Brooklyn, New York, USA - Let’s start with the end. The inaugural session of Carib Parlor Notes featuring performing artist and panist Garvin Blake was extremely successful. It was a groundbreaking event with vast historical, cultural, and artistic and intellectual significance. All who were present felt the love and warmth generated. Moreover they all knew they were part of something very special.
Now, fast-forward to the beginning.
As hostess and co-director Hazel Beckles Younglao said, “We want to share our pot of gold with you.” A pot of gold it was, and she and her husband, Terah, did indeed share—their home, and the energies vibrating throughout the abode on this evening in particular—with all those who were present.
Hostess Hazel Beckles Younglao, right, with husband Terah Tom welcoming the audience to their home
The first edition of ‘Carib Parlor Notes’ in April was indeed a huge success. Its endless and positive ripple effects will be felt for eons going forward. Part-concert, part-interview, with a live and interactive audience in a warm, up-close and personal setting with courtside seats. All this took place in a home. A warm, loving home that became your home for a few moments in time. Moreover, you were surrounded by history, greatness, beauty and wisdom of the ancestors and mentors at every turn.
This collaborative effort was conceptualized and created when educator and performing musician Ron Reid, and original Brooklynites Hazel Beckles Younglao and husband Terah Tom of CariBnB, came together to execute another great moment in Pan, music, culture and much more.
L-R: Terah Tom, Hazel Beckles Younglao, Ron Reid and Garvin Blake shortly before the show
As Hazel so eloquently vocalized, “This is about the concept of using your space to support the arts, the artist and to empower and educate and entertain, ultimately - the community. Accessibility to the genius and talent generated by our communities, back into the community - great artists, educators.”
Hazel Beckles Younglao shares her thoughts minutes before the inaugural Carib Parlor Notes event at her Brooklyn home
And thus from vision to reality Carib Parlor Notes was born.
Ron Reid speaks on Carib Parlor Notes
Ron Reid, who is a steel panist, bassist, educator and professor of Contemporary Writing and Production at Berklee College of Music, Boston, Massachusetts, was thinking about ways one could talk to artists. Of late, as he puts it, he has become “...very interested in talking to artists about more than just playing, but to find out things they are interested in - what kinds of things spur them to write the music that they do, what are they thinking about? How are the events that are happening in the world affecting what they write? How do they think about the instruments that they play - where is it going - what are we not doing - what could we be doing better? So this was an effort to get that conversation started. We are musicians first, but there are obviously things that we do want to say that people never ask us. As Hazel would say at this point in our lives - “We can’t wait.” If you have a great idea, we can’t wait around mulling the idea. We have to get with it and get it going...”
And Hazel puts it so clearly, and factually states “There is all the art and talent that is here in the city, and how much as immigrants we have contributed to the cultural lifeblood of the city; and in light of all that is anti-immigrant in these times, I found it necessary to engage in a conversation with people around this idea that I had for us - to begin to curate the work, and begin to give access to the younger generation - emerging artists, who are themselves children of immigrants or are either immigrants themselves. And that in light of what we see as diminishing resources, we do have resources at the spaces where we live; we could use them as concert halls.”
Taking in the performance of Garvin Blake and Ron Reid in Carib Parlor Notes
“I once went to an event with Amiri Baraka - and one of his poems was that “We should use what we have in order to carry on our art, use our living rooms as concert halls””....
“....use our living rooms as concert halls” - Carib Parlor Notes
And so when one morning Ron Reid and Hazel discussed their great ideas, the concept for Carib Parlor Notes was cemented.
As both Hazel and Reid explain, the intent of Carib Parlor Notes is to “do a series of events that does not just focus on music, but also on other art forms, performing arts, fine arts - where we would feature an artist or veteran artist or emerging artist; that we give (the audience) direct access to the artist... The intent is that eventually this body of work would be curated in some form or the other - that we would have had recorded that we had done this work.”
Garvin Blake at Carib Parlor Notes
The featured artist for the evening was longtime Brooklyn resident and respected panist Garvin Blake. Garvin has arranged for and/or performed with a number of NY-based steel orchestras including Despers USA, Metro, Brooklynaires and Pan Rebels. Garvin’s most recent CD Parallel Overtones navigates well-loved calypso tunes and original compositions for double-second steelpan. His debut release was titled Belle Eau Road Blues.
Garvin and Ron Reid performed a set of classics that was simply marvelous. The up-close and personal touch of a music performance of this class in a home setting was phenomenal.
Garvin shared his thoughts on the initiative and event from an artist’s point of view when asked: “What are your thoughts on the way the event went?”
Garvin B: - “It was a great setting, with surprisingly good acoustics for pan. Very intimate. I felt the audience listening deeply to the music.
“A double second and a double bass are at different ends of the sonic spectrum. Pan tones float while the bass is grounded, leaving both instruments with their own air space. It’s not a combination heard often.
Garvin Blake on double second steelpan and Ron Reid on double bass
“Working with Ron was very easy. He’s a great musician and is able to blur the line between the calypso and jazz. Playing duo leaves you musically exposed but Ron listens carefully, which made me confident that we’d get back to land when moments of spontaneity started taking us out to sea.”
Ron Reid speaks with Garvin Blake in post-performance conversation session, with audience interaction and questions
Yet, still it was the unfettered access to the thinking and mind of Garvin Blake in the follow-up conversation session (moderated by Ron Reid) that really rounded out this event. Within boundaries set and surrounded by the tone, colors and vibes engendered through Hazel and Terah’s CariBnB - the environment truly allowed for a unique artists-audience relationship not normally experienced. Garvin’s wit, intellect, thoughtfulness and honesty were all uncharacteristically completely accessible through this uncommon pseudo private session.
The audience was made up of a wide cross-section of Brooklynites with varied backgrounds who love the steelpan music art form. They were clearly thrilled with the musical journey that Ron Reid and Garvin Blake took them on. As they leaned back, shutting their eyes in some cases, and listened - they were like kids in a candy store trying to come to terms with their good fortune to find themselves in this situation. Everyone had a courtside seat. They could all see and feel the music as they entered into and melded with the souls of the musicians.
This setting as we said earlier, gave the audience a chance to—in addition to experiencing the music—ask questions directly to the artists which exposed their thought processes in an unrestricted forum. Everyone left with some personal insight into the man, the artist, and the music of Garvin Blake.
Just as Hazel promised, everyone shared in the pot of gold.
The Setting for the inaugural Carib Parlor Notes...
This is a game-changer in the face of the violence of gentrification that has destroyed—and continues to—much of the glue and threads that hold the cultural fabric of our communities together. The former is a wrecking ball in full swing smashing what’s left of authentic Brooklyn culture, our art, our buildings, our experience, and our existence.
Changing times call for innovation and solutions to problems. Carib Parlor Notes - beyond the obvious exchange of ideas, education, entertainment and documentary value - is meeting the challenge of facing the inexorable elements that are spiritually, economically, and culturally devastating our communities.
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