I must have been dreaming when I thought that I could do justice to the tremendous work of Dr. Irving Burgie in last week’s article titled A Rare Chance, and especially one that shared space with events related to the celebration of our national heroes.
Today, I unapologetically will revisit his presentation (and more). My excuse, even though I don’t need one, is the fact that to revisit certain things is part of our traditions, folklore, and one that connects to themes in our National Anthem, which was written by Burgie.
Yesteryear, after Sunday school was done, and every child was back at home, some families would pack into their cars and set off for a drive in the country. When part of Adams Castle plantation was sold to developers, many parents scanned the housing lots, while their children picked dunks from the trees that lay on the outskirts of the plantation fields.
Eventually, after a family returned home, some warmed the left over rice and meat, and sit and enjoy the meal with a hot cup of cocoa tea.
Nowadays, the fields that grew dunks, gooseberries, fatporks, sea grapes and tamarinds are, in Burgie’s words, still beyond our recall. Yes, they have dwindled, and, in some cases gone, and so we may even ask: How it get so? There are still memories that will be ever fresh and relevant to those persons, who like Burgie, were either born or lived in the Diaspora.
In Land of the Sea and Sun, he writes, “many nights I sit here, with memories by the score”.
At the presentation, Day-O — a biography, a CD with music, and Caribiana — lyrics and music of hit songs were sold. If one were not sitting in the front rows, one didn’t get to buy one of these three treasures. They were all gone in a minute.
Caribiana — published by Caribe Music Corp. Pub., ASCAP — is a soft cover 8 by 11 inch, 32-page collection of Burgie’s hit songs. The keepsake includes Day-O, Island In The Sun, Mary’s Boy Child, Jamaica Farewell, Kingston Market and Yellow Bird, among others.
Is it a mark of genius, that allowed Burgie, born in Brooklyn, New York to Barbadian (mother) and Virginian( father), to capture the hearts and minds of many, with authentic Caribbean themes and folklore, that tell stories about women in his life, that share experiences of island life, and that certainly recognises the value of a Christian way of life?
Or, is it that “looking in”, provides clarity, gives varied perspectives, and highlights value in many of the things that are taken for granted? If it is indeed the latter or both, then the Diaspora surely has a role to play in Barbados’ future.
Interestingly, much of Burgie’s work uses women as a symbol or theme to convey a message. The role of women in life, are portrayed in many different ways. In Angelina, a man who works at sea anticipates a musical welcome from his woman, when he returns. In contrast, in Curry Goat and Rice, a man visits his girl. She greets him with a kiss, but the man, advises her that curry goat and rice, is the way to his heart.
In Mellow Gal, Burgie describes a possible male’s experience, that could occur whenever, he is thinking about a woman. Listen.
“I goes in a trance. Go on, you mellow gal, do lem me ‘lone. My knees start getting rubbery, my eyes begin to dance.”
Burgie’s writing is clearly filled with Caribbean imagery. However, many of his themes are universal and have legs, so to speak. Burgie’s songs, therefore resonates everywhere.
I don’t recall hearing River Come Down before. However, it is amazingly simple and its message is universal and profound. It is a song that describes how people are viewing today’s challenges.
Listen: “She wanted to go down to the other side of town, there was water all around and she could cross over. The river come down, the river come down I can’t cross over.”
DAY’O, can be adapted to an increasing desire for leisure.
I cut all day, till sunset come, I cut all day, goin put cutlass down, progress come and I wanna to lay down, come Mr. Government tally me hours, progress come and I wanna lay down.
Ultimately, Burgie by virtue of his work does make this point – if Barbados becomes Bajan, many inherent restrictions and limitations will disappear.
Mothers Day Footnote:
This coming weekend, many families and organisations will gather to celebrate Mother’s Day. Mickey will be at the annual Mothers Day show at Brooklyn College. Additionally, YPBS will continue their Bajan Genes Campaign and will host a Mother’s Day luncheon at noon, at Dykers Golf Club in Brooklyn, on Sunday, May 12. At this event, a salute to women, and branded HATS OFF TO MOM, Rosita Mapp will receive the Valmay Cutting-Millar Mother-of-the-Year award. The Trail Blazer Award will be given to Velma Scantlebury M.D.
As the world honours all mothers, let me with flowers, salute all those mothers who have raised children which they did not birth, be it those who raised step children, aunts who nurtured nieces and nephews, and those women who have adopted children.
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