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Erna Brodber presents her freedom song
published: Friday | May 18, 2007

The cover of 'The Rain-maker's Mistake', written by Erna Brodber. - Contributed

Mel Cooke, Freelance Writer

On Wednesday evening, Dr. Erna Brodber approached reading from her fourth novel, The Rainmaker's Mistake, through the creative influences that have shaped her.

That journey took the near full house at the Philip Sherlock Centre for the Creative Arts, UWI, Mona, into Brodber's past, from two years old and listening to the sounds of Maas Cecil's bamboo saxophone through to age nine and listening to the piano. "The sounds coming out of that big old piece of furniture hit me," Brodber said.

Then there were the sounds of trumpeter Hugh Masakela at 15, as she sat in a classroom waiting to take a Senior Cambridge examination. "Art, I knew then, could lift you out of your physical self and travel without leaving," Brodber said.

In 1959, it was Chopin who enabled her to see paintings created through sound, her son Timothy Brodber playing the piece on the piano placed on the stage.

In book 5 of the Royal Reader, from the days at Woodside Primary, came Bingen on the Rhyne, read by Velma Pollard, which taught Brodber "that words have a rhythm of their own".

'Romance', a poem carried into class by a teacher at Excelsior High and which was read by Brodber herself, stayed with her on the first reading, many years ago.

Acknowleding artistes

Erna Brodber reads from the final chapter of her fourth novel, 'The Rainmaker's Mistake', at the Philip Sherlock Centre for the Creative Arts, UWI, Mona, on Wednesday evening.

"I felt it necessary to publicly acknowledge the artistes who went before me, and who I know influenced me," Brodber said. And there was one more, as she said "I left Bob Marley for last".

"He helped to shape my consciousness in the 1970s," Brodner said.

It was a trumpeter, Mikey, who played Marley's Redemption Song, the instrument muted for the first verse and allowed full reign on the second, Brodber repeating the chorus before she started reading and pointing out that the hymnal 'Redemption Songs' is still used in services and especially at set-ups. "I wanted to help to write those songs, using the energy of the artistes who went before me," Brodber said. "The Rainmaker's Mistake is my take on freedom. It is a freedom song."

Nature of freedom

There were chuckles when she said that her reading from the book's final chapter would take half an hour. It did not it questioned the nature of freedom to those for whom it was new. "Who likes to think about what steps to take before he takes them?" Brodber asked.

There was the question "how did the master come to give us the free?" and the affirmation "we grow even after death. We have power. We can make people to carry on after us".

And after she had read the closing line, "see you there, in the free", Brodber said "that is my freedom song" to applause from the audience.

Professor Carolyn Cooper, who officially launched The Rainmaker's Mistake at the event hosted by Carolyn Allen of the Philip Sherlock Centre, referred to the book's closing line at the end of her address, questioning how to get to "the free".

"In the age of globalisation, old and new, that is the multibillion Euro question," Cooper said.

Earlier, there were knowing chuckles when Cooper said a Brodber novel required multiple readings, "the first time to be dazzled by her perplexing inventiveness", after which "you cautiously start to figure out what is going on.


Velma Pollard reads at the launch of Erna Brodber's 'the Rainmaker's Mistake'. - photos by Winston Sill/Freelance Photographer

Cooper noted Brodber's communal approach to her craft, saying "creativity is not simply a matter of individual genius".

As for The Rainmaker's Mistake, which she has read twice, Cooper said "it does not have a main character. It doesn't even have a main narrator... Why have one narrator when she could have seven? Some chapters have two narrators. And why the narrators should have one identity and one name when they can have two?"

"In Erna's emancipated world view, everything is possible," Cooper said.

And she defined the 'free' as "that immutable sense of being that transcends time and space".

Dr. Velma Pollard presented the Brodber/Pollard Prize, established by Tony McFarlane to Renee Seivwright. Also speaking at the book launch were Professor Aggrey Brown, Dr. Swithin Wilmot and Dr. Anthea Morrison.

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