For the Price of One! Corsbie, Jailall, Farrier – By Dr. Dhanpaul Narine

For the Price of One! Corsbie, Jailall, Farrier – By Dr. Dhanpaul Narine


Some members of the ‘3 Ah We’ program in Brooklyn, New York.

‘The Seawall in Guyana is extremely important,’ says Ken Corsbie, ‘ because a quarter of the population was conceived there!’ Ken Corsbie was in his element. The Sunday afternoon crowd in Brooklyn was prepared to be entertained and Corsbie was working his magic.

There was this one about the School Inspector in Arima, Trinidad.  As he entered the class the teacher asked the students, ‘ who knocked down the walls of Jericho?’ Now this was no ordinary question. One student said it wasn’t him, why would he knock down the walls of Jericho? The Inspector and Principal couldn’t agree on how to discipline the student. When the Inspector kept insisting that the student must know who broke down the wall of Jericho the Principal decided to step in and save the day. He said, ‘ Okay, tell me how much the wall cost and I will pay for it!’  

What about asking for directions in Barbados? Corsbie   says that Barbados boasts of a 98 per cent literacy rate and this can cause problems because it’s the two per cent you have to worry about. The Bajans are very literal people, according to Corsbie. “If you ask them ‘ excuse me can you tell me the time?’ They will reply “yes.”  Americans like to give directions using numbers but with Bajans it’s completely different. There was this group of tourists that was trying to find Harrison’s Cave.

They asked a Bajan man for directions. He said, ‘ back up a little. You will go down a hill and then come to a mango tree and at the right of the mango tree you will come to a gap in the road. We used to raid that tree as small boys but don’t take that gap. Keep going straight and you will come to a bus stop. Get on the bus and ask the conductor to put you off at District ‘A’ police station and ask for Brathwaite and tell him I sent you. He will tell you how to find Harrison’s Cave. I really don’t know.”

This was just a few in a series of stories last weekend. But there was the serious side too. Peter Jailall, poet and storyteller, was on hand to read his poems and playwright and poet Francis Quamina Farrier also contributed making the trio “3 Ah-We.” The trio read a poem by Guyanese John Agard titled ‘Anancy Cricket.’ Corsbie then read a poem that involved the audience in a song from Belize. The poem was a love-story that spoke of longing and the melting of hearts.

It was then time for Corsbie to invoke the name of Marc Matthews. In the seventies Corsbie and Matthews made up the ‘Dem Two’ team that thrilled audiences in Guyana and the Caribbean. Corsbie chose to focus on the word ‘thing.’ He said that his wife Beth who is American took fifteen years to understand what the word ‘ thing’ meant. ‘ When I say to her to hand me the thing she had no clue what thing meant,’ says Corsbie.

Matthews had written about ‘ he say that she said the thing name is so and so. So when the thing see that the thing pulled out the thing from the other thing the thing had another thing coming. When the bus stopped at the thing I had to get off and get the thing and do a thing with she! Boy stop doing that thing. Give me a lil thing a ling! You understand.’ In a Caribbean love story the difference between a man and a woman was highlighted.  We were told that there are all kinds of ‘man’ in the world. There is boatman, goatman, cane juice man, brain man, flirty man, dirty man, all kind of man. There is also done and run man, and yellow man but there is only one woman and we are yet to find she!’

Peter Jailall, our profile in this week’s ‘West Indian’ said that we need to recognize our storytellers. We need to place these icons on top rather than the big politicians that do so little for the people. Jailall was referring to storyteller Ken Corsbie and others of his ilk that have brought so much glory to Caribbean literature in the form of the spoken and written word. In the seventies there were Corsbie, Marc Matthews, Henry Muttoo and John Agard that culled works from the local community and weaved them into a unique Caribbean pepper pot. One must not forget Rooplall Monar and his ‘Backdam People’ or Mahadai Das or Wordsworth McAndrew that told the stories of people striving to be better.

Jailall describes himself as a serious poet. His first poem was an appeal for persons to do away with stereotypes. He did not want people to insult others. A ‘Paki is no one’s lackey’ and people that are overweight or have different sexual orientation ought o be treated with respect. Jailall then turned his attention to those Indians in Guyana that convert to other religions. In the ‘Rice Christians Prayer’ the angry Hindu elders wanted to know how Ram and Krishna can turn Paul into Silas? Can sheep turn goat?

Jailall says that when he travels on the New York subway he has his eyes and ears open. He was observing the action in the subway recently and he saw someone dressed in an immaculate shirt-jac and black serge pants. The Jamaican man alighted the train at Parkchester. He had a black leather bound Bible and started to sing a hymn ‘and then he started to read from the Old Testament predicting the coming of the lamb of God.’ He closed the book and asked the audience if they were spotless and ready to meet their God. The train stopped at 83rd Street and a man entered with a lime green iguana nestled in his Afro. The man left at 103st and left the congregation and preacher with cupped hands covering his eyes. He had seen the lamb!

Francis Quamina Farrier is the playwright that gave us ‘The Tides of Susanburg’ and he has been described as the elder statesman of the Guyanese theater. He is a busybody conducting interviews, traveling to various parts of Guyana and the Caribbean to highlight the importance of drama. In 2007, the New York Senate described him as ‘a shining example of Guyanese cultural achievement in the field of the written and spoken word.’ The audience was lucky then to have Farrier as a participant. He began by reading one of Martin Carter’s poems and then moved effortlessly into a poem by A.J Seymour titled ‘The People.’

The afternoon was a rich exposition of Guyanese literati and it was well received by the audience. Dr. Vibert Cambridge was acknowledged for his contributions to culture and the sponsors of the ‘3 Ah We’ event Dr. Juliet Emanuel, Edgar Henry and Romesh Singh would like to thank all that attended. The Literary Hang is scheduled to take place on Saturday, September 5, 2015 at 10:00 am at St. John’s Episcopal Church, 139 St. St. John’s Place, Brooklyn, NY 11217.

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