AS BAJAN AS FLYING FISH: Jazzing up Sunday brunch
My name is Tom Hinds and I organise a jazz brunch.
I grew up in Black Rock, St Michael. We had a beautiful upbringing, typical Barbadian back-in-the-year, community-spirited life. You had to walk the straight and narrow.
There were parents all around and all parents could beat all children. Families used to live close to one another in Barbados but, because of what we call “upward mobility”, persons moved from the precincts of the family home to all parts of Barbados. I could be a good example of that.
I moved to the St George area. I think that large family support system is still in place. But people don’t see each other that often. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t still that closeness.
We were Methodist in the house. I did the whole Sunday School thing. I don’t go to church now. Not because it clashes with my jazz brunch, but because I don’t feel it’s necessary.
I don’t want to die now but I think I’m reconciled to my mortality. You’re at the mercy of fate.
My philosophy is, “Just don’t tempt it.” I’ll do whatever I can to keep the fella away for as long as I can.
I read non-fiction. I can’t get into fictitious work. Having said that, there are a number of authors who have done work depicting lifelike situations using fictitious characters and embellishing truths, like V.S. Naipaul, C.L.R. James, Herman Melville.
I fall asleep very quickly in movies. When VHS tapes were fashionable, I bought a VCR and joined a club. After a month, I realised I hadn’t seen one full movie. After Combermere, I went into the world of work.
I was 11 years old when my father, a dentist, spent one year studying and came back to Barbados.
Even at that tender age, I began listening to all these wonderful recordings critically [and could appreciate] the ability these musicians possessed, the way in which they played.
Daddy would point out what instrument I was hearing, how it related to the piano, the drums and so on. It never left me.
In Lower School and in Upper School, I would be calling the names of these great musicians to my colleagues; and they would look at me as if I was from outer space. Barbados is not dissimilar from most other places: you’re not going to find the masses following authentic jazz, the music some call, “the American classical music”.
It’s impossible to name my top five jazz musicians. I might be able to give you my top five in a particular era. I think it’s actually wrong to make comparisons. It’s just a question of how they interpret what they hear in their heads and reproduce it.
You can have two saxophonists, brought up in the same era, with the same influences, the identical age, but when you hear the music, it sounds so different. To me, that is the essence of jazz.
Right after jazz, I’m a fan of calypso of up to about 15 years ago. After David Rudder, that would have seen the end of the geniuses. I heard someone on the radio say, recently: “I wrote that song in five minutes!” And I thought: “Yes, I can tell.”
Real nonsense. I can get up one morning and put on Wayne Shorter and that would take me through the day. The following morning, I could put on something by Coltrane, by Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk.
About two years ago, I made our Sunday brunch into a jazz brunch and it was really heartening, the way in which young musicians on the island and the audience responded. We’ve had solo artists, duos, trios, quartets.
If you asked a person who was very hungry what the best thing about a jazz brunch was, they’d probably tell you the food. But seeing our patrons relax, you can literally feel the mood changing, the fact that you have this wonderful, acoustic live music, you know?
The bad thing about the job is that sometimes not enough people come and witness it. The word “jazz” conjures up, in some people’s mind, this almost arrogant type of music only intellectuals can enjoy – which is so far from the truth. Barbados is different from the rest of the Caribbean.
Because we have been only English – and I’m not saying that’s a good or bad thing, just the way it is – we aren’t as passionate about anything as Trinis or Jamaicans, except maybe about being Bajan. Caribbean integration hasn’t reached where it should have, mainly because of the politicians. A Bajan is a forthright, almost stubborn individual.
I wonder sometimes if we know what the word, “diplomacy” means. It might not sound the most pleasant, but it is said nonetheless. Barbados means everything, everything, everything to me. I believe in this country and defend it fiercely.
We’ve been fortunate to have successive leaders who have put country first. From an educational standpoint, we’ve done remarkably well.