Thursday, April 18, 2024

The genius that is Gabby


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This one is for my creative friend GABBY in recognition of his being recently honoured by the University of the West Indies Cave Hill Campus with an honorary doctorate.
Having been close to Anthony Dr Gabby Carter most of his life, from his boyhood days in Emmerton to the present, I could write an entire book giving my perspective of his multi-faceted life. But for today’s purpose I want to share what I consider my most memorable moment with Gabby.
The year was 1984 and one of my prized possessions at the time was a large, silver carry-on-your-shoulder ghetto blaster with all the latest built-in technology of the day, including cassette-tape deck. Decorating a corner of the apartment in which I then lived was Gabby’s treasured guitar.
One Saturday morning, he took the guitar from its case, sat on a chair with it on his leg, cocked his head and started to play. After experimenting a while with some chords, he settled for a particular pattern in a particular key. Then he began humming a tune that was unfamiliar to me within the pattern.
The experimentation went on for a while until he appeared to be satisfied that the chords and melody now fitted hand-in-glove with whatever it was that the ever-creating right side of his brain was churning up.
Then he called out: “Cephus (his name for me at the time), bring the box and a tape and record this little thing I have inside my head for me now before I forget it.” I did as he requested, plugged in and set up a microphone and told him it was ready when he was.
Never one to miss a chance for a laugh, Gabby looked me in the eye and with a wide grin from ear to ear asked, “Cephus, I know you used to be good drummer once upon a time, but can you still remember how to hold a beat?”
I assured him I still could beat but that unfortunately, I had no drums on which I could prove to him that I could. Gabby laughed again and asked me, “So what’s wrong with the two handles on the chair you sitting down on?”
I couldn’t beat that so I started slapping a regular calypso beat only to hear that he wanted me to “beat a kaiso beat that sounds like it marching”. He showed what he meant on the side of the guitar and I followed on the chair.
Gabby then returned to the guitar and started strumming and strumming and strumming and when he seemed to be reaching a frenzy, he starting humming and humming until he reached a point where he had reached his centre of perfect harmony and nodded to me to start taping.
Within 15 minutes, Dr Gabby had laid down, on a two-dollar cassette tape in a ghetto blaster, the body of what from the recording studios within months would become one of the biggest Barbadian calypso hits of all time – Boots.
But when I went to move the microphone he let me know, “I am not done yet. I still have two more things going around in my head that I want to finish. So get back on the drums and start taping again.”
Believe it or not, but within 45 minutes Dr Gabby had also added to that two-dollar cassette tape the first recording of two other monster hits: Hit It and Mr T.
And if I had not been sure before, I knew there and then that he was a genius.
• Al Gilkes heads a public relations firm. Email

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