Digital Guyana

Posts Tagged ‘Guitar

Matt and me bought a guitar in downtown Georgetown a few weeks ago.

Kitty the guitar

As you can see, it’s a peculiar, rustic looking thing. We were informed by the seller that it was locally made but that the guy who crafted it is now dead. Whether that makes it cursed we’re not sure – though Matt does like to describe it as the evil twin of the resonator guitar from the cover of Dire Straits’ Brothers In Arms album.

Despite this, it plays pretty nicely – even if the action (the distance from the fretboard to the strings) is way too high further up the fretboard – and it’s been great having it in the flat. We can’t get the TV and DVD player to work and Matt and myself both play in bands (although I play the bass) so the practice time has been handy.

Matt’s off to Mexico after Guyana and plans to take ‘Kitty’ with him. I hope it survives the trip there and the subsequent flight back to London. Matt loves his flamenco so he’s going to put nylon strings on it and see how that sounds. If it’s not as good as his classical guitar back in London (which he suspects it won’t be) then I get to keep it. Fingers crossed. I’m getting quite attached to it.

Tonight Matt’s going to play a couple of tunes at an open mic / performance poetry night. Expect a blog post about that in the next couple of days. In the meantime, in the spirit of making lists for no good reason other than it’s sometimes fun to, here’s the five tunes you’re most likely to hear if you drop by Lot 6D Station Street in Kitty…

1. Hey Hey, My My
It feels like loads of my friends have suddenly really got into Neil Young in the last couple of years. I’m not complaining – the guy is a genius. Different versions of this tune bookend his ace live album Rust Never Sleeps and is one of my – and Matt and Pontus’s – faves.

2. Waterfall
I endlessly played this technicoloured baggy ballad by the Stone Roses during my teenage years so I guess it was inevitable it would pop back into my head during my time here. Guyana means The Land of Many Waters after all. Once I’d worked it out again I taught Pontus, and in return he taught me Hey Hey, My My.

3. Don’t You Forget About Me / Jesus Don’t Want Me For a Sunbeam
Glasgow band Simple Minds’ breakthrough single – which memorably soundtracks the bratpack classic The Breakfast Club – happens to have the same chords (we think) as this tune by the much more obscure Glaswegian indie band The Vaselines (you might know Nirvana’s cover from their Unplugged  in New York album), so a rendition of one inevitably turns into the other – and back again.

4. Folsom Prison Blues
He may look like a malnourished Mexican bandito but Matt’s voice is unexpectedly full-bodied. Part Johnny Cash part Dave Gahan from Depeche Mode, it’s no surprise he can pull off this blues stomper from the Man In Black with aplomb.

5. The Needle And The Damage Done
What can I say, we’re big Neil Young fans.

Black water. Also note the mosquito bites on Chriss feet

I’d like to take a moment to talk to you about water.

Guyana is known as ‘the land of many waters’, indeed water out here is slightly more prevalent than back in the UK. It is also more of a national resource. For a start the tap water is not safe to drink. In fact we’ve been highly advised against using it for brushing our teeth. This means that there are a huge amount of water butts constantly moving around Georgetown. You only need to glance into one of the many roadside ditches or get close enough to smell one to comprehend why. They appear to be a breeding ground for mosquitos and I’ve heard the some people have even seen the odd dead dog in them.

A few days a go we saw a dead dog on the beach, mercifully a photo was not taken. It was lying on its side, peacefully looking out to sea. ‘How cute’ I thought, ‘the dog’s enjoying the sunset.’ Then I noticed it wasn’t breathing. As some consolation it died peacefully. Looking out to sea is an odd phenomenon here. When you think of the Caribbean, crystal clear blue water inevitably follows, which makes cresting the summit of the sea wall a slightly disappointing experience.

Not my photo, will take an alternative one soon.

Not my photo, will take an alternative one soon.

First impressions might lead you to think that the photo was taken through a brown filter, but I assure you that this is its true pigment. Brown sea water could easily be a factor in why the tourism trade is underdeveloped here. Going for a paddle doesn’t feel like the most appealing thing I’ve ever considered, though we may well have to try it some day before leaving. I’m going to have to try very hard to not think about standing on that poor dog’s skull.

The sea and river water out here is brown due to the muddy sediment it contains and is nowhere near as dirty as it looks. As Hugh mentioned before we went out to arrow point which rests on the bank of one of Guyana’s many ‘black water’ creeks. Having been used to seeing the rolling brown sea stretch for miles into the distance, the idea of black water sounded even less enticing. Black water, it turns out, really is black.

The reason for this (so I’m told) is because of a large amount of tannin in the water from the surrounding forest. The upshot of all this is an experience akin to swimming around in a giant cup of cold black tea.

The water is drinkable and feels fantastic to swim in, if you can get over the slightly disconcerting fact that you can’t see anything. This becomes a more prominent disadvantage when you realize that caiman crocodiles take residence in that same water. It also undulates between startlingly cold to pleasantly warm over traveling a couple of feet. It’s an incredible experience and if you ever have the opportunity I highly advise the reader to give it a try.

At a slight tangent, I believe the local alcohol deserves a quick mention… Well, it is a sort of liquid so it kind of works. Beer here is generally under a pound ($300) in the local shops, and around or just over in a club. Wine is about six pounds a bottle ($2,000), but for stuff that is surprisingly good. Rum, however, is about two pounds ($600) a litre which is absolutely incredible, especially since it tastes fantastic as well. For nearly three pounds and a death wish you can also get hold of a litre of high wine. At 69% alcohol it’s about the strongest bottled spirit I’ve ever encountered and tastes like it too.

The Gaffen cocktail of choice out here would be a ‘Pirate’s Bloody Revenge’, which is easy to remember; one measure of rum to one measure of cranberry juice. Enjoy.

Hugh will include a longer post about the guitar we have bought out here. However, whilst we’re on the subject of water I thought it’d be appropriate to say that at a couple of the VSO gatherings we’ve been to I’ve been feeling increasingly like I’m turning into this guy.