With the celebration of 60 years of independence in TT on August 31 came a trip down memory lane back to the good old days, in which music has always played a major role.
And with the many changes in musical trends over the years, Dr Louis Nurse, of the band Dr Louis and the Lynx, is among the old-school musicians who have had to tweak their styles in order to remain relevant on the music circuit.
Nurse, an internationally recognised concert pianist, started playing music as a student at St Mary’s College in 1973, along with well-known musicians and entertainers like Carl “Beaver” Henderson, Colin Lucas and Carl Jacob.
“In that particular era, a lot of the people who carry the fire of culture came out of that school band experience. Eventually I became part of the folk mass music in the St Michael’s choir in St Joseph.
"My musical experiences cross different genres. I know how to play religious music, contemporary and other types, and I know how to party,” he told Sunday Newsday with a hearty laugh.
Louis and the Lynx, he said, was formed around 1975 and played mainly at hotels like the Hilton Trinidad, Bel Air and the Holiday Inn (now Radisson).
“We were the top hotel band for a long time…and we also played on the dance circuit with Pal Joey Lewis and his orchestra.”
The band’s popularity grew after the release of several albums, including Just for You, From the Heart and Dancing Moods All Year.
But with changes in music trends and a slowdown of live bands at hotels, Nurse said he had to find other ways to stay in the game. Known as “Mr Magic Fingers” because of the ease, quick and professional way he made the piano keys sing their soulful songs, he used this gift to catapult him into popularity with audiences at concerts and events like weddings – sometimes with solo acts, other times with his band.
Nurse believes the ability to play a variety of music well is what gives musicians and even DJs their power to attract and keep their audiences entertained.
“TT as a mixed society with a mixed taste for music. Everyone will not like the same thing, so you have to know and cater for your audience.”
As time went by and musical fusions became part of the cultural norms, he and his band introduced soca jazz to the music scene.
“We in TT are an unstructured people, so that freedom of expression is what soca jazz is. It allows me to play in a Caribbean idiom – even if it is a foreign piece.”
He writes his own songs, which he said are backed up by “some of the best musicians.”
The Lynx comprises bass player Sean Friday, master percussionist Tamba Gwindi, drummer Claude Griffith, keyboardist Ajay St Louis, Bruce Roberts on pan, five brass men and two back-up singers.
“When you have strong musicians who are grounded and have the love for what they do, you get vitality and light coming off their instruments. That’s what I have with my band.”
And he believes in leading by example by putting in the hours of practice necessary for a flawless performance. He said before every concert he performs, he finds the time outside his full-time job to put in at least 70 personal hours on the piano, “so when those lights come on, that’s when you get the magic fingers.”
A graduate of the Henley Business School, he has a diploma in management and a master’s degree in finance and project management. He also has a master’s in law and a doctorate in business administration from Anglia Ruskin University. He is a project director and lectures in the MBA programme at the School of Accounting and Management.
“I am a bright man, but I’m brighter because of music…When you are into music, both sides of body and brain have to communicate and co-ordinate to execute the music” – something he wishes more young people would appreciate and take advantage of.
He believes his talents are to be used for more than entertainment and uses every opportunity he gets to share them.
Some years ago he produced local distance-learning television series, Learning the Guitar with Louis, and Learning the Steelpan, which were aired on both Channel 4 and Gayelle.
“As a musician I play several instruments, but I specialise in piano…and I also offer tutorials through my Louis Learning Channel on YouTube.”
Nurse said, like so many other people in the entertainment industry, he and his band have felt the effects of the covid19 pandemic.
“The last two years has caused us to almost have to start back from scratch. We have to introduce Dr Louis and the Lynx to younger patrons. We have to introduce them to good, live music. Music without machines – no disrespect to the riddims out there.”
On October 8, Dr Louis and the Lynx, in collaboration with Proman Starlift Steel Orchestra, will perform at a concert titled Renaissance: The Experience, at the National Academy for the Performing Arts, from 8-11 pm. Proceeds will go towards the restoration of the St Joseph RC Church.
“I’m a proud member of the St Joseph community. My family has been part of and contributed to the community for over 100 years…You know how it’s Kitchener from Arima and Blue Boy from Point Fortin? Well, it’s Louis and the Lynx from St Joseph.”
He said the association with Starlift is one the band wants to maintain because they want to eventually export the show to Europe.
“That’s why we are working to build a quality show.
"Can you imagine when we go to a big concert hall in Europe and drop it on them? I am happy to have the privilege of working with such young, talented and good-looking people. Experience and youth is a good combination.”