Welcome to eCaroh Caribbean Emporium!
 the home of PanOnTheWeb.com, SweetSoca.com and BourdaMarketPlace.com 
Things Caribbean. Music. Choice...wherever you are.

 

We accept Paypal payments, and credit cards via Paypal

Home Page
Free Newsletter
What's New
eCatalog
Audio Clips
Reviews
To Order
Payment Options
Shipping Info
Search
Profiles
About eCaroh
Things Caribbean

 

Profiles of Caribbean Artistry
Stanley Greaves: The Guyanist

by Vibert C. Cambridge, Ph.D. January 4th 2004


But there is more to Greaves; there is Greaves the man of music

I come from the nigger yard of yesterday
Leaping I come, who cannot see will hear.
Martin Carter. "I come from the Nigger Yard."

Stanley Greaves has been recognized and celebrated as an outstanding Guyanese and Caribbean artist.

His paintings and sculptures have been exhibited in prestigious exhibitions in Brazil, Columbia, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, and London. His paintings are in private collections in Guyana, Venezuela, Barbados, Cuba, Jamaica, the United States, and the United Kingdom. His 1993 painting, "The Annunciation" has been used as the cover for Veerle Poupeye's important book Caribbean Art.

Greaves has received high awards from the people of Guyana and Barbados for his excellence as a painter, sculptor, and teacher. During 2003, the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill, recognized him as an Honorary Distinguished Fellow of the Faculty of Humanities and Education.

But there is more to Greaves; there is Greaves the man of music. This feature explores music in the life of Stanley Greaves.

Greaves was born and raised in a "tenement yard" in Carmichael Street just over 70 years ago. He leapt from that confining space and became one of Guyana's creative geniuses. It was in this yard that Greaves experienced the generosity of the human spirit- a theme that informs his creativity.

He is very proud of the social cohesiveness of the yard.

Said Greaves, "People looked after one another you could not abuse children. The children belonged to the yard."

Reflecting on the tenement yards that dominated the life of urban working class people during the first half of the 20th century, he noted, "In each yard there was a matriarch or a patriarch. In our yard it was Miss Alder- a tall red woman with a panama hat and white head tie. When Miss Alder walked through the yard, it was like Queen Victoria."

According to Greaves, Alder used her social status to ensure that there was no cussing in front of children and that girls and young women were accorded dignity and respect.

Today, the tenement yard no longer exists. In its place is the Dr. Ptolemy Reid Rehabilitation Centre.

For Greaves, the tenement yard was alive with creativity. His father, "Sweetie" Greaves, and his uncles on his father's side were musicians. Their friends were musicians. His mother was a Portuguese from Madeira, and through her, he was exposed to the music of the Roman Catholic Church and instruments such as the mandolin. He also learned about the place of music in building and nurturing community.

The yard that Greaves grew up in was also within earshot of St. George's Cathedral.

Said Greaves, "St. George's was high Anglican and had a well trained choir, with Bowen as the conductor." Greaves recalled that the church would be lit up on special nights. On those nights, he would sit with his father on the grass in front of the cathedral and listen to the "heavenly choir."

The people who played music with his father are celebrated in his painting "Old Time String Band." It immortalizes Joe Rowe, Taylor, "Sweetie" Greaves, Glen, and Campbell. Joe Rowe was the true professional in the group. His life was totally dedicated to music. Taylor was a cabinetmaker, a sawmill worker, and rabbit keeper. "Sweetie" Greaves was the leader of the band, a rope worker - maker of cargo slings and nets, builder of furniture, painter of sign boards, and a tree cutter. Glenn was also a cabinet maker who "lived in Tiger Bay in the yard with the Blacksmith shop." Campbell, the flautist was the first member of the band to die. These men were all artisans. They made musical instruments - guitars, mandolins, and drums.

The band was popular in the pre-jukebox, pre-electronic era. Its repertoire included popular English songs such as "Down by the Old Church Door" and medleys of waltzes, calypsos, and folk songs.

The band also played for the dinner parties of Guyana's social elites. The demand for their music also came from other sectors of the society. In some cases the hirers wanted the entire band or just select members. For serenading, the guitarist and the mandolinist would be the only members hired. Serenading was very popular with Portuguese families, who would hire musicians and place them in a carriage that would follow the family in another carriage. The family would pay visits to relatives and friends and treat them to music.

When the friendly societies held funerals for their members, "Sweetie" Greaves and Joe Rowe would be hired to play the snare drum and the bass drum to accompany the deceased to the final resting place.

"Sweetie" Greaves and Joe Rowe were also in demand as drummers for masquerade bands. According to Greaves, his father and members of the band were closely associated with a masquerade band from the Cummingsburg area. His father also made masquerade costumes - the triangular hats, the breast pieces, and aprons.

Masquerade bands have a special place in Greaves' aesthetic consciousness. Greaves' painting "Masquerade" was celebrated in The Chronicle Christmas Annual in 1960.

Greaves also recalled being exposed to music at Sacred Heart R. C. Primary School on Main Street. He remembers singing patriotic and international songs. He recalls thinking about what the Governor might have been thinking when he heard Guyanese school children sing "There'll Always be an England," especially the closing verse: "There'll always be an England/And England shall be free/If England means as much to you/As England means to me."

Greaves' musical journey continued at St. Stanislaus College and would later include the guitar, singing and steel band. Among his contemporaries at St. Stanislaus College were Bing Serrao and George Simmons, founders of The Ramblers and The Rhythmaires, respectively.

He credits a number of factors for his lasting love for the classical guitar. His parents introduced him to the guitar and the mandolin. Andre Segovia's performance of "Recuerdos del Ambra," which he heard on a Radio Demerara programme hosted by Rafiq Khan was another inspiration. He was so moved that he committed himself to playing that composition in concert. It took him 30 years to satisfy that ambition.

His journey as a classical guitarist was helped by a number of people, including his cousin Shirley Thomas (nee Jones), who was a music teacher. She loaned him a book about playing the Spanish guitar. Peter Anderson helped him through the Karasi method. In 1984 and 1985 he was trained in Guyana by Franciso Rodrigues, a Cuban professional who was on a cultural exchange programme. In 1987 and 1988, in Barbados, he studied under an American guitarist who was also on a cultural ex-change programme. Between 1989 and 1995 he studied with Pam Flaut in Barbados.

After leaving St. Stanislaus, Greaves would enter the Teachers Training College. His singing career continued with the Teachers Training College Choir under the direction of Hilton Lewis. One of his colleagues in the choir was Matthew Allen. This era in his musical journey, which included participation in music festivals, brought him into closer contact with the other musicians such as Hugh Sam and Moses Telford.

He was particularly impressed with the work of Hugh Sam, who was at that time experimenting with tone poems and other impressionist styles of compositions. There was resonance between those developments in music and what was happening with Greaves' paintings.

He worked with Sam and Helen Taitt on the seminal Guyanese musical Amalivaca. He painted the backdrop that created the visual context when the overture was played. He described his painting as "a modernistic, geometric, stylization of the Roraima Plateau."

After graduating from Teachers Training College, Greaves became a teacher and was therefore eligible to join "Pluto" Martindale and the PELCANS Steel band. His colleagues in this band of public servants included Arnold Adonis, Eddie Greene, and Michael Leila.

Throughout his life Greaves has balanced his love for music and painting. He participated in music festivals, enjoyed the friendly [rivalry] between the Maranatha and the Police Male Voice Choirs. He enjoyed attending the Thursday afternoon Band Concerts in the Botanical Gardens, listening to recorded music, and going to concerts.

Greaves' paintings and sculptures are now being documented. The Symposium on Stanley Greaves organized by Castellani House in May 1997 permitted some of Guyana's important cultural critics Eddie Rodney, Errol Brewster, and Rupert Roopnarine - an opportunity to reflect on his body of work.

Greaves has been intimately associated with the major moments in Guyanese art and has worked closely with some of the most important artists in 20th century Guyana - E. R. Burrowes, Mrs. Fulton, Denis Williams, and Donald Locke.

Greaves has always marched to his muse. He has not cowered to the political alter or become faddish. Greaves has used his art to celebrate Guyana - with all its warts included.

He is concerned that significant work has not yet been done on the history of art in Guyana. He considers this work necessary to connect the society with the visions of the artist and the deep roots of Guyana's artisan heritage.

Greaves' life and work demonstrates tenacity, the importance of supportive and nurturing communities, and the ability of Guyanese to leap from the "nigger yards" of misfortune onto the main stages of the world. Greaves' music and paintings help us to see the higher beauty that is still possible in our Dear Land. Stanley Greaves is a Guyanese cultural hero. He is the archtype of the Guyanist.

The Guyana Folk Festival Committee is proud to have awarded Stanley Greaves a Mac Andrew Award in 2002.

Sources:

Al Creighton. "Stanley Greaves-artist, poet, Hono-rary Fellow." Arts on Sunday in Sunday Stabroek, June 29, 2003.

Interview Vibert Cambridge/Stanley Greaves, Barbados, June 19, 2003

Islington Arts Factory. There is a Meeting here Tonight: A series of paintings by Stanley Greaves. Caribbean Connection 3. Catalogue. Islington Arts Factory, 2003.

South London Gallery. The Elders--Brother Everald Brown and Stanley Greaves. Catalogue. South London Gallery, 1999.

Veerle Poupeye. Carib-bean Art. London: Thames and Hudson, 1998

Castellani House. Over-coming the Void. Discussion Series No. 1: Stanley Greaves: A Symposium, May 1997. Georgetown, Guyana: Casetllani House, May 1997.

Rupert Roopnarine. "Stanley Greaves of Guyana - A Caribbean Master." El Dorado, April 1995.

 

Copyright 2000-2012 eCaroh Caribbean Emporium. All Rights Reserved.
Last update: 03/19/12

What is Paypal?

Audio Clips | Additions | Calypso | Caribbean Art & Craft | Caribbean Christmas | Chutney & Indian Music | Clothing
Comedy & Spoken Word | Dance Hall, Rapso & Riddim | DVDs | Island Soul | Folk | Jazz | Parang | Punta | Reggae
Reviews | Sacred | Soca | Steelband | Videos

eCaroh Caribbean Emporium

e-Mail: info@SweetSoca.com 

eCaroh Caribbean Emporium
PanOnTheWeb.com
SweetSOCA.com