‘Mr. Everywhere’ David Campbell Preserving our literary heritage
By Petamber Persaud
Guyana Chronicle
September 10, 2006

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WHAT makes the work of David Campbell universal in appeal is his ability to view the world ‘Through Arawak Eyes’ as he focuses on issues and themes to which we all can relate.

Campbell has produced quite a corpus of work in various disciplines of art and literature making him one of the more important voices in the struggle for the rights of Indigenous peoples. This kindred spirit has made positive impact on life everywhere he has hung his hat or strummed his guitar.

His poetry is published in many anthologies but he claims that song is his first creative love. His music is melody-based so he’s constantly searching for words to fit the melody; in so doing, he has become an expert wordsmith.

In one of his better and more popular songs, ‘Kabakaburi Children’, in which Campbell immortalises his birthplace in Guyana, South America, he advised his people to retain their traditional customs and values in order to meet the challenges and the ills of colonial invasion (and other outside influences). This song and many others he has written and performed depict his stance against bigotry and dehumanisation.

Wherever he went, Campbell’s work gave voice to the underdogs, the marginalised and the disenfranchised. He took it upon himself to chronicle what has happened or what is happening – things with which he took issue. In his song, ‘Mother Country’, he focused on the harsh treatment and plight of immigrants from Guyana and the Caribbean to Britain. In ‘Santiago in September’, he protested against the dictatorship in Chile in support of the campesinos (poor people).

In Canada where he now resides, Campbell, commissioned by the Canadian Government, is producing poetry and music for the education of that country’s children.

Campbell’s work and music have taken him places including Holland, Germany, Scandinavia, Central America, and the U.S.A. In some of those countries, he spent extensive time.

So far, Campbell has written five books of poetry and song lyrics. He has written some 1,600 songs and produced twenty albums and twenty-four CD’s. He has also written fiction and papers on philosophy.

Songwriter, poet, musician, television performer, painter, photographer, David Campbell was born in the Pomeroon, Essequibo County, British Guiana, to Steven and Umbelita Campbell. His father, an Arawak, was the first Amerindian leader elected to the parliament of Guyana. The elder Campbell also played the violin and accordion. Umbelita, a Portuguese with a beautiful voice, passed on to David the resonances of the fados. David Campbell grew up in a gifted family of eight siblings including the internationally known artist and ceramicist, Stephanie Correia.

He started his formal education at Martindale Roman Catholic Primary School on the Pomeroon before moving to Georgetown to attend St. Stanislaus College.

In the late 1960s, when he was twenty, Campbell migrated first to Canada then to Britain before returning to Canada to settle. According to Campbell, ‘Migration for me, being brain washed in the British colonial education system, that all things ‘bright and beautiful’ came from the North, i.e. Britain, Canada, or the U.S.A., made me a prime candidate, like so many others, to head North as soon as I could…’.

Despite the plight of immigrants, Campbell made good in his ‘Britain Era’ where he came to fame securing a contract to record several albums including ‘David Campbell’, ‘Youngblood’, ‘Mr. Everywhere’ and ‘Sun Wheel’. His television career also started during that era.

For the last twenty-one years, David Campbell was living in beautiful Vancouver, British Columbia, which continues to inspire him creatively.

In 2003, David Campbell was awarded a Wordsworth McAndrew Award by the Guyana Folk Festival Committee for his inspirational work. And in 2004, he received the World Poetry Lifetime Achievement Award in

Vancouver, Canada. Humble as always, this is his take on awards: “It’s lovely when thoughtful people decide to give them to you, but a committed artist should be able to proceed with his or her work, regardless of whether people decide to give you awards or not. Actually, my ongoing awards for being an artist, have come from heartfelt and innumerable good people, who have written or told me encouraging things, over the many years I’ve been an artist.”

So far so good, but what we’ve seen of the man are only external signposts. The real story about his life as an artist, he contends, “are the attitudes, approaches, and principles, and the obstacles overcome that have allowed me to have longevity as an artist.”

Sources: * Email correspondences with David Campbell during September 2006

* ‘David Campbell: a keeper of the fire’ by Vibert Cambridge, Stabroek News January 1, 2005