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Folklorist, Musician, Educator and highly respected ElderPull quote: “I was respected by persons in the communities in which I resided, and I was chosen for many leadership roles.”By Rohan SagarBorn at Bullet Tree, Waini River, Basil Cuthbert Rodrigues, affectionately known as Uncle Basil in all Santa Rosa and Moruca, traces his heritage back to Venezuela where his forefathers lived in Angostura or modern Cuidad Bolivar. They escaped the aftermath of the ‘Big War’ – the Bolivarian War of Independence as it is known in the Oral Traditions of the Spanish Arawaks – and later resettled in Paloma, a tiny community further inland from the banks of the Moruca River. Paloma is accessible by a narrow dirt road from Cabucalli and Kokal.Soon after Uncle Basil was born (in 1932) his family, minus an older brother and sister who remained in Santa Rosa to attend school, relocated to the Waini where his grandfather, Antonio Rodrigues called Papita, lived and where Basil experienced in real time the traditional way of life commonly associated with Indigenous Peoples on the Atlantic shorelines. These included farming and all that went into the preparation, planting and harvesting. Then there was fishing, an activity that can last sometimes for days as Papita would explore tiny creeks where the fishing grounds were the more attractive.Basil RodriguesThe reason for moving to Waini in the first place also was based on local superstition – some of his younger brothers and sisters did not survive very long and died quite young. Basil’s parents, believing that there were evil spirits around the home, moved.Papita’s illness at age 75 prompted Basil’s parents to return to Moruca along with Papita. Now it was time to return to Kokal. Basil continued attending school at Kokal, then administered and taught by Roman Catholic nuns.Like most musicians who came out of Guyana’s hinterland, he began his musical life whilst experiencing the richness of his traditional culture. At this time in its history the community of Kokal formed a part of the wider Santa Rosa village (along with Cabucalli where Basil’s mother came from, Paloma where his father originated, and San Juan). Kayaps and the coming together of the community to indulge in the traditional ceremonial way of life fused with Roman Catholic ceremonial rites such as baptisms, weddings, Christmases as well as others that enriched the lives of the community’s population.And there was a justification, as the Arawaks were also devout Catholics and it was they who caused a Roman Catholic priest, Fr Thomas Hynes, to travel from Trinidad,Cheap Jerseys Wholesale, to bless a local and newly constructed Church in 1830.As a young man Uncle Basil was deeply influenced by two persons who caused him to pick up the guitar as his musical instrument – his father who was a violinist in demand and later Aloysius La Rose, who was another violinist and cultural visionary. Incidentally, it was at this time that the Arawak language began to experience a decline in use and this affected the music which resulted in less emphasis on the singing of the lyrics, and so the violin became the pre-eminent instrument that carried the melody of the traditional music of the Arawaks.Additionally, the music of the Arawaks of Santa Rosa was unique – it was not the usual traditional 2/4 common to Indigenous music, in fact, Banchikilli which in Arawak means to ‘dance to the violin and banjo’ evolved as a hybrid of the Venezuelan Joropo and the melodic form of the Mari-Mari.Basil loved music, and his favourite was of course his people’s Banchikilli – and then there was the Country & Western. This love for Country & Western was not unusual as it was a common characteristic of rural and hinterland populations of Guyana.Basil’s favourite artist was Hank Williams Snr and he remembers paddling down the Moruca River in the bright moonlit night singing and playing his guitar to the tunes of Hank Williams. He was partnered by his friends, and these extraordinary performances often ended in the local bars.Basil Rodrigues’ moonlit performances did not find favour with one section of the Kokal population – the nuns who live at the convent overlooking the Cabucalli and Hurdiah communities along the Moruca River. In fact, this activity was deemed to be quite harmful to young Basil’s prospects of “entering the Gates of Heaven” whenever that moment should arise, and the nuns duly informed his parents that he ought to be engaged in activities that were more constructive and purposeful. This was to decisively reshaped Basil Rodrigues’ future and impacted another population in a very significant way.At the age of 18, in 1952, Basil Rodrigues stepped off a DC Dakota plane at Lumid Pau to commence his second life – as a teacher. This was the culmination of the discussions between his parents and the nuns of the local convent, and the outcome of his serenading activities on the Moruca River. This new phase was not quite different in that it was quite common then for young Amerindian males to gravitate towards the forestry or mining industries. Basil did, too, and he worked in the North West (as a miner) as well as doing camp duties both there and in Linden.Fr. Bernard McKenna, who he calls the educationist priest, was instrumental in seating Basil on the plane. He then assigned him his first school and for the next 40 years,Cheap Jerseys China, except for periodic visits to Georgetown and Moruca, Basil Rodrigues lived and taught in the Rupununi.  During this time he married Delores, and together they parented four children, two sons – Wally who is a malarial microscopist at Aishalton, Curtis (attacked and killed by a tiger in the Marudi Mountains), and two daughters Beverly and Kay, who live with him in Kokal today.The Mariaba Players performing the Banchikilli at MorucaAs a teacher, Basil impacted profoundly, mainly in the Wapishana communities of the Southern Rupununi. A gentle people, whose gift of communication was ultra-conservative,Discount NFL Jerseys, provided him with opportunities to connect with techniques that were outside the standard Teachers’ Manual. He used both music and sports (drama as well) to help build the students’ confidence and was so successful that his school Shea Primary had the best drama and cricket clubs for years.In cricket, Shea defeated schools that were two or three times larger its size, and when he used music, he noticed an aura of excitement amongst his pupils, and as he sang, his students would sing along – the children of the Rupununi loved to sing!Basil Rodrigues taught in many communities such as Karaudarnau, Shea and Aishalton amongst others. And though he lived in these communities (he spent the longest in Shea) in the latter part of his forty years he spent in the Rupununi, he decided that he would permanently settle in Aishalton. The Toshao gave him a piece of land that no one wanted, as it was infested with rattlesnakes. The place was called Drummaud, which he renamed Drums.He cleared and cleaned the land, built a house, and invested in a few head of cattle that were to later increase many fold. For Uncle Basil the Rupununi was special – he remembers the many moments as he stood in awe of the grandeur of the Kanuku and the savannahs. The beauty and serenity was inspirational for his many compositions. One particular place he remembers most fondly was Shea Rock. With an elevation of about five hundred feet, Uncle Basil would walk to the summit, and sit and gaze into the far distance. It was moments like these he believes that inspired the lyrics of his songs, and these came to him as if carried directly by the gentle savannah wind.Although Basil Rodrigues was a school teacher he was also given and accepted roles as counsellor and community leader, and with the respect given unto him as a teacher, he was able to guide his fellow citizens towards a greater collective sense of responsibility.“I was respected by persons in the communities in which I resided, and I was chosen for many leadership roles,” he reflected.Whenever there were projects to be done, however big or small, he would encourage the Toshao to kill and cook a cow or pig, and have the women prepare the Parakiri (local beverage from cassava) and invite the community to come out and perform collective labour. It was an embedded value amongst the many Amerindian tribes, and one that reminded Uncle Basil of his own experiences at home in Kokal many years before. These projects helped to deepen social and communal cohesion within the community.Another of his experiences was the cultural habits that were both strange and instructive from the communities that he interfaced: Amongst the Wapishanas, any festivity often would last for many days, sometimes as much as seven days. Here,Cheap Jerseys Online, the community gathers at a central place, and when the celebration commences persons would dance and eat as often as one was able to and when tired sleep,Cheap NFL Jerseys Online, and then awake to carry on more dances and eating.The dancers do not stop unless the musicians do and some individual dances can last for hours. As in most cultures beverages, especially the fermented ones these can be debilitating, and with that comes unnatural behaviour. This was so amongst the Wapishana and Uncle Basil speaks of fights that would occur occasionally.But these were not the fights that would grace the newspapers of today; in fact at that time fights in the Wapishana community were more of a pushing and shoving contest. So in a specific contest, the antagonists would be engaging each other in the centre of a crowded assembly. The first combatant to fall ends the fight and then the party resumes. In the Wapishana collective there are no winners and losers, and blood spilling was rarely seen.On December 25, 1992, Basil Rodrigues gathered his family together and informed each that with the natural aging process of both himself and Delores, and with the given fact of a barely functioning health system at both Lethem and Aishalton, a decision was made that he and his wife would return to Kokal, Moruca River (he was already retired). He offered his children the option of deciding their own future then and both his sons determined that they would remain in the Rupununi. His two daughters decided that they would accompany their parents back to Kokal (though one did so after a brief sojourn in Brazil).When he arrived at Kokal, Basil found his family plot in a depressed state, and his community sharing a similar experience.He was soon invited to rejoin the teaching service and taught in the local Santa Rosa Primary School. He worked together with a Roman Catholic nun Sister Jacinta and with this collaboration he caused local community health centres to be built. His third project after arriving in Kokal was to relink with his old buddies (Frank and Basil Hernandez, Emmanuel Cornelius, Antonio Torres, Vincent Sookhan, etc – the latter two now deceased) and formed a cultural group, the Mariaba (which means guava in Arawak after the fruit trees found in abundance then) Players.Mariaba, incidentally, was the name given to the site just outside Cabucalli, settled by the arriving Arawaks in 1817; this name was later changed to Santa Rosa (in honour of their patron Saint Rose of Lima or Santa Rosa del Lima) after the consecration of the local church in 1830.Uncle Basil lives a very unassuming life and a visit to his home is an experience – his cherubic face awaits his visitors and with the most disarming of smiles his anthemic ‘Hello there, I was waiting on you’ greets you at his doorstep, before sitting his visitor to his lifetime experiences punctuated with his guitar strumming and singing his compositions.Steeped in the traditions of his people, Uncle Basil enriches his life experiences through music. He was a main feature at the initial Amerindian Heritage celebrations when first launched (with his entourage of young singers),Cheap NFL Jerseys Authentic, and continues to be the mainstay of the Mariaba Players (his and the members of the Mariaba Players are the last of the Banchikilli exponents). He continues to be inspired by and through the folkloric narratives of the Arawak/Lokono traditions, which he is quick to point out is the root and foundation of all his musical and poetic compositions.An awardee twice of the Medal of Service, in 1989 and in 1994, Basil Rodrigues is considered a legend in a rapidly disappearing cultural legacy.
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