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.