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Postby y3w9s0d5r » Fri Jan 12, 2018 12:42 pm

“Why is it that a lawyer can eke out a living, or a doctor or an engineer or whoever, but the artiste is left to be devoured by the wolves, by something called piracy? There are artistes who are literally starving in this country who have made a significant contribution to our music and culture, but are literally living on the streets.”-Eze RockcliffeBy Michael JordanA day that sticks indelibly in my memory was the time I attended a one-hour concert by a group of musicians clad in colorful African garments, a group with throbbing drums that transported you almost mentally to the motherland.Patrick ‘Eze’ RockcliffeThe lone female among them, a woman with the sensual beauty and bearing of an African princess, was belting out a Mariam Makeba song.And in the midst of that group of drummers and guitarists and singers was this heavy-set, bearded, bass-voiced man with energy to spare, singing folk songs, throwing in a bit of soul and a song by Blood, Sweat and Tears. He even did some stand-up comedy.That was some 35 years ago, and that band,NFL Jerseys 2018, Guyana’s famous Yoruba Singers, and their leader and founder member Patrick ‘Eze’ Rockcliffe, are still making a significant contribution to creating a unique brand of Guyanese music.Eze Rockcliffe was born in Perth Village, Mahaicony on December 9th, 1950, to Oscar Richmond and Glendora Rockcliffe.Though the family left Mahaicony to live in Kitty when Rockiffe was just five, he returned often to visit close relatives.“I used to spend holidays there. I used to go and swim in the trenches, at the koker, I used to spend time with my paternal grandmother and my great-aunt on mother’s side sometimes. My great-aunt was a great cook so she used to make a lot of bread and cakes and sell in the village. While we there we would help her to knead bread and distribute cakes me and my brothers.”He first attended the Mahaicony Scott’s School and later the Redeemer Lutheran School after moving to Kitty.He was born into a family with a love of music and it was perhaps inevitable that the young Rockcliffe would follow in those footsteps.“I understand that my great grandfather, Proston Halley, always had choirs in the village, and that they (the Halley family) had a brass band. They would also say that when my grandfather was singing that you could hear him from over three miles away.“My mother used to perform at church concerts, so I guess that it was from that string that I got my musical talent.”Members of the Yoruba Singers, both past and present. At right of Rockcliffe is his wife- Joycelyn Allison Rockcliffe.The strong social consciousness of the sixties and seventies would also play a part in shaping the sort of music Rockcliffe would later compose and the inimitable blend of African-Guyanese rhythms of the Yoruba Singers.At that time, he was a member of both the Young Socialist Movement (YSM) and the African Society for Cultural Relations with Africa (ASCRIA). The ASCRIA group he attended met in a school hall in Barr Street,Cheap NFL Jerseys, Kitty.Black Movement“We joined ASCRIA to get a greater awareness of what was taking place on the Continent of Africa.  A lot of African nations were starting to get independence in the 50s and 60s. There was also the Black Power movement in the US…so the movement to back consciousness was hot at the time. Cultural expression of dress and hairdos were paramount.“They (ASCRIA) had various groups, and they would do lots of concerts around the country, and we (the Kitty group) felt left out.”He remembers that before these meetings started, one group member, Odari Small, would sing while another member, Sam Robinson, would drum on a desk.“So one day Odari borrowed a hand drum for a man named Bertie Green and we started to do folk songs, pop songs and also writing our own songs.“We formed this group called the Kitty Young ASCRIANS, and about 12 of us started performing around the country. We became the most popular group in the organization. No concert could go on without the Young Ascrians.Yoruba Singers in performance“Six months later, we were told by the same Bertie Greene (who had lent us the drum) that because we were moving all around the country, as the early Yoruba people did, we should call ourselves the Yoruba Singers.”Yoruba SingersAnd so, in 1971, the Yoruba Singers,Wholesale Stitched Jerseys, with Eze Rockcliffe as its leader, was formed.The early members were Wilfred Lashley, Keith Profitt, Odari and Eddie Small; Rudulph ‘Buckie’ Brandt; William Bascom, Gregory Omallo ‘Jo Jo’ Felix, Rudolph Torrington, the late Abiola Caesar, Ingrid Barton,  Sam Robinson (drummer), Aulburn Rockliffe and ‘Bafa’ Watson .Some of the members were former steel band players. One of the guys who had some knowledge of music was Wilfred Lashley because his mother was a music teacher, and ‘Buckie’ Brandt through his church influence. He also played the guitar.“We started off with the writing of songs that were relevant of the time, like one called ‘The struggle is on’ and ‘Bleeding with Hate’ and lots of Guyanese folk songs. And of course, to survive, you had to do the popular songs, like the rock steady and the reggae.“We had several pockets of success. One of our first high points was in 1975 when we toured Suriname for the second time and were invited to perform at the Suriname Trade Fair, and in 1976, we were chosen for CARIFESTA in Jamaica,” (where they copped a silver medal).The group also participated in CARIFESTA 1979 in Cuba and CARIFESTA 1981 in Barbados.“We are also the only Guyanese band, based here and abroad, to perform at Madison Square Gardens on two occasions (in 1983 and 1984).”The Yoruba Singers also appeared with a number of acclaimed Caribbean artistes such as the Mighty Sparrow, the late Lord Kitchener, Black Stalin, Arrow, and Machel Montano.They recorded their first songs at Gem’s Recording Studio, which was located in Robb Street, and where Mighty Sparrow also did his early recordings.‘Black Pepper’Some of the ban’s distinctive hits were ‘Black Pepper’, ‘Danger Water’, ‘Massacurra Man’ and ‘Ding Dong Creketeh’.“We recorded ‘Black Pepper’ in Barbados, our most popular song to date is ‘Black Pepper’, and ‘Danger Water’ in Barbados in 1974. ‘Black Pepper’ sold quite a lot in the Caribbean.”With their pulsating drumming interspersed with flute playing by ‘Jo Jo’ Felix, colourful African garments and mix of African and Guyanese songs, the Yoruba Singers stood out from other Caribbean and local bands.The band leader recalled one of their stand-out performances in Barbados. The performance was on the same night that Muhammad Ali knocked out George Foreman. That night, also, Eze Rockcliffe and the Yoruba Singers ‘knocked out’ one of the leading Barbados bands of the time. It was also a distinctive performance for the band’s only female singer, the beautiful Abiola Caesar, who would die tragically a year later.“In 1974 when we toured Barbados, we played with a group the Barbados Troubadours. The band leader was Mike Thompson, and we were to have used their equipment when they (the Barbados band) were finished performing.“But the band loose down all the equipment and they were about the leave. But we were trained by a man named Billy Pilgrim to set up quickly, and in about ten minutes we set up the whole band; public address system and everything.“So when the crowd was about to disperse, I told Odari Small (one of the lead singers) to open the show. He said ‘I frighten’ and start tremble. It was a huge crowd and the response to the Barbados Troubadours was tremendous.“Abiola said ‘I gun take the mike’, and she took the mike and start a song called The Retreat Song. Before that, the crowd was literally going away; the crowd didn’t want to hear this band dressed up in African clothes. And when Abiola started to sing, everybody just turn back in, including the Troubadours men.  And we performed there for like an hour. I came on afterwards and ‘mash down’ the place too. When we were finished a girl came on stage; she was in all over red; begging Abiola to sing again. She actually took out a knife and threatened Abiola (for her to sing),Wholesale Jerseys, but then she relented fell on her knees in tears.”“Afterwards, many of them gathered around us and wanted to know if we could come back and teach African culture in Barbados. Abiola always captured an audience wherever she goes. I never experienced Abiola failing to captivate an audience. That performance was also one of the highlights of our career.”He alleged that a Barbados group, the Draytons, ‘pirated’ one of their songs several years ago. We made a mistake when we recorded the song and they even copied the mistake,” Rockcliffe laughingly recalled.ProblemsBut he wasn’t smiling when we discussed the way that piracy and lack of stringent copyright laws have prevented stalwarts like him from reaping the financial rewards for their hard work.“There is a discussion right now in relation to (the piracy of) books, but intellectual property is intellectual property and it should be addressed across the board. I cannot make a decent living no matter how talented I am, no matter how many songs I write unless you leave these shores  and pursue your talent elsewhere’  and that would be the same with any Guyanese artist.“There should be some provision made to modify the laws so that we can be at least partly protected. Right now the Government owes the Performing Rights Society of London (PRS) millions of dollars for songs played on the airwaves.“There were some negotiations about 15 years ago…and nothing was done, hence PRS stopped paying Guyanese performers any kind of Royalties. I used to receive royalties, a lot of Guyanese artistes, but they (PRS) say they won’t be paying anything to Guyana, so we are being robbed.”“Why is it that a lawyer can eke out a living,Jerseys NFL Wholesale, or a doctor or an engineer or whoever, but the artiste is left to be devoured by the wolves, by something called piracy?“I am hoping that before my departure from this earth that we can get some kind of justice. I think I still have something else to offer. I have lots of works to offer but all of that might be in vain if the right kind of legislation is not put in place, and that the right kind of policing follows to ensure we get something.“We have a new album in the studios for the past three years which we haven’t been able to publish. It’s called ‘Rebirth’, done at Cross Kolor Studios. It’s in the reggae idiom, but with the copyright laws as it is, you bring it out tomorrow, spend three-quarter of a million in the studio, and a man buys one copy and starts selling for three dollars on the road and he making all the money.“I think discussion should be gone into right now where a certain amount of money is voted for prominent artistes whose music is being played on the radio, so we could get something.“There are artistes who are literally starving in this country who have made a significant contribution to our music and culture, but are literally living on the streets.”No SupportRockcliffe also took a swipe at the business community for what he feels is its inadequate support for local artistes.“There is a new mode where if you are over a certain age they have no use for you, but when the foreign artistes come they are well taken care of. So there are two different standards; one for Guyanese artistes and one for foreign artistes. Sometimes corporate Guyana makes you feel when you approach them for sponsorship that you are a mendicant,Wholesale NFL Jerseys, or a recipient of charity. I am very hurt and bitter at how they treat Guyanese artistes.  They don’t understand the value of culture to a country. And I am talking from ministerial level down. The way they treat the artiste is tantamount to cultural treason; a total betrayal of the culture and the arts.”And he firmly believes that the lack of concern by Government is condemning the once-developing local music industry to stagnation.“At one time there was a standing letter in Parliament that when you bring in musical equipment, once you are a functioning band, that equipment is duty free. That is no longer in place and that should be in place.“What I do know is that there is a new phenomenon, in that we are losing most of our musicians to the ‘ship culture’. Right now there are Guyanese who have formed themselves into bands that are servicing the ship industry, and very soon if we want a live band, within another two years you would have to import that band or maybe if one of the bands comes off the ship for a brief holiday you might be able to hire them. That’s how bad it is because there is no attempt by the Ministry of Culture to harness this situation.“They are not talking with the musicians. There is no corporate intervention there is no Government intervention. There is no value placed on culture.“Look at what Jamaica is doing because they are producing stars all the time. Look at the revue that sports is bringing in because Jamaica is the sprint capital of the world. But this doesn’t happen in a vacuum; you have to have a designed programme.“Machel Montano sold out Madison Square Garden twice last year. You think it happen by magic. Me and Machel performed together since he was ten years.We were better than the Bajans by a long way. When (the late Guyanese singer) Aubrey Cummings and ‘Bumpy Dino’ (another local singer) went to Barbados and campaigned there for a long while they were like kings. Aubrey Cummings represented Barbados at the CBU Song festival.“A lot of frustration plaguing the Guyanese culture, especially music.”Despite the setbacks and frustration, and while other local bands have faded into oblivion, Eze Rockcliffe and the Yoruba still perform to their several fans.According to Rockcliffe, the band received a positive reception when they performed recently at the Folk Festival celebrations in New York.The Yoruba Singers is celebrating its 41st anniversary this year, and Rockcliffe hopes to bring out an ‘oldies’ album, ‘Songs We Love to Dance ’ by  Christmas.
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