Sat | Aug 19, 2017

Muse flows from Drummond’s music

Published:Friday | February 19, 2016 | 2:00 AMMel Cooke
Lorna Goodison (second right) speaks about Don Drummond as Raymond Mair (left), Professor Mervyn Morros (second left), Jerry Small (centre) and Dr Kwame Dawes listen at the lecture theatre, Institute of Jamaica, East Street, Kingston, on Sunday.
Trombonist Andrew Christian plays at the Institute of Jamaica, East Street, Kingston, on Sunday afternoon, during the Jamaica Music Museum’s Grounation series on Don Drummond.
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Sunday's edition of the 2016 Grounation series on Don Drummond was dedicated to poetry which has been written about the late trombonist. And when Raymond Mair, Professor Mervyn Morris, Lorna Goodison, Jerry Small and Dr Kwame Dawes (who doubled as host) were finished reading to a nearly full house at the lecture hall, Institute of Jamaica, East Street, Kingston, the focus was shifted to why Drummond has earned so much attention from poets.

Dawes, who doubled as host for Ungu Malunga Man: Musings on Don Drummond, ended the readings with a multi-part poem, each section of which covered a different year, including 1964, 1968 and 1982. And it was he who posed the question to the panel of poets which led to a general discussion - including audience input - that took up the rest of the afternoon.

Goodison was first to respond to Dawes' query of why Drummond remains an active subject in the writing of Jamaican poets. Her immediate response was that Drummond "belongs with the great tragic heroes." There was also his innate star quality, as Goodison said "if you saw him on the stage, you did not look at anyone else ... Some people just have that star quality".

Later she remarked on Drummond's flair for fashion, when he turned out in a suit with a pair of 'booga' shoes, a precursor to what some rappers later did. And It did not hurt that, as Goodison said, "he was a good-looking man".

Small said "music is a thing that sooth and it also stirs." With Drummond, it was soothing.

Mair described the encounter with Drummond which led to his poem on the trombonist. He encountered Drummond at the corner of Victoria Avenue, by Palace Theatre. Mair was "going on west on a mission and I saw him. It was in one of those periods when him 'head take him'".

Mair greeted Drummond, who just nodded. However, when Mair returned and Drummond was still in the same place, the musician said to Mair, "I know Jah would a sen' you wid my supper." The two went to a place called Down The Hole, and Mair said, "I stay with him and I listen. I never understand any of the things him say - which is in my poem."

He missed the last bus and ended walking up South Camp Road to Cross Roads, "and that is when the poem came to me".

Morris indicated a response to the tragic circumstance of a genius musician who killed his partner, but also reported the incident to the police. In all of this, though, Morris said, "I think it is the music that meant most to me."

The woman Drummond was convicted of killing, dancer Anita 'Margarita' Mahfood, got special mention from Goodison, who said that Margarita gave up all the advantages afforded her by looks, complexion and "all those things that Jamaicans hold dear" to be with Drummond.

And, describing the appeal of Drummond's music, Goodison said "it was like he had collected some of our collective memories and was able to put it in his music. The atoms shift when you hear that music. There is not even any way you can explain anything like that."

Music had the final say as trombonist Andrew Christian, who had played after the poets, capped off the afternoon with more extended playing time.