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Profiles of Caribbean Artistry

Caribbean Voices 6
Marc-Up The CD

In the 1970s, especially in the post-Carifesta I years, there was a celebration of the Caribbean creole voice. Among the important ambassadors of what Kamau Brathwaithe called "native language" was a group of Guyana/Caribbean performers known variously as He One, Dem Two, or All-Ah-We--Marc Matthews, Ken Corsbie, Henry Muttoo, Ras "Camo" Williams, and Eddie Hooper. These artists brought together poetry, prose, song, dance, pan, flute, guitar, bongo, and created performances that made us feel proud of our Caribbean language.

Those of us who had the good fortune to have experienced their memorable performances in venues in the Caribbean, or in the Caribbean Diaspora, still reflect on the power of those performances. They brought to life the fantastic literary creativity that was afoot in the Caribbean. The re-release of MARC UP allows us another opportunity to revisit that era.

MARC UP features the performance of the poetry of John Agard, Kamau Brathwaithe, Martin Carter, Evan Jones, Christopher Laird, Wordsworth McAndrew, Marc Matthews, Pat Rahming, Kamal Singh, Bruce St. John, and Derek Walcott. These words are accompanied by the songs and music of Chuck Girard, Eddie Hooper, Lynette Smith, Chet Etkins, Andre Tanker, Galt McDermont, Lancelot Layne, Ras "Camo" Williams, Eze Rockliffe, and Keith Waithe.

MARC UP is probably one of the most important artifacts of the flowering of Caribbean cultural diplomacy in post-independence era. Ken Corsbie must be congratulated for making this valuable artifact available again. With the pops and hisses, this CD is a collector's delight. It is a bit of Caribbean history to be treasured. MARC UP is truly for ALL AH WE.

Vibert C. Cambridge, 
Ph. D Chair, 
African American Studies Ohio University


1972 - Guyana - KEN saw Guyanese dramatist SLADE HOPKINSON perform Caribbean stories, and the wild audience reaction inspired Ken to construct HE-ONE his one-man show. 1973 - MARC teamed up with him for their now almost legendary DEM-TWO productions throughout the islands. Then the inevitable in 1975 - ALL-AH-WE with HENRY, then JOHNNY and then the musicians - Keith Waithe, Eddie Hooper, Como Williams, Carl Richardson, Lancelot Layne. 1979 - Ken relocated to Barbados to run the Theatre Information Exchange (T.I.E). He produced the MARC-UP L.P to permanently record and archive their unique interpretations of the best of the oral/aural Caribbean poetry. This 2002 CD version reached into Ken's considerable archives plus in-studio recordings.

For this re-production of MARC-UP - the CD, we retained all but one of the original items, and added seven new pieces. The purpose of this re-production is to permanently archive some of the best ALL-AH-WE performances of works by the finest Caribbean poets and songwriters who retain all rights to their works. We are all forever grateful to them.

1. THERE IS A MEETING HERE TONIGHT - A Traditional ritual song of Jamaica. DEM-TWO used it as introduction to their shows.

SIX O'CLOCK FEELING - From the towering trees around their home in Georgetown, KAMAL SINGH and MARC were serenaded every early evening by the "six o'clock bee" which, of course, was never on time. Marc extended this otherwise gentle poem with the help of the imaginative YORUBA SINGERS.

2. RAINBOW - JOHN AGARD's poem sensitively echoes Kamal's "SIX O'CLOCK FEELING", and typical of his social perceptions, he adds a twist of his own which Ken extends with music/song.

3. 12.30 IS LIFE - CHRISTOPHER LAIRD is a videographer and documentalist. He observed the power of the midday cinema culture in Trinidad (this was before the greater power of rented videos almost overwhelmed the communal experience of cinema). Marc and musicians interpret the experience. For the most and best video archives of Caribbean life check out Chris' site www.pancaribbean.com

4. SEAWALL - Only the Dutch could have "colonized" the coastland of Guyana with its highest Atlantic tides above the level of the land. They did what comes naturally - they built a hundred miles of concrete dikes. The "Sea Wall" became a vibrant social focus particularly along the sea-skirt of the city of Georgetown. MARC tells it all as only he could.

5. MOUNTAIN SAY - Wherever Grenadian DeCOTEAU MALIK travelled in the Caribbean, he was always disturbingly seen as a "stranger" - in a Caribbean that was inextricably integrated with intricate colonial ties of history, family, heritages, cultures, economics and politics. This recording was from an ALL-AH-WE production in Guyana that included raconteurs RON ROBINSON and RICHARD NARAINE, and musicians KEITH WAITHE and COMO WILLIAMS.

6. DARK TIME - From his political jail cell, Guyana's "resistance poet" MARTIN CARTER wrote poems/letters to his wife. Marc and the Yoruba Singers express the country's political mood of dark days.

7. OL' HIGUE - WORDSWORTH McANDREW is the icon of Guyanese folklorists. His action poem about the not so mythological vampire is his most popular. CHUCK GIRARD is another Guyanese with rare talents - he saw Ken perform OL' HIGUE and immediately wrote a song version. Ken takes the not unusual ALL-AH-WE liberty/risk of integrating these two works of very different styles but with the same theme.

8. BREAKFAST BRUISE - Bahamian PAT RAHMING remembers an exquisite moment in a restaurant that then reminds us all of the "other side" of life. Henry and Marc "actionize" this brief but vivid encounter.

9. NANCY vs. TIGER - In a small cafe in London, JOHN AGARD told Ken the story of a cricket game between Brer Tiger and Anancy Spider the West African trickster character. The explicit message in this poem-jewel has haunted him ever since - so very many times he has waited and waited in vain for people to deliver what they say they will deliver, to do what they say they will do.

10. RITUAL - Way back in the 60's, Barbadian poet extraordinary KAMAU BRAITHWAITE observed that a character weakness of the West Indian cricket is the tendency to fold under pressure. In his own perceptive way, he used this as a metaphor for a broader comment about the national character of West Indians. Ken tells the story.

11. PORTIA FACES LIFE - During the 60's and 70's, one of the endlessly popular radio programs was "Portia Faces Life". In his usual skewed perception MARC saw this as a cynical comparative situation with Guyana life. The DEM-TWO and ALL-AH-WE were never shy of integrating song and music into poetry, so EDDIE HOOPER stitched in his song "WHO AM I?"

12. BY BA HAI YAH - In 1973, Ken was part of a team of Caribbean broadcasters touring the 13 Caricom territories, collecting material for the production of thirty radio documentary programs on the culture, politics and arts of the region. In Belize, late one evening, in a tiny seaside hut, with the sound of the sea just a few yards away, 71 year old THOMAS SANTIAGO sang this love song in his own Black Carib language.

13. LETTER TO ENGLAND - BRUCE St.JOHN was a trained classical singer, professor of Spanish Literature at the University of the West Indies in Barbados, and one of the region's wittiest and socially incisive dialect poets. At a Little Carib performance in Trinidad, HENRY MUTTOO transcribed this poignant tale of loss and longing into a Guyana East Indian idiom.

14. LAMENT OF THE BANANA MAN - First it was "Song of the Banana Man" with the proud hard working Jamaican peasant farmer proclaiming his proud independence and self worth. Then poet EVAN JONES saw him later - living in England, perhaps a harder life, this time with an almost tragic longing. As the ALL-AH-WE often did, Marc "becomes" the Jamaican character.

15. DEAR MOTHER - Another AGARD gem, this time from a rare recording of Johnny himself. He continues to enchant and educate U.K audiences with his impish/earthy/authentic stage presence.

LITTLE RED BIRD is from Nobel Prize winner, St.Lucian DEREK WALCOTT's musical play JOKER OF SEVILLE which was commissioned by the Royal Shakespeare Company in London. The music was by Canadian playwright song-maker GALT McDERMOT (writer of the cult musical of the 60's - HAIR). It's sung by Trinidadian calypsonian/composer LANCELOT LAYNE, who has regretfully passed away.

 

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Last update: 03/19/12

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