Arts & Entertainment

Racing goes around in cycles in my family

By Bernard Heydom

The racing gene runs in the family. Risk taking and living close to the edge, are a part of my ancestry. The attraction to speed is evident in our eldest son Sean who races motorcycles in the Canadian amateur national championships. But this streak goes back a ways to my maternal grandfather Jose Menezes and maybe before.

Menezes came to British Guiana as a youth from Madeira in the 1870’s. We have a picture of him proudly standing besides cycling trophies around 1900, at what I believe was the British Guiana Cricket Club ground in Georgetown. At least two of his sons (my uncles) were also ardent cyclists in Guiana in the early part of the 20th century.

Motorcycling came into our family through one of those uncles who owned at least three, including a Norton and Velocette. His Velocette that was somewhat like a Vespa scooter was the first motorcycle I had ever ridden on. Later on I rode on the pillion seat of my eldest brother’s Francis Barnet – long rides to Rose Hall, Canje cinema, in the 1950’s.

I owned my first motorcycle, a small Honda, in the 60’s in Barbados. Two of my older brothers also owned Hondas and we virtually introduced Hondas and motorcycling to Barbados. I used to enjoy opening it up, flat out, on the long straight road by the Barbados Seawell Airport, the bike shaking and vibrating, my heart pounding, and the wind screaming in my face – no goggles, no helmet or riding gear, but such is youth and the times.

Jose Menezes standing next to cycling trophies in British Guiana around 1900

At that time, my father also rode a small Moped in Barbados. The Bajuns used to laugh when they saw him peddling his "motorcycle" up the hills. It was just too much work for the engine.

In the early 70’s I owned a Suzuki in Barbados and took my wife to be on dates, riding around the island. I did not ride a motorcycle again for about 30 years when my son Sean took me for a spin on his Yamaha R1 in downtown Toronto. I used a helmet this time, hung on for dear life, and never opened my eyes for one second. The acceleration and braking of the new machines are light years away from what I used to ride. At the end of that ride, Sean said, "Dad, you seemed a bit tense."

Somehow, in spite of my gentle hints, Sean had taken up not just motorcycling but racing – powerful machines that reach over 100 kph in three seconds and close to 300 kph on the straight! Engines rev at 15,000 rpm. Incidentally, in races, speedometers are blocked out – no distractions needed.

My wife and I have attended few of his races – it’s just too much for my old heart, especially after we saw a racer involved in a fatal accident right in front our eyes! Several weeks ago we went to watch the championships. The drama was non-stop.

The bikers were there in their splendour and glory – the TV cameras rolling, the stands packed. For his race, Sean had the post (starting position on the front row) as a result of his fast qualifying times. Over 35 riders had qualified for this final.

At the start of the race, the riders rev their engines, the ground and stands shake, blue and white smoke fill the air, and the machines leap (off the ground) as the racers jostle for the early lead and good positioning.

To say that to complete 12 or more laps is a feat of daring, courage, concentration, skills, strength and razor sharp reflexes is an understatement. The constant acceleration and deceleration, going round hairpin bends, the tremendous "g" forces on the body are like aerial combat in a jet fighter. In spite of stabilizers on the bikes, at the end of a race, it’s not uncommon for a driver to need help to dismount his machine, so exhausted is he.

In his race, Sean took an early lead. My wife was jumping up and down, shouting "Go, Sean go!" and turning to folks close by and saying proudly, "That’s my son! That’s my boy!"

I stood some distance away, wringing my hands, sweating, my heart and blood pressure racing, counting the laps to the end. It looked like it was going to be Sean’s day after all the hard work, sacrifice, preparation and expense.

Alas it was not to be. At more than half the race completed with Sean well out in front, there was a serious spill in the back and the red flag came out. Back to the start of the race again, starting from scratch. Again Sean took the lead – again a spill behind and the red flag. For the third time – back to the start, Sean in the lead and you guessed it – another serious spill. By that time, they had run out of ambulances (like a war zone) – riders having fallen like flies. The fourth start to the race was delayed for a couple of hours.

In the end, Sean did not get the flying start he had the first three times and ended up fourth in the race that counted, just off podium position. But such is the racing game.

Sean took his racing to the South Dakota Circuit in Guyana last November, at the Spectacle of Speed, International Race Meeting, representing Canadian riders. There he saw the lack of safety equipment and the hardships that Guyanese riders endure. As a result, through his own initiative, he has been trying to raise funds and send equipment to the Guyana racing fraternity. He wants to go back to Guyana every year, he says.

I admire his spirit, his courage and concern for others. In the hearts of his parents, he stands tall, whether he stands on a podium or not. When his racing days are over, he will have great memories. If the creeks don’t rise and the sun still shines, I’ll be talking to you.

Caribbean musical gem to perform for fans in Toronto

By Manshad Mohamed

One of the Caribbean's most versatile musicians will be entertaining his many anxious and admiring fans in Toronto on October 23. After a long absence, the accomplished Dennis De Souza will be appearing at the Doubletree International Plaza Hotel, 655 Dixon Rd, courtesy of Millennium Express Inc and "Spot Light Event."

Born in Georgetown, Guyana, Dennis started playing the piano at the tender age of 9. "I finished a 3-year course in seven months and then went to a piano teacher, Mr Herman Faria. I loved to play popular music by Pat Boone, Jim Reeves, Nat King Cole, Bing Crosby, Dick Hayes and whatever I heard on the radio," he told Indo Caribbean World.

At age 20, he was booked to sail to England via Trinidad to study music composition. But Dennis had another interest also - cricket. "I fell in love with T&T and the ship sailed without me. I played cricket with Harvard and with Queen’s Park C.C. I was in the company of Willie Rodriguez, Ben Kanhai, Sonny Ramadhin, the Davis Brothers and Joey Carew," the musical stalwart disclosed.

One night after "a big victory," Dennis and his cricketing pals went to the Penthouse in Port of Spain to celebrate. "The resident band leader, Choy Aming, invited me to play the piano with his band. Because of the constant encores, people would not let me leave until 5.00 am.", he recalled.

This was still happening in T&T in a 2001-2003 stint at the Hilton Hotel where Dennis has just completed a 3-year contract.

So far, Dennis has played music on 15 albums (33 1/3 r.p.m). Only recently, he has worked on CDs, the last one, "Encounters," yet to be released by Denis Davids.

Dennis has also done recordings for CHFI in Toronto and Columbia Records. (USA).

Dennis prefers to play live music "as the crowd interaction gives me the strength that I need. I pick up on the feel of the audience."

Music to Dennis, is a an international language which he says we can understand without the use of a dictionary.

He remembers his many tours abroad when he visited and played in 27 cities in Germany, the U.K, USA, France Switzerland, South America and most of the islands of the Caribbean archipelago.

"Yet, I have not done enough. I want to do a lot more compositions, the last being Pakarima," Dennis declared.

"Spot Light Event" is promoting Dennis' October 23 event as an evening of glamour and elegance. They are out to pamper you with finger foods, ballroom dancing, door prizes and roses for ladies. This promises to be a program with a touch of class that only "Spot Light Event" can produce and only Dennis is capable of delivering.

Dennis will be backed by the renowned Caribbean pianist Bruce Skeritt and Liam Auiga. De Media Noche, will be in attendance with their parang selections as well as the Crooner and Terry B.

MC for the evening is the popular radio personality Jai Ojah Maharaj.

For tickets call Joe Brown 416-467-8101, Joel Ali 416-458-6854, Denny 416-525-8261 or Millenium Express at 416-650-1999.

 

 

Pure golden narrative in DoHarris’ ‘Ring’

Brenda Chester DoHarris, A Coloured Girl in the Ring: A Guyanese Woman Remembers, Lanham, Maryland, Tantaria Press, 1997, ISBN 0-9659444-0-9

A review by Frank Birbalsingh

Although the main title of Ms. DoHarris’s novel - A Coloured Girl in the Ring - is taken from an innocent and rather nonsensical nursery rhyme, her book, a fictionalised autobiography, is quite the opposite: a profoundly insightful study of life in Guyana, from 1958 to 1964, when the narrator was at secondary school.

Whether one regards A Coloured Girl in the Ring as novel or autobiography, it provides a brilliant and memorable evocation of familiar sights, sounds and scents in colonial Guyana, and of the country’s history, geography, sociology, politics, major personalities and commonest events, all densely crowded around a story about the narrator’s family, friends and neighbours, and most of all about the narrator herself.

Using a method of itemising, cataloguing or listing which is found in one of the earliest of English novels, Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe, Ms. DoHarris assiduously researches, collects and records names, places and events that we instinctively remember from Guyana of the 1950s: not only common items of food like coague, sugar cake and rice pap, dumplings, fufu or black pudding, but furniture like the Berbice chair, Morris chair, chiffonier, the Phillips radio with Sarah Vaughan singing My Tormented Heart, calypsonians singing All Day All Night Miss Mary Ann, and Lighthouse cigarettes, Nugget shoe polish and Reckitt’s Crown blue.

In a magisterial description of Stabroek market, nearly a page long, and paralleled only by a similar passage in Jan Carew’s novel Black Midas, Ms. DoHarris itemises everything from dray carts and Bookers’ taxis to mangoes, mittai, cassava pone and genips, stinkin’ toe, pointer brooms and trusted medications like Dodd’s Kidney Pills, Sloan’s Liniment, and DeWitt’s pills.

Yet this catalogue alone of local Guyanese life would likely not achieve the conviction that it does if it were not rendered in the language and dialogue of demotic Guyanese speech. It is when Ms. DoHarris writes phrases like "Afta rall" for "after all", or sentences like "Wake up yuh lazy behine an’ bring dung de posy", heightened by idiomatic expressions like "yuh cork duck" or "time longer than twine" that she captures the accent, rhythm and intonation of authentic Guyanese speech which makes her recorded vision of 1950s Guyana materialise, like film, before our very eyes.

But if this vision appears idyllic or nostalgic, it is not the whole truth: the central theme in Ms. DoHarris’s novel is that she - the coloured or brown girl - is entrapped in a ring of deprivation and exploitation in colonial Guyana, and that her chief aim is: "to escape the ring, to go abroad and seek education beyond the mudflat"; for the larger truth is that all Guyanese, including her parents, friends and neighbours are encircled in a ring of poverty and deprivation which is created by colonialism and is geared to their own self-destruction.

What follows is a struggle against self-destruction, as we see when her father overcomes dire poverty to become a government dispenser, and her mother escapes from her own father’s beatings to become a nurse. But when her father is transferred to a new post in the Guyanese forest, he becomes separated from his family forever. For all that, with her mother’s help, the narrator succeeds in her ultimate ambition to study abroad.

Of the narrator’s neighbours, Mr. Braithwaite is a drunkard who kicks his family out; Misses Ada, Ida and Edna hold body and soul together by making and selling black pudding; Gatha is jilted and left with child by the policeman Eustace; Eustace meanwhile loves Shirley, a striptease dancer who is first mauled by her lover’s wife, and later murdered by Eustace; while Eustace, later still, commits suicide by throwing himself in front of a moving train.

Similar events of raw brutality also overtake the few Indians who live in the narrator’s village: Balgobin the milkman, Bahadur the grocer, and Ragunandan a cake shop owner.

CHACS

The Canadian Hindu Arts and Cultural Society (CHACS) in collaboration with the city of Mississauga and the Credit Valley Hospital will hold a dinner and entertainment at the Payal Banquet Hall on October 24 at 5.00 p.m . The purpose is to raise funds to assist patients of cancer.

CHACS is very much aware of the pain, both physical and psychological, that cancer patients silently suffer and would like to work strenuously to help alleviate the pains, as much as it could. It is therefore inviting community participation in an effort to raise awareness and funds for this purpose. Call 905-814-1751.

 

 

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