December 29 was a sad day for the local entertainment fraternity as members mourned the tragic death of one of the island’s most talent musicians, Damien Dappa Taylor.
The 35-year-old was killed in a three-vehicular accident along the Errol Barrow section of the ABC Highway near the Belle, St Michael.
Taylor was famously known as a deejay and was also a familiar face of the Ruk A Tuk Band in which he played the flute.
In his formative years, he was also a trumpeter in the Electrik Band.
The law student was finishing his studies at the Hugh Wooding Law School when his life came to a screeching halt.
Immediately following his death, his Facebook page was flooded with messages of regret that this jubilant and insightful young mind was gone.
Musician and producer, Randy Eastmond, referred to Dappa as ‘his brother from another mother’. The duo was inseparable from the age of five, when they attended the YMCA summer camp. They subsequently attended the Comberemere School, where they both joined the Barbados Cadet Corps and later went on to be the founding members of one of the most dynamic bands of the 2000s, Electrik.
“He is a very fun loving person, no matter what, he always makes you laugh,” said Eastmond who had spoken to Dappa the night before he died. Eastmond said he was distraught when he heard of the death of his ‘brother’.
“It is a heavy blow on the music industry, especially with regard to tuk band playing,” said Eastmond, who added that along with Wayne Poonka Willock, Taylor was one of the pioneers of the local tuk sound.
“When it comes to tuk band like how Poonka is recognized as the main founders of tuk, Damien is such as well. When you see tuk or you hear tuk playing, you know Damien has to be somewhere around with his flute making sweet melodies,” added the owner of Quantum Productions.
“He was someone who touched almost everyone . . . he had a close bond with so many people and he touched so many people by what he did, his interactions, his personality, he was very influential.”
Fellow Electrik band member and long time friend of Dappa, David Haynes, was involved in the accident as well. Haynes was the second motorcyclist involved in the collision. The drummer described his childhood friend as “a giant among men”.
Haynes, who was still struggling to come to terms with the accident that unfolded in front of him, recounted that during his last conversation with Taylor at his West Terrace, St James home, Dappa reminded him of the importance of the simple things.
“He was telling me that the simple things in life are what makes life what it is. So all the money and everything you have, does not make a difference,” Haynes recalled.
Last Saturday, the local entertainment fraternity celebrated the inspirational life of the former Ruk A Tuk band member with a walk from Massy Stores Supermarket in Rendezvous, Christ Church to the Main Guard and Clock Tower at the Garrison Savannah.
Instead of a solemn memorial, it was filled with dancing and excitement as members of the Ruk A Tuk Band, as well as Dancing Africa, fueled by the melodic sounds of soca, kept the crowd going. With chants of “Dappa, this one is for you”, Haynes who was manning the drums, said that the former musical genius would be watching and smiling.
Entertainers such as Mac Fingall, Tabitha Johnson, DJ Simmons, Empress Zingha and Wayne Poonka Willock were in attendance.
Also in the procession were members of the Barbados Cadet Corps and the martial arts community in which Taylor was active.
Fingall recalled that he met Taylor in the early 2000’s when he was a trumpeter with the band Electrik.
“His death hit me hard,” said Fingall, “especially with a young person . . . who was aspiring to be somebody and do something positive”.
The calypsonian and entertainment show MC reminisced over when he first met Taylor while he was recording at West Indies Records Ltd. in Applewaites, St Thomas.
“He was exuding confidence . . . he was making suggestions and learning the board,” Fingall recalled.
Jerome Massiah, also known as DJ Switch, worked closely with Taylor as a deejay and was also a good friend. Massiah said he often went to Taylor for advice whether it was personal or professional.
“He could find the light in any dark situation or the positive in certain situations. No matter how somebody would present it, he would always look at it at a different angle,” Massiah said, while describing Taylor as a thoughtful and intelligent individual.
“He had his hand in everything in the entertainment business, the deejaying, the tuk band, producing… he always gelled well with people,” added Massiah, noting Taylor’s presence will be missed on the cultural scene.
Members of the biking riding group, Black Knights, held an honorary bike ride across the island last Sunday in Taylor’s honour.
Organizer Fabian Reeves said the group wanted to celebrate Taylor’s dynamic personality that touched the lives of everyone he interacted with.
“He lived and he touched all walks of life from music to riding to driving to calypso to Crop Over. Every part of life he was a part of and in some form or way, he would have touched persons as he met them wherever he went,” Reeves stated.
While Taylor’s sudden death has shaken the biking community as well, Reeves indicated they would use his legacy as inspiration.
“He always encouraged people to do always keep trying and never give up on your dream and we just want to remember the person that he was and we want to use him as a tool to push us to the never level,” Reeves said.
Although Taylor’s absence will be felt throughout the community, the sweet sounds of his flute and his positive energies remain engrained in our memories.