“Not only a musician of a generation, he is a cultural hero”- Vibert Cambridge
The Guyanese entertainment industry is in mourning for the late musician, Aubrey Cummings. Reports are that the 63-year-old, who died Wednesday night, was found slumped over the steering wheel of his car, which was parked at the Standard Car Park at Haggatt Hall, Barbados.
His demise is believed to be as a result of a heart attack.
Cummings was a guitarist, vocalist, and a bandleader.
Reports are that the car that Cummings was driving suddenly stopped outside a shop at approximately 19:00hrs.
According to one woman’s report, she closed her shop for the day and was about to leave when she noticed the driver slumped forward in the car. She summoned the police.
Based in Barbados for about 20 years, Cummings is remembered for his smooth renditions of songs such as ‘A flower named June’ and ‘Annalee.’
A relative said the entertainer would be laid to rest in Barbados.
On January 18, 2004, Vibert C. Cambridge Ph.D, writing in the Stabroek News, described Aubrey Cummings as ‘A Musician of a Generation’ whose experience provided valuable insights into the dynamics of Guyanese society during the late colonial period and the early post-independence era.
According to Cambridge’s article, Cummings’ experiences also provide a useful lens to look at the place of music in Guyanese society.
Born in 1947, Cummings grew up in the Alberttown/Queenstown community and attended Queenstown Roman Catholic Primary School.
There, Cummings developed a reputation as an artist. He loved to draw. He would draw on anything he could find including the small squares of brown paper that were used to package the rice and sugar and on the back of old calendars.
These drawings would be displayed on the school’s walls. However, it was music and not art that made Cummings a household name in Guyana during the 1960s and 1970s, it was his music.
His decision to develop a career in pop music was influenced by Michael Bacchus and the Heartbreakers.
In Cambridge’s article, Cummings navigated alleyways and “bored” through palings from Crown Street to visit the group’s rehearsals at a house in Anira Street, Queenstown. Among the members of Bacchus’s band were Johnny Braff and Compton Edwards.
The magic of popular music and show business excited him, so he took up the guitar and became a self-taught guitarist.
Cummings first joined the ‘Bumble and the Saints’ band in 1965 during the string band era when Guyanese string bands and musicians attracted attention in the Caribbean. In 1965, Bumble and the Saints toured Barbados with Johnny Braff with moderate success.
On his return from that island; Cummings joined Joe Wong and the Dominators as a guitarist.
In 1972, Cummings responded to an opportunity provided by Ossie Redman to travel to Brazil with the Telstars International Band. As the bandleader he toured Manaus during 1972 and 1973. The band included Gerald Couchman (drums), Cummings on guitar, Monty Douglas (composer and arranger), Derry Etkins (organ), Billy Stephenson (Congos), Ray Seales (sax and vocals), Terry Jervis (trumpet), Colin “Bumble” Wharton (bass guitar), and Phil “Bumpy” Dino as the vocalist.
In 1973, Telstars International toured Barbados and recorded the important album ‘Orbiting’, which included songs such as “So lucky” and “World of Tomorrow.”
In July 1975, Cummings went on an adventure. He hitchhiked to Brazil. The adventure started with a plane flight from Ogle Airstrip to Lethem. He had recalled the Kabwowra flies that welcomed the hitchhiking party—one female and four males—to Lethem. The party crossed the Takutu River into Bom Fin and hitched hiked to Manaus and then to Rio de Janeiro, a distance of almost 3,000 miles.
From Rio, Cummings went on to Brasilia. He spent a few months there playing with Brazilian bands and as a solo artist at various clubs. He returned to Guyana in December 1975 ready for another engagement with popular music in Guyana.
In Barbados, Cummings established an active musical career as guitarist and vocalist. There he recorded the hit “A Flower named June,” followed by “Think I’m in Love,” “Analie,” and the “Children of Sanchez.”
For Carifesta 1981, he composed the song “West Indian People”, which has been covered by choral groups in the West Indies and Germany.
In 1984 and again in 1985, Cummings won the Best Male Vocalist Award in Barbados. During the same period, he consistently won prizes at the Caribbean Song Festivals organized by the Caribbean Broadcasting Union.
As Professor Cambridge aptly described the outstanding son of the soil, “Aubrey Cummings is not only a musician of a generation, he is a cultural hero.”
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