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Musical Life in Guyana

Musical Life in Guyana: History and Politics of Controlling Creativity

Vibert C. Cambridge
Copyright Date: 2015
Pages: 400
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  • Book Info
    Musical Life in Guyana
    Book Description:

    Musical Life in Guyanais the first in-depth study of Guyanese musical life. It is also a richly detailed description of the social, economic, and political conditions that have encouraged and sometimes discouraged musical and cultural creativity in Guyana. The book contributes to the study of the interactions between the policies and practices by national governments and musical communities in the Caribbean.

    Vibert C. Cambridge explores these interactions in Guyana during the three political eras that the society experienced as it moved from being a British colony to an independent nation. The first era to be considered is the period of mature colonial governance, guided by the dictates of "new imperialism," which extended from 1900 to 1953. The second era, the period of internal self-government and the preparation for independence, extends from 1953, the year of the first general elections under universal adult suffrage, to 1966, the year when the colony gained its political independence. The third phase, 1966 to 2000, describes the early postcolonial era.

    Cambridge reveals how the issues of race, class, gender, and ideology deeply influenced who in Guyanese multicultural society obtained access to musical instruction and media outlets and thus who received recognition. He also describes the close connections between Guyanese musicians and Caribbean artists from throughout the region and traces the exodus of Guyanese musicians to the great cities of the world, a theme often neglected in Caribbean studies. The book concludes that the practices of governance across the twentieth century exerted disproportionate influence in the creation, production, distribution, and consumption of music.

    eISBN: 978-1-62674-648-0
    Subjects: Music, Sociology, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface and Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xiv)
  4. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. xv-2)
  5. 1 Prelude
    (pp. 3-17)

    As Alan Merriam counseled more than fifty years ago, “music cannot be defined as a phenomenon of sound alone . . . what we hear as music is “the end result of a dynamic process”—the outcome of many human interactions in the political, economic, social, and technological spheres. The political interactions, especially the practices of national governance—the ways societies make and implement decisions—can exert significant influence on what is recognized and approved as music, how it is distributed, and how it is consumed. For this book the term national governance is used to refer to the personalities,...

  6. 2 New Imperialism and Domestic Agitations
    (pp. 18-37)

    Between 1900 and 1920 five governors ruled British Guiana.¹ The responses of these proconsuls and their ruling-class allies to the colony’s complex set of interrelated challenges influenced Guyana’s economic, political, social, and cultural life, including musical life, for the majority of the twentieth century. The constellation of challenges had international and domestic dimensions. On the international level, the border problem with Venezuela appeared to have been resolved in 1899. However, the governors had to respond to the demands of Britain’s policy of new imperialism. As mentioned in the previous chapter, the overarching goal of the new imperialism paradigm was to...

  7. 3 The Rise of Ethnic and Class Consciousness: 1921–1930
    (pp. 38-62)

    Five governors administered British Guiana between 1921 and 1930, and among their central tasks were addressing constitutional issues, operationalizing development strategies, and responding to increased agitation by ethnic and working-class movements. The administration of Sir William Collet (1917–23) is illustrative of the indelible impact governors had on the colony’s musical life. Collet, who joined the Colonial Service in 1881 at the age of twenty-five, had studied music at Trinity College, London. He had an interesting family background—his “great-great-great uncle, Joseph Collet, had been an official in the East India Company and President of Madras (January 8, 1717–January...

  8. 4 Public Spectacles: 1931–1940
    (pp. 63-94)

    During this decade of continued economic hard times and pent-up frustrations, a number of state-funded, -sponsored, or -sanctioned public entertainments were organized to celebrate key events in the colony’s history or important developments in British imperial life. The practice of organizing public entertainments to placate its citizenry during economic and other crises was refined by thepane et circe(“bread and circus”) strategies of Caesar Augustus, the first Roman emperor. For Augustus, “bread and circus” provided opportunities to temporarily deflect a society’s attention from current problems, release in a controlled manner pent-up frustrations, and “pump up” loyalty and patriotism.¹ The...

  9. 5 The American Presence: 1940–1950
    (pp. 95-119)

    Three governors administered (but did not rule) British Guiana during this important decade. Sir Wilfred Jackson was replaced by Sir Gordon Lethem in 1941. Governor Lethem’s tenure extended to 1947, when he was succeeded by Sir Charles Woolley. Unlike previous governors, their authority in the colony was challenged by another force—the presence of the United States. On September 2, 1940, the United States of America and Great Britain signed the Destroyer-Base Agreement, under which the “United States acquired from Great Britain the right to lease naval and air base sites in Newfoundland, Bermuda, the Bahamas, Jamaica, St. Lucia, Antigua,...

  10. 6 The 1950s: The Rise and Fall of Self-Determination
    (pp. 120-147)

    The four governors of British Guiana during the 1950s had to navigate several significant international and domestic realities. As representatives of the Crown they had to implement imperial policies related to decolonization and the “realpolitik” of the Cold War. For Great Britain, India’s political independence in 1947 signaled the start of the end of the Empire and the emergence of the Commonwealth—a collectivity theoretically based on equality. So for British Guiana, the question of independence was not if but when. The determination of when had to respond to the dynamics of the Cold War in the hemisphere. Since the...

  11. 7 The 1960s: “Guiana Lament”: The Painful Road to Independence
    (pp. 148-180)

    TheGuyana Graphicsouvenir issue to mark Guyana’s independence on May 26, 1966, carried several essays focusing on various aspects of Guyanese history, culture, economy, and the new nation’s development ambitions. Essays by Robert Moore, Wilson Harris, Basil Hinds, George Lamming, Wordsworth McAndrew, Dwarka Nath, and “Recorder” focused on the contribution the arts played in the struggle for independence. The articles by McAndrew and Recorder emphasized the place of music in Guyanese society. McAndrew emphasized the place of the folk music traditions of rural Guyana and demonstrated how, along with folk stories, they were part of a rich, multiracial and...

  12. 8 The 1970s: “Making the Small Man a Real Man”
    (pp. 181-230)

    The Guyana Independence Act of 1966 established a constitution that has been described as “a standard Westminster type of export constitution for newly independent countries.”¹ According to Mohammed Shahabuddeen a former attorney general and minister of justice for Guyana, “[i]ts principal value at the time of its promulgation was that it was regarded as the formal instrument evidencing the attainment of independence.”² The Independence Act also anticipated the creation of a republic and the replacement of the governor general by a president.³ On February 23, 1970, Guyana became the Cooperative Republic of Guyana and remained a member of the Commonwealth....

  13. 9 The 1980s: Long Live the President—The President Is Dead!
    (pp. 231-259)

    President Forbes Burnham has been compared to Machiavelli, Napoleon, and Caesar Augustus. Like Caesar, he recognized the importance of public entertainment as a vehicle for the citizenry to let off steam, for diverting attention, for mobilizing the society in times of crisis, and the “promotion of a political regime.”¹ In 200 BC, Juvenal described entertainment as one aspect of thepanis et circenses(bread and circuses) formula politicians used to gain and maintain popular support in Rome. In British Guiana, the colonial governors incorporated public entertainment in their governance practices through networks of influence nurtured by patronage. This tradition was...

  14. 10 The 1990s: “Dessie, You Wrong! Dessie, You Wrong!”
    (pp. 260-278)

    The dominant themes in the discourse on Guyana during the early months of 1990 were economic recovery, divestment, privatization, “national dialogue,” and free and fair elections. There were many contributors to this discourse: international actors, including diaspora groups such as the Association of Concerned Guyanese; and domestic participants including the Patriotic Coalition for Democracy, which in 1990 comprised the PPP, the WPA, the Democratic Labour Movement, the People’s Democratic Movement, the National Democratic Movement, the United Force, and the United Republic Party.¹ According to international commentators such as the Washington, D.C.–based Council on Hemispheric Affairs, Guyana’s economic performance was...

  15. 11 Findings and Conclusions
    (pp. 279-300)

    This book aims to explore the dynamics of the intersection of national-level governance and the creation, production, distribution, and consumption of music in multicultural Guyana during the twentieth century.Governancein this book is used to mean the institutions created and the practices, tactics, and processes used by governments and their allies to achieve policy goals that advance their interests. By necessity, the concept had to engage those excluded and marginalized elements of society who sought, through various means to participate in the process of deciding on national policies and in the implementation of those policies. As stated before, during...

  16. Notes
    (pp. 301-340)
  17. Bibliography
    (pp. 341-354)
  18. Index
    (pp. 355-370)