– Amerindian band speaks of passion and smooth rhythm
What, Caly-Mari? You’ve never heard the word before, right? It’s the unique sound Neville Calistro serves up, and you can get a chance to groove to his music all week long at the Amerindian Village at the Sophia Exhibition Complex.
Neville, or “The Chief” as he is popularly called, is the man behind the Indigenous Calibro band, the country’s only band made up of exclusively Amerindians. But, Neville’s Caly-Mari is the only thing close to Amerindian you will hear, and even that sounds more like Latin jazz and/or something the sort of merengue. But then again, Latin music takes its influence from the indigenous people, no?
But let’s get back to Neville’s invention – the Caly-Mari. Because of his first love of writing and composing his own songs, he likes to call it calypso. But, then it sounds much better putting the traditional Amerindian beat Mari-Mari beat to it. There is nothing particularly distinctly calypso or Mari-Mari about the music Neville produces. It hits you first as Salsa – the rhythm that gets even the most introverted of persons to get their inner swagger on.
Then there are the stories that Neville comes up with that puts the tickle into any a stone-hearted soul standing by. His hit ‘Gee she Cap’ain, gee she,” which he performed on Independence Day 1976, still has a raunchy humour to it, but doesn’t stick to being a calypso you only sway to. You can pretty much “get down” to his music, much like the Brazilian dance that gets the dust into the air.
So, how did this Amerindian get to form his own band?
Neville doesn’t have ‘The Chief” title just by chance. He was once captain of the Amerindian mission Kabakaburi, down the Pomeroon River in Region Two.
It was this “captaincy” that would lead to the discovery of his music by no less a person than Viola Burnham, the wife of then Prime Minister Forbes Burnham.
As captain, he was brought to Madewini, on the Soesdyke-Linden highway for a developer’s course. It was the usual thing for Neville to get up on stage during breakfast and sing for his colleagues and enthrall them with stories about Guyana’s first peoples.
One day, Mr and Mrs Burnham decided on a visit to Camp Madewini, and what do you know, Neville was on stage!
“Maybe, it sounded interesting to her,” he chuckled. It was soon after that Neville was invited to join the People’s Cultural Corps. He was told to gather up a group of other residents from Kabakaburi and bring them to Georgetown. And so he did. He managed four dancers and two other musicians.
Apart from singing Calpyso, his specialty was playing the Banjo and the Sambora – a 12-inch drum made out of wood and Agouti skin. Well, you could use deer skin or monkey skin, if you want.
Neville and his group spent six months immersing themselves in the history and culture as part of the regimen for entering the People’s Culture Corps.
When he could manage the time, Neville also got involved in drama. He remembers performing in “A Journey to Freedom” with now popular television personality Francis Quamina Farrier. He played the part of a man robbed of some diamonds, and did he know how precious diamonds are! Indeed, having worked in the mines, he had some diamonds of his own.
“So I know what losing diamonds could feel like,” he joked.
Neville’s love of music translated to his family, and so upon the insistence of members of the community, he decided to form the Indigenous Calibro Band, consisting of his five sons, his daughter and a nephew. The members of the band, apart from Neville are Kennedy, Adam, Clowis, Alvaro, Macema, Valdero and Clive James.
The band was formed five years ago and receives regular invitations to perform all over Guyana, especially in the interior.
Neville and his team are on stage every night until Sunday at the Amerindian Cultural Nights at the Sophia Exhibition Complex.
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