`ALL IN WAN’ for Independence 2006
By Neil Marks
May 7, 2006
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This quote, extracted from the Guiana Graphic of May 26, 1966, describes the exuberance of national pride that flowed from Mount Ayangana in the Pakaraimas to Manchester on the Corentyne.
The occasion? For the first time, this country was proudly flying its own national flag, the Golden Arrowhead, in more than 150 villages and towns. Guyana was independent, free from colonial rule.
Can the celebration be relived? Importantly, how did the Guyanese people fare in the 40 years that followed?
On May 26, 2006, a list of eminent Guyanese in the field of drama, music, dance, and other creative arts would attempt to celebrate the resilience of the Guyanese people during the past 40 years. It’s a milestone that is not being passed lightly.
Imagine Dave Martins, Keith Waithe, Terry Gajraj, Ron Robinson, Gem Madhoo Nascimento, top Indian, African and Amerindian dancers, masquerade band, African drums and a bamboo set by Henry Muttoo – All in Wan!
It sounds like a real cook-up, or at least what they say some people call a real mix-up that tastes real good. Of course, there are other ingredients, and how they will come together – All in Wan – to put on the music and drama production is worth waiting for.
The masterminds are the Guyana Telephone and Telegraph Company (GT&T), in association with the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sport.
When Major General (rtd) took over at the phone company, he was aware that Guyana’s 40th Independence anniversary could be overshadowed by the upcoming elections, and so his company set about linking up with the best in theatre, music and dance to put on a gala production that will make Guyanese proud as a people.
Gems Theatre Productions, under Gem Madhoo-Nascimento is producing, with Ron Robinson as director for the event that will run from May 26-28.
`All in Wan’ is written by Dave Martins and features seven of his musical creations, designed to be one big explosive kaleidoscope of music, dance and drama. It is a two-hour panorama reflecting, as Martins put it, “the vibrant and dynamic culture that is unique to Guyana”.
Whether he takes a trip down memory lane to his West Coast and Pomeroon upbringing to recall `Boyhood Days’ or whether he evokes national outpouring to pledge `Not A Blade of Grass’ to the foreigners, Dave Martins has stirred celebration in the hearts of Guyanese for decades.
`All in Wan’ is expected to do no less.
“In non-stop entertainment, the show will include dance, music, comedy, drama, and spectacle ranging from Diwali to Masquerade Band to Mashramani and everything in between,” Martin says.
With a cast of some 70 Guyanese, including the visiting `Guyanese Baboo’ Terry Gajraj and flautist Keith Waithe, he adds “this production will be an exciting and varied display of the talent and verve of our people.”
Actors Howard Lorrimer, Kirk Jardine, Michael Ignatius and Marlon Braam will be the hinge on which the show swings. As they deal with Guyanese language, sense of humour and attitudes, they will introduce some touching moments, such as a mother singing to a migrating son, and musical treatment of a Martin Carter piece.
As the celebration progresses in true Guyanese style, over some “drinks,” they reflect on life in Guyana over this period of time – sorrows, joys, pain, absurdity, hardships and achievements.
The singers will include the Marigold singers and Ruimveldt boys’ choir, Leeanna, Lady Tempest, Marlon Braam, and all the musical backing will be provided by Oliver Basdeo and his quintet.
Throughout the evening the Classique Dance Troupe, the Ashram and Cove & John drummers, the Nrityageet Dancers and an Amerindian troupe will be featured prominently. The Congo Nya Drummers and the Tin Cup Band complete the line-up of performers.
An unusual feature of the production will be the use of professional quality footage of Guyana’s interior, shot by Mike Charles, and projected in big screen images on the stage of the Cultural Centre.
The `All In Wan’ organisers invited Keith Waithe to make a contribution to the event after the success of his programme last June during the Walter Rodney Celebrations of bringing together Afro and Indo musicians and three members of his band, the Macusi Players, in Guyana. It was a unique and special happening.
For `All in Wan’, he tells the Sunday Chronicle, he has rearranged the “Guyanese” piece `Sohani Raat’ in a contemporary music style. In fact `Suhani Raat’ (Pleasant Night), the tune originally song by legendary Indian playback singer Mohamed Rafi for the movie `Dulaari’, is a household name. From 1953 to today, Ayube Hamid still plays it on local radio as his opening on Indian Memory Album.
Keith Waithe says he has transformed the song, using elements of jazz, Afro and Indo motifs /rhythms, his vocal gymnastic techniques, including playing the beautiful melody of his flute.
The piece will be developed with the help of the Cove John Ashram, the Conga Naya drummers, and George Reid on bass.
During the finale, he will play several pieces alongside a masquerade band.
A striking feature of the show will be the imaginative set designed by Henry Muttoo and built by Ansford Patrick - which will transform the Cultural Centre stage into an elaborate bamboo grove with intriguing lighting effects.
Henry Muttoo is Artistic Director of the Cayman National Cultural Foundation. Educated at the University of the West Indies, Trinidad and Tobago and Croydon College of Art and Design, in England, he was Senior Tutor in Design and Technical Theatre at the Jamaica School of Drama for six years.
He is recognised as one of the region’s finest theatre artists and educators.
He has received numerous awards for his work including six consecutive Jamaica National Pantomimes.
In 1992, Muttoo was selected to design the setting and costumes for Derek Walcott’s `Dream on Monkey Mountain’, when the Trinidad Theatre Workshop embarked upon the Nobel celebration. His next major project will be with the University of South Florida, where he will direct and design, on the main stage, Errol John’s Caribbean classic, `Moon of a Rainbow Shawl’.
With Keith Waithe, an incredible set by Henry Muttoo, and the combination of drummers, dancers, singers and actors, Dave Martins brings his satirical wit to fore and hopes to demonstrate that he has not lost his passion and love for the land of his birth and reminds us how it used to be in the ‘good old days’.