There’s something about “Slingshot”

There’s something about “Slingshot”

Listen to his song “Wake up Guyana” by clicking on this link

Stabroek News – February 20, 2010

By Oluatoyin Alleyne

There is something about John ‘Slingshot’ DrePaul’s music that is contagious, resulting in the involuntary tapping of the feet and nodding of the head to the beat of his songs.


John ‘Slingshot’ DrePaul (Photo courtesy of John ‘Slingshot’ DrePaul)

Maybe it is the passion that just pours out of his singing–which by the way is unmatched by many–or it could be the obvious patriotism to his homeland; then again it could be just him. But whatever it is it has propelled Slingshot into the hearts of Guyanese.

If he is not singing about Mashramani, he is singing about the markets and still he may be singing about a good Guyanese Christmas.

Maybe it is words like these “Your praises I’ll sing out loud…!  And walk with my head high and proud…! No matter where I may roam…! You’re my Home, Sweet Home…!” which is the chorus of his cover song “Home Sweet Home” of his third album. And again it could be “There is nothing like me home on Christmas morning…” from his “Christmas in Guyana” hit. People in the Diaspora admit that listening to Slingshot’s songs away from home dredges up strong feelings of nostalgia.

After all there is nothing like pepper pot and ginger beer–all of which Slingshot captures in his Christmas song–to make a good Guyanese Christmas.

But it is not just his songs that give that true down-to-earth feeling, his music videos which all seem to be spontaneous and in no way choreographed manage to capture what life really is like in Guyana.

Slingshot and his wife Ingrid in costume on Mash Day last year.

The spontaneity was confirmed when this writer was approached by Slingshot  and his adoring wife Ingrid while shopping in Bourda Market to be part of a video they were shooting on the spot. I declined but observed many other shoppers gladly acceding to the request and shouting the words they were told as a beaming Slingshot had his small handheld camera trained on them.

Maybe the answer to why his songs are just not forgettable is provided by Slingshot himself when he says he has “used my music and videos as tools to weld social, cultural, and to an extent, political harmony among Guyanese.”    The singer also proclaimed that he is “welcomed and appreciated in homes in the inner-city as well as rural areas.”

Perhaps the essence of it all comes out when one sits down and listens to the life story of the Berbice boy who was thrown out of the only place he called home by his stepmother and was forced to spend some time on the Number 63 beach in a shack. The loneliness and pain a 13-year-old boy would have experienced during such an ordeal rings out in most of his songs as it is this that prompted him to start writing songs. But the joy and triumph derived from pulling through such a period with just a few scratches and bruises is also evident in his singing.

‘Self made’

Slingshot describes himself as a “self-made artiste whose music is appealing to people from all races, backgrounds, and cultures because it has rhythm and meaning.”

“Affable” and “multi-talented” are other adjectives he uses to sell himself as a “versatile entertainer whose raw authentic Caribbean singing style imitates no one in particular” and one who has a “most colourful past.”

His background gets more interesting when he talks about moving to the US in 1970 and performing at Madison Square Garden with his Guyanese band ‘Tropical Waves’ as the opening act for Jamaican singer Yellowman, the Mighty Sparrow from Trinidad and Guyanese Calypso Rose. His stint in the military, which saw him spending time in Germany also adds to his colourful past.

The singer has boasted of composing and arranging over 150 songs and has recorded seven CD albums.

Slingshot adds that he has been into all genres of music, calypso, soca, reggae, waltz, R&B and Chutney. He is of the opinion that he has broken the stereotype of someone from especially an “East Indian background and from the rural area of Guyana” to enter the realms of “calypso singing and entertaining, and to create an almost unique sound that is truly Guyanese.”

Saying music is his life, Slingshot said he has performed in many countries and has fond memories of his performances in London to a predominantly Nigerian and Ghanaian audience. He said his music videos are seen in a number of African countries, US, Canada, UK and the Caribbean.

His success in rising above economic, cultural, social and family adversities, he said has seen his music used “many times over as role models for the economically and socially disadvantaged, as well as musicians and entertainers in Guyana.”

Beach house

Slingshot talks openly about being thrown out of his home at age 13 by his stepmom. He said he lived for a while in a “simple beach shack” he put together on the Number 63 beach. Many months later, he said, he got together with some friends and built a solid beach house where he “survived with the protection and kindly assistance from strangers.”

But even in such adversity, the artiste said he stuck to his schoolwork and attended the Tagore Memorial High School daily.

His love for music developed during that period and he juggled it with school, succeeding in putting together a bad named ‘The Lonely Bulls’. This group was popular in its days and performed at many local events along the Corentyne Coast and in New Amsterdam.

Not to be daunted when his band was no more, Slingshot said he instead organised another group which he named ‘Sons of India’ and it was with this band that he “experimented with a fusion of English and Indian music” adding that the word Chutney was not coined at that time.

As a boy, Slingshot said, his friendships reached across the racial divide which was typical of a rural upbringing.

Following his completion of secondary school the artiste taught at his alma mater for a few years and without any assistance from local or national government he said he was “instrumental in the formation of some social clubs which kept the youths in the various villages along the Upper Corentyne occupied and off the streets.” The clubs were called ‘Early Risers Youth Club’ and ‘Idlers Dominoes Club.’

Some of his more memorable songs, which were produced in collaboration with his wife Ingrid, include “Mash Fever”, “Welcome to Guyana” and of course “Sweet Island Woman”.

Over the years, Slingshot has played a significant part in Mash celebrations and has had floats on the road for a number of years–winning some prizes in the process.

No one can forget the 2007 accident when he fell off the horse cart that was pulling his float on Mash Day. Even in pain he got up and “balancing on his two hands” he ensured he made it to the National Park but shortly after was admitted to the hospital where it was diagnosed he had sustained three broken bones in his lower back.

Not to be deterred he came out again the following year and won his category with ‘Mash Fever: Heart of Man – Love of Country.’

Listing some of his achievements Slingshot recalled that in 2004 a song entitled “You Are Not Alone” written by him and wife was recorded with the input of a number of Guyanese artistes. The song was given to Artistes in Direct Support to benefit orphans and homeless kids in Guyana, especially those infected and affected by HIV/AIDS. This song was relaunched on Thursday when Slingshot launched his Mash band at the Pegasus Hotel and The Scene understands that some of its lines are also destined for a new GT&T advertisement.

Slingshot has received the ‘Mayor’s Award for Excellence’, the ‘GT Lime 2005 Charitable Award’ and helped with a relief in London for victims of the 2005 flood.

Fans will soon get to learn more about this artiste as Slingshot revealed that he is in the process of editing his manuscript titled Slingshot: From Number 63 Beach to Madison Square Garden. He said the manuscript chronicles his rather “interesting and unique journey through life” since he overcame the “psychological trauma” of living alone in his early teens. It will also talk about the fact that he taught himself guitar, formed a string band, supported himself through high school and refrained from using alcohol and tobacco. (

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