Global - It is usually said that opposites attract; however this is a case where like minds meet. At this juncture - those of roycrosse, and Dalton Narine. “roycrosse” - this is is the reference he prefers as a performing artist, one word, lowercase and all.
roycrosse (image: Gill Taylor Tyree, Sr.)
And just as he calls the shots in how he is addressed, roycrosse determinedly grasps each hour afforded him as he continues to give the cancer which vies for his life force on an ongoing basis, a swift kick in the pants.
Everyday is a gift, one of which he makes full use, while grappling with his health challenges. It is music that serves as his soul food, his energy source. “I stay busy; I find that I have to stay busy, and if I get myself too run-out, or too exhausted, I can rely on music to give me some more energy. One of the interesting things about this period that I’ve just sort of come through is that it was very, very difficult for me,” explains roycrosse, referring to the path fraught with the cancer. “Nobody thinks I would survive; I didn’t think I would survive. The thing that kept me going was the music...There are times I couldn’t write, I couldn’t draw, I didn’t have enough energy to paint but somehow I could get on the pans, or sit in front of the piano and get rejuvenated.”
roycrosse (image: Gill Taylor Tyree, Sr.)
roycrosse grew up a few blocks away from the panyard of Trinidad All Stars, so the pan was always in his ear. The bit of time he got to learn to play, was devoted to the bass. But, as roycrosse ruefully recounts, “When I was with All Stars, I couldn’t take the bass home, and then when I tried taking the tenor pan home, my mother took it from under the bed, and marched me across George Street - very embarrassing - can you imagine this, with a broom behind me, marching me back, back to take the pan back.”
Eventually, when roycrosse made his way to Toronto, Canada a few years later he came in to his own, and joined a steelband attached to the University of Toronto, exploring the various voices of the family of steelpan instruments including seconds, tenor, bass and more. He opines about Starlift Steel Orchestra coming up to Toronto in 1967, and the seven-piece steelband he was part of, joining with another band in Toronto at the time- a combo of sorts, including guitar - run by Joe Brown. “We put the two bands together, so we had enough for like a 15-piece band, so it was very respectable, so we could stand up to the challenge of Starlift. Very exciting times.”
His creative path is one of artistry, on canvas, sculpting, composing and performing; all sustain and fulfill roycrosse as life unfolds daily.
Even as he has devoted time to the soundtrack of the short film/documentary “And Great Showers Of Tears Came Down,” there is a new CD in the works, with the final mix expected in January 2014 for a February launch.
Dalton Narine finds in roycrosse a kindred spirit, a soul with whom he identifies with on a few fronts, not least being a similar work ethic - both men being driven and perfectionists, but both also grasping and living with daily, the concept of loss. On the more melodious side of life, both men have played with Trinidad All Stars Steel Orchestra - by Dalton’s reckoning - roycrosse having entered into its musical ranks before him.
But the actual meeting and interaction between the two would be decades later, when musician David Boothman shared information on some other artists with Dalton at the latter’s request after an interview with Boothman for MACO Magazine.
Dalton has “gone to ground” in the last few months, immersed and fully dedicated to working on a full length feature film. Yet cutting through that cocoon, was the earnestness and drive of roycrosse against his own odds (in spite of his health predicament). “You think we can do something together....I just want to do something with you - I really admire your work, and I really want to do something with you,” Dalton says he was told by roycrosse.
roycrosse’s drive struck chords which resonated to the extent that Dalton identified a piece that he had done for the Miami Herald called “A Marine Remembers,” as a short multimedia project they would co-produce. And the result is “And Great Showers Of Tears Came Down,” the collaboration infusing roycrosse with a determination that continues to astound all those who are around him, given his day-to-day existence.
This additional avenue to channel his artistic expression, not least of all creating the soundtrack for and performing the music using steelpans - appears to have literally forged new leases on life within his spirit. According to Dalton: “Pan, as the music, and roycrosse - are so intertwined; I see the embodiment of pan, is how I look at it....I have found a new hero. This guy is...this is it. This is a dying man who refuses to die, and stares death in the face and defies it....not to say that “I defy it in the sense that I don't respect it, but I am going to grind everything out until I go, and I am going to do it behind this instrument [Pan].””
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