sad and true, we have no pride of ownership here. We rather destroy and let everything decay around us, than to preserve our heritage buildings, than to preserve our nature sanctuaries, than to honour our sacred spaces, than to respect each others' homes and property.

Trinidad is a country in decay, and in years to come when everything is in shambles and we all look around clueless wondering how it all happened, what we should really be trying to find, is a mirror.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

The older generation never said a word

My folks didn't talk much about stuff. You know - stuff stuff? Life stuff. They spoke about politics, or house chores. They bickered about money, about how to raise the kids. What schools to go to, the weather, crime, sports, that kinda mundane stuff. The everyday kinda stuff.

My dad paid the bills and my mom cooked.

My dad did all the errands and my mom managed the books.

When my dad's mom passed away in 2005 and when my mom's mother died a year later they never spoke about it to each other.

My parents, for the last five years of their lives sat down and watched TV every evening, it was their ritual, never really saying much.

When my dad died in 2014, my mom's health was so frail that she couldn't go see him in the hospital in his dying moments. When she finally saw him at the funeral home in the casket, frozen and peaceful, she kissed her hand and put her hand gently on his lips and said 'Now I can believe he's gone'

They never really said I love you much. To be honest I'm not too sure if I ever heard it at all.

But they were a team. And now, my mom is a fish out of water.

And I wonder which generation had/has it better? - This one who wants to gush and talk about every emotion under the sun to the point where talk is meaningless or my parents' generation that didn't talk about much, but one thing they did have was a great sense of understanding for each other.

I'm thinking maybe my parents got it right. In the end they got it right. It only took 30 odd years but they got it right.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

The hooligans, the lovers and the man-in-charge

Through my kitchen window I see the story unfold before me. Many are oblivious to the siege that is happening, right outside my window, in plain sight for anyone to see. Everyday, it's a battle for territory, for food and shelter. Everyday, it is a battle to survive. The authorities know absolutely nothing of this. The players in this story are rather inconspicuous, they conduct their affairs under the radar, planning their next move, plotting and scheming each other. It's inconceivable to think that they have so much to fight about, that they don't get along. How long this has been going on, no one can say.

It's taken me a while to identify all the various characters in this scenario, but I've put them in two main groups – the hooligans and the lovers.

The hooligans – there's three in this group, you won't believe it, but even though they're supposed to be peaceful, Doves are hooligans, yes, they're always jumping on each others backs and attacking one another for space in the garden. They jump on the kitchen window ledge as if to ask us 'Where's the food?' They raise their wings at any other birds and even their own kind at the first sign of trouble. They run around in circles chasing each other. They make absolutely no sense.

Next comes the Kiskadees, they perch on the lime tree, wait, then swoop down to steal food from everyone else and they grab the whole lot. They move in groups of threes and make enough noise to wake the dead. Their only saving grace is that they are quite comical amongst themselves.

But the real hoodlums in this group are the blackbirds - beady, yellow eyes. I was in utter disbelief the day one puffed up all his feathers and stared at me with his mouth open as if getting ready to strike, I quickly ran inside. And yet another time, one pecked my head while I was walking. They move in packs, stealing the neighbour's dog food, soak it in the water container on the lawn, then proceed to eat the soggy dog pellets, and hence the idea of a flock of birds is nonsense. They're a pack of blackbirds, like wild dogs, and they're dangerous. When they land and comb the area by mid-morning, every other bird flees in fear of their life.

Luckily, the lovers are smart and quick to manoeuvre away from danger. Thankfully, they outnumber the hooligans. The green, blue and white-lined Tanagers, the spectacled Thrush, the yellow Oriole, the Bananaquit and the Hummingbird.

The Oriole, Bananaquit and Hummingbird are loners. They have the sweetest whistle and never disturb the others. Although I've noticed the Oriole likes to peck at my garbage, so it's noted here he's got a sanitation problem. The Hummingbird just sits on a lone branch on the lime tree and turns his head from side to side, as if just observing what's going on. The spectacled Thrush knows that the apple-cores and bread are coming from me. He and others of his kind come to the window whenever I throw down food, almost as if to say 'thanks'. They bathe in the drinking water daily, jumping in and out numerous times. Recently the Thrushes have started challenging the Kiskadee for food, which is also quite comical and rewarding to see, a lover being a fighter when needed.

The strangest thing is, they all share the same tree to bear their children, it's almost as if they have a peace treaty when it comes to having offspring, that and a time-sharing option on the Exora tree. Food and water are grounds for war, but not the rearing of children.

Occasionally there's a baby owl or a huge corn bird that visits and thus wrecks havoc in the order of this 'community'. When that happens there's mass confusion and the Kiskadees ring the warning bells. They then assemble and try to chase away the strangers. It's quite the entertainment - war in the garden.

But everyone jumps to attention when a Mimus Gilvus (Tropical Mockingbird) comes along. Maybe it's the grey tail that sticks out so dignified at a 45 degree angle, maybe it's how upright he stands. He spreads his wings in a two-step fashion, almost as if preparing for flight, then runs along hurriedly. He is fearless and swift. Whenever a Mimus lands, birds scatter. I had a conversation with a Mimus once, it was raining and we whistled back and forth for over ten minutes, looking at each other through the window. He probably thought 'Man, that's a weird bird!' But he's my choice for the man-in-charge. I know some may disagree, but after careful consideration and thorough observation, I can only cast my vote in the Tropical Mockingbird's direction. When it's a clear sunny day, he will stand atop the tallest tree and whistle his song for nearly an hour, without a care in the world.

So, whenever I go into the garden nowadays and the black birds watch and size me up for an attack, I tell them very sternly 'Hey, I know the man-in-charge, so watch it there guys!' They usually back off, mumbling to themselves.

And that's why, it's always important to know someone at the top, especially the man-in-charge.



Monday, February 16, 2015

Saxophone No. 1

On this eve of Trinidad's 2015 Carnival, please allow me to post a video of our dying art form…..kaiso

Behold the genius of Lord Kitchener…..

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5OpmIA8asS4

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Freetown is in the wrong country

I haven't been out to a live show in Trinidad since last Christmas when I went to see my favourite local band - JOINT POP. They're still fighting the good fight. They're the last of only a handful of bands still standing.

Thursday, 5th February was a show at the infamous Mas Camp Pub - the home of calypso, the home of kaiso, where along with a few tents back in early days of the 20th Century, our music began, our heritage. There was a show being put on by the NEW FIRE promotion, led by Gerry Anthony of WIRK (West Indian Rhythm Konnection). There were two acts - Freetown Collective and Mistah Shak.

I unfortunately left after Freetown so I cannot comment of Mistah Shak.

Last time I saw Freetown they were a guitar playing duo, but on Thursday they were a five piece. Still two guitars and lead vocals - Muhammad Muwakil and Lou Lyons, but also three female singers - Shanna Joseph, Tishanna Williams and Malene Joseph.

They were excellent! Lyrically and melodically brilliant, a rare gem in a country that favours noise and smut lyrics, especially at this carnival season. The only thing that was missing for me was some sort of beat - drums or percussion, and perhaps a bassist. But I thought they were amazing. I only heard them once before, but I was totally blown away at Muhammad's voice, and how he flowed his lyrics. A real performer, and Lou is a very interesting and creative guitarist/songwriter. The harmonies were well crafted and interwoven.

This show was meant to showcase talent other than soca artistes. There was a decent turnout, people were attentive to what was going on. It was a great show!

I know this is carnival season, so now is the time of the soca artiste, just like Christmas season in Trinidad is the time of the Parandero and parang.

After carnival used to be the time for all other musicians in Trinidad to do their thing - jazz, rock, folk.

I don't see much of that anymore to be honest.

And what I cannot shake from my head is this - here's another great indie, underground band, very much Trinidadian, very much unique, very fresh and very talented, and where are they going? Where is there room for them in Trinidad? The answer is nowhere.

Trinis just don't have the mental capacity to understand and appreciate live, indie, original music. They only have tolerance for soca.

Soca - by and large is an insult to what kaiso started out as, but that's another blogpost entirely. Back to Freetown.

Like so many bands and solo artists before them, so many over the last two decades that have come and gone, without a trace.  Few remember all these bands. Their music can sometimes be found in a die hard fan's home, on a cassette, a CD or a stolen MP3. But there's not a single band from 1995 (the best era that ever existed for local, underground music in Trinidad), nor 2010 (the next resurgence of great original bands) that exists today.

And I think of Freetown, like so many others before them, and all I can do is mourn for them and for everyone else who used to be in music. Some gave it up. Some migrated. Some disappeared.

Freetown, on behalf of all the other musicians in Trinidad, do yourselves a favour - keep your art form alive, but move to a country that appreciates live, original music.

Trinidadians only know about a fun time, drinks, dancing and prancing.

If you don't believe me, here's a list of some of the original bands that existed but are no more. What killed them? Simple. Trinidad did.

From 1995 onwards - Oddfellows Local, Orange Peel Groove, Babylon Pig, Bleed, Smith Tuttle, Green, Brothers Grimm, Bloodshed, Virus, Setiva, Flying Crapaud, Jaundis - I, Joint Pop, Orange Sky, Big Eyed Grieve, Lanyap, Incert Coin, Tamper Evident, Alexis Machine, 12, Gregory's Dream, Alien L, Atheleny, Gyazette, Skid Nevely, Vox Deus, Tripped and Falling, Heir Perpet, Transylvania Zoo, The Tide, Chaos Room, Checklist.

I'm sure I'm missing many names but there's only three bands left from that list. Where did everyone else go? Did everyone get out of music? If they did, it's because there's no way to support oneself with music in Trinidad, unless you play soca, and there's no originality in that. Only gimmicks and rubbish lyrics, set to win a prize in the carnival season. How myopic can we be?

So please, take my advice.

Trinidad kills original, indie music.

If you want your career to grow, then find a way out of this place.

This post is also for all those great bands that existed, but sadly never really went anywhere.

How I miss 1995 and 2010, such great years.

My fellow Trinis, other than the few hundred of us that followed the underground scene religiously, you'll never know what great music you all missed out on, if you all had just opened your mind.

How I mourn for my country where music is concerned.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Persist. Persist. Persist.

Analyse. Define. Think. Re-think.

Question. Debate. Identify. Don't judge or criticize. Be gentle.

Determine solution(s). Have an open mind to change and various options.

View all ideas with equanimity.

Observe all emotions - don't act on any. Resist the urge to be rash or temperamental.

Stop living in the past. Stop it now.

Be patient with yourself. Be really understanding with yourself. Dig deep within. Don't look at how far you have to go, celebrate how far you've come.

Even if you fall again, say to yourself that things are improving. Say this over and over until you believe it.

Change perception. Hope for better.

Start again. Slowly. Remove all mental blocks. Don't look at the problems - real or imagined. Envision the result. Temporarily ignore barriers to achieving desired outcome. Don't berate yourself. Forgive all who have hurt you - whether they're aware of it or not.

Give thanks to God.

Be grateful - for everything including all the pain and heartache. View both as tools to helping you improve.

Seek always to improve. Hone your skills.

Use all alone time to focus on your craft.

Create. Create. Create.

Resist the temptation to procrastinate or stagnate.

Force yourself to do the work to get to where you're supposed to be.

Don't make any lame excuses.

Say thanks even for the blessings still to come.

Persist. Persist. Persist.

No matter what.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Toenails, pieces of food, crumpled newspaper, shoes and socks

My late father had this great trait, he could manufacture mess and be totally unaware of it. He ate food in front of the TV, everyday, every meal.

He loved the TV, he would dress/undress in front on it. His shoes and socks were constantly in the living room. He would read the paper and have it tucked behind him so it could be pulled out at a moments' notice to double check any interesting articles.

On the odd occasion he would clip his toenails in his chair while watching TV.

All those things would drive me insane whenever I tidied up after him before any of my classes started. I would find all his 'belongings' on the floor beneath his chair.

He made a joke a few times that I had a problem with dust, probably made no sense to him why I was so 'OCD'.

The fact was his untidiness drove me nuts. I couldn't get it. How could he be happy making a mess?

And now that he's gone, I realize how futile and petty it is to get annoyed over those silly things.

Because now, there's nothing I wouldn't give to clean up his mess, as long as it meant having him back here.

I miss you dad.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Create

Whenever creativity hits me, I go through spells of spending days on end just working on various projects simultaneously. I can't just have one project alone. I need to have a few things happening at the same time.

I read books like that as well. I'll have three, four books on the go. A chapter here, another one there.

I create like that - another solo album, a film score for a documentary, a children's fiction story idea, an autobiography and another idea with short musings that pop in my head from time to time.

Did I mention I also blog?

I don't really have a set plan, just to spend time with each one every other day and do a little more at each creative sitting.

I like compartmentalizing my mind and days like that. Two hours on film scoring, another hour practicing classical, another three hours writing.

It's days like these, that I wish I had 36 hours in a day. And that I don't need so much sleep.


Sunday, January 11, 2015

a box of CDs

I've undertaken the project of unpacking all my CDs and going through them one by one.

Some I'm keeping, others I'm not.

A few I wonder why on earth did I even buy that stuff? I don't even like that music.

Sometimes we grow out of certain music, and yet I've found a few treasures that I completely forgot about.

It's good to go through all the pile of things we own in this life and see, what exactly do we really need? How much do we really consume in this life? I mean, seriously. Human beings over-consume way too much junk that's depleting our environment and our natural resources.

It's good to do a lil inventory re-take once in a while.

Clear out a few things. Reshuffle the mind in the process.

Might take a while though.

I got tons of CDs.


Thursday, January 8, 2015

2015 and many more years to come

2015

It's a new year. To be honest, the fun of welcoming in a new year has lost most of it's appeal for me. Not that I'm getting used to another year. It's just the years of being drunk, screaming, hugging and kissing everyone has run stale.

Maybe it's a youth thing? I'm going to 41 this year. Not that I feel it.

This past Ole Years, I was in Antigua for a gig. When the fireworks went off and people began celebrating, I looked around at all the strangers and suddenly had the urge to be back in the hotel room, watching TV.

Being wasted, exhausted and piss drunk has lost it's appeal. Being productive, making a list of dreams, goals and challenges for a new year, now that's more like it.

Maybe there's something wrong with me?

Sounds reclusive and boring doesn't it? I'd rather be home making plans rather than celebrating another year with drunken strangers. Most of whom don't act their age.

Don't get me wrong, I just think any experience is made fun when you have good friends around.

And all my friends have scattered to various gatherings over the years. Perhaps it's time to get a new group of friends? One who party it up.

Ha! But seriously.

Thank you 2015 for coming around, I'd just rather greet you with sobering hope than drunken stupor.