Feminist activist and writer Amanda T McIntrye explored the intersections between race relations, misogyny and Carnival in T&T in her recent talk, Close to My Skin.
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Cathy’s at home in T&T
Driving along the Diego Martin highway it is hard to miss the expansive, brightly coloured green home of Cathy George and her husband, panman Clyde “Lightning” George.
Cathy George (nee Crowley) is an American-Trini who met Clyde in 1978, during his stint with the band Sunny Days aboard a cruise ship in the Caribbean. The next 20 years saw them living in her hometown Chicago, where she operated a travel agency and Clyde performed in clubs with his Chicago trio Steelin' Jazz, astounding audiences with his execution of jazz on the pan.
For his musical prowess he earned the nicknames Thelonius Clyde and the BeBop Panman. He got his Trini nickname Lightning from the legendary Bertie Marshall who discovered young Clyde had the ability to quickly learn a piece of music.
Cathy says her passion is for pan, calypso, jazz and hospitality. It is in the latter regard that she and her husband have set up their home, which sprawls along the Diego Martin River, as the D’Lime Inn. Over the years the couple have produced annual tribute shows to honour Clyde’s teacher and mentor, Bertie Marshall and the grandmaster of calypso, Lord Kitchener. Together they have run pan camps for children. Clyde teaches pan and Cathy teaches yoga for children, with a training programme called brain education.
Conference, banquet and wedding facilities are also available at D’Lime Inn in the idyllic setting of the Diego Martin Valley.
Q: Tell us about your early years and your family. Where you were born, grew up, etc?
A: I was born in Chicago. My parents, Pat and Patty Crowley, were social activists in the 60s. I have three sisters, two brothers, 13 foster brothers and sisters and about 100 foreign brothers and sisters. My eldest sister entered the convent when I was ten years old. Claudette Austin, a foreign student from Chaguanas, Trinidad, came to live at our home at that time and she soon became my surrogate oldest sister. She lived with my family for five years and through her I first fell in love with Trinidad. We are still close and now I am more Trini than she is. She lives in New York and hasn’t been to Trinidad in 20 years!
What attracted you most in coming to live in T&T?
Calypso, pan and Las Cuevas beach. I fell in love with steelpan when I met my husband. He played Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring by Bach on the steelpan the first night I met him. I studied piano and I had performed that piece in a competition when I was 16 years old. I have a college degree in piano performance from Webster University.
What is/are your current and future project/s at D’Lime Inn?
“Lightning is the musical director for the BMPI’s unique and newly instituted Panyard ‘Round the Year workshops. For most pan students, the weeks leading up to Carnival provide the only opportunities for participating in steelpan and engaging the panyard experience.
The BMPI and Clyde will provide this opportunity year-round, with six different five-week sessions scheduled annually and eight to 26 students will be admitted to the course each session. Trinidad will always be the Mecca of pan. To understand an instrument one must go to the source. These five-week programmes will also offer college credit.
What are some of your favourite pieces of Trini music?
Everything by Kitchener. My favourite is Those Were the Days, a calypso in reggae tempo he recorded with David Rudder.
Do you play mas? What thoughts do you have for the improvement of Carnival?
I have played Monday mas a few times and have joined J’Ouvert many times. Bring back calypso and real mas to the Carnival days and turn down the loud music. I love extempo.
Who are the people who influenced and inspired you the most in your career and in life in general?
My parents influenced me the most. I grew up in a very ‘white’ suburb of Chicago but my home was fully integrated and like a United Nations. When I was in high school there were four of us living in one bedroom. My sisters from Sierra Leone, Argentina, Panama and I named our bedroom The Purple Planet because everything was purple. We played and studied hard together. We are still close friends.
What is your teaching philosophy, ie brain education for children?
Brain education includes physical, emotional and cognitive exercises, as well as postures, breathing techniques, guided imagery and games used to stimulate healthy, dynamic and productive functioning of the body and brain. It develops the full potential of the brain, eliminates stress and enlivens total brain functioning. The most valuable thing we can do for our students is to give them the knowledge of how to fully use their brain to create the life they truly want to live.
Tell our readers a couple of funny ‘Trini’ experiences.
I often brought my American friends and family to the Calypso Revue and took them back stage to meet Kitch. One time, at the Arima opening, my friend Ann Quinn and I were looking for Kitch—really chasing after him—to get some photos and an autograph. We didn’t realise that Ann’s husband was on stage dancing with Denyse Plummer at the same time. We were sorry to have missed that but we got our photos and autographs.
At one of our Kitch tribute shows in our backyard venue, CroCro was singing D Road Make to Walk and suddenly he threw down the mic and jumped into our swimming pool that is in front of our stage. No one could believe it, especially our MC Wendell Ettienne.
Also at one of our Kitch Tribute shows, Gypsy had come to a rehearsal and practiced Love in the Cemetery with the band. Sugar Aloes came to the show but not to the rehearsal. Sugar wanted to sing the same song. I suggested that they do the song as a duet and they indeed did that. I have a piece of this performance on YouTube/mrslightning. It was amazing.
My friends often misinterpret the songs they hear. One liked Small Thing Does Chook Hard but understood Dancing in Stuttgart. My husband, Clyde, used to play and sing No Woman No Cry at family reunions and my nieces heard No Woman, No Clyde. Also, one year at our family reunion we sang Rudder’s High Mas and changed the words to “Hey, hey, we love you Patty,” (our international Mom) instead of “Hey, hey we love our country”. We sang it at our family mass and the priest led the singing and fell in love with the song.
What is your favourite Trini meal?
Callaloo, all ah we is callaloo
What daily motto do you live by?
Challenge is growth.
What other information about yourself would you like to share with our readers?
D'Lime Inn, 75 Benjamin Street, Diego Martin, 221-0876; 494-8432. D’Lime Inn is also an apartment hotel and can accommodate up to 32 guests. It’s a backyard venue and is popular for small weddings, parties and events.
I change my hair colour often! One year I tried to do my hair like the flag of Trinidad. I went to a fancy hair salon in Chicago and my hairdresser asked me to come late as not to make a scene at the salon. My hair is curly, so not many people realised that I was wearing the flag of Trinidad on my head. When I had pink hair one of my guests from Jamaica asked me what was my race.
We have one son and two beautiful granddaughters ages three and seven who will visit Trinidad for the first time in March. I love to scuba dive in Tobago. My dive master is Kern Spencer and he has taught many of my friends and family to dive with me. He is the best dive teacher in the world.
Describe yourself in two words, one beginning with C, the other with G, your initials?
Challenge is growth.
If you have any suggestions of persons who should be featured in this series please email Nasser Khan at [email protected]
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