I took a photo almost a month ago with the intention to write a blog-post about two Guyanese musicians who have touched my soul through their music. I know I can easily come under criticism for picking out just these two, especially when there are many more out there, then and now. I can even mention some that have made me proud to be Guyanese at one time or another, people like Bill Rogers and Terry Gajraj, EC Connections, Mingles Sound Machine and The Ramblers, Eddy Grant and Natural Black, Concert Pianist Ray Luck and local saxophonist Sweet Sax Kilkenny, and there are more. The two men I had in mind are Dave Martins of Tradewinds fame and Dennis DeSouza.
I decided last night to limit this post to Dennis DeSouza who died this last weekend, sorry Dave :-)
As Caribbean people, music is in our bones, it is not something we listen to, it is part of who we are. I grew up listening to a wide variety of music, at home it was everything from Slim Whitman to ABBA, my father has LPs (vinyl records) from a variety of genres, I listened to reggae from Pluto and Marley, instrumentals from Ace Cannon and Victor Sylvester, and loved music from Ray Conniff and his Orchestra. On the radio I got my dose of the 80s as I grew older. Among those records in my father’s collection were albums by Dennis DeSouza.
Dennis was born in Guyana, more specifically Mahaica on the East Coast of Demerara. He later made his home in Trinidad & Tobago, and in Canada. I was once told my by mother that while learning to play, Dennis practiced the piano at the house they lived in on Broad Street, Charlestown, Guyana (I wish I had known this when I met him some years ago).
I like instrumental music, especially when they do versions of pop-music, but I also appreciate the classics to some degree and also the individual’s own compositions. Dennis DeSouza had a style of playing that I could pick out easily from any other pianist, I would always say he had very nimble fingers and you could feel the joy that he felt through his playing.
When I started buying CDs and realised that he had started recording on CDs I quickly bought the first one “Caribbean Paradise” at 3H CD and Video Club (now closed), and on a visit to Trinidad I bought his “Best Of” CD that I saw in the airport shop.
On one visit to Trinidad with my wife, we had heard that he was playing at the Lounge at Cascadia, it was a toss-up between going there or going to see Maxi Priest in town, since I had already been to a Maxi Priest concert I chose to go hear Dennis play (much to my cousin’s dismay, he was practically asleep at the table). We not only heard Dennis and the band perform, but Maureen and I took to the floor to join other couples to dance, it was a beautiful experience for us. There was a break for the band and I went over and spoke with Dennis for a minute and, to take pity on my cousin, we left shortly after.
His music really touches my soul, from his rendition of Phil Collins’ “Another Day in Paradise” to his own compositions like “Pakaraima”, from his playful key-taps on old Latin pieces on his own albums to lending his skill to accompaniment in Byron Lee’s seventh installment of the Soft Lee Series.
I won’t dwell on the loss of a musician, I will rejoice in the music he has given us in his lifetime. To Dennis DeSouza; a Guyanese by birth, a Caribbean Man at heart and a Musician to the World.