AS TOLD TO BC PIRES
My name is Dappa and I play solo violin.
I am unorthodox. Different.
Long time, if you hold a girl hand, that was a big thing. If you kiss her on the cheeks, you’s a lord.
One sports day in secondary school, a pardner say, “Boy, if you could kiss them three girls there, you go be a real dappa, boy!”
I walk right by them girl and play I trip and fall. Is either they go laugh or feel sorry for me.
I walking, boom, I pretend to trip and fall. I do like I want to cry. I tell them if I could get one kiss individually, I go be back good.
That fella was the news carrier in the whole area, so the whole neighbourhood hear the story how I kiss the three prettiest girls in school who just segregate by theyself.
By the time I reach home and walk by the doubles man, “Boy, look the Dappa reach!”
Ever since, that name Dappa stick on me.
My name is Shiva Chaitoo. Like Chai-tea, Chai-too.
I tell people I’m from South, because when I tell them I’m from Fyzo, they say, “Which part Fyzo is?” Who in Trinidad knows about South?
I tell them I’m the good guy from Fyzabad, so I say I living in Fyzo-good.
Probably the most famous person from Fyzo is former president Anthony Carmona, a really humble, genuine guy known throughout the community.
After his wife saw me playing in the community centre, I had the honour of playing at the diplomatic dinner at President’s House. That was, like, a real good achievement. Because of that one performance…
I get along well with my mom and dad. I am the only child.
Sometimes, growing up, I wanted a brother and sister. Sometimes I was glad I didn’t have one.
I don’t have a family myself. I have a little girlfriend.
One or two.
Three or four.
I always say, “Count your blessings!”
Trinidad so sweet.
Boy days in Fyzo-good was countryside: riding boxcart, looking to pick neighbour fruits – I wouldn’t say steal.
Everybody was united. If you did anything bad, the whole village find out. If you don’t say good morning to a elder, that’s a next problem: you have to grow up with manners. It is a most utter disrespect.
If you do something wrong, the neighbour beating you. It takes a whole village to beat a child.
Where I live is like an antique house, and you don’t see much of that in Trinidad again. Is the house I grew up in.
Is so quiet, when I play my violin, I feel so relaxed. Nobody around to harass you.
But a minute walk and I on the main road.
Primary school was Siparia KPA. I went to Palo Seco Government Secondary.
I liked school in terms of the distance to go was a little half-hour. You seeing a different part of Trinidad. You seeing some nice girls. You make different friends.
“Keep learning” is one of my favourite quotes.
One Valentine Day in school, I tell a taxi man buying doubles outside the school to carry me home. And I bring the stereo from home and hook it up with a mic and start to play music.
Everybody want a little shout-out on the mic and it was a dollar for a shout-out. Over the hour, I probably made $40.
And I found out the advantages of being onstage at about 14 or 15.
I was raised in the faith, practically grew up in the temple with my grandmom.
But what I really believe in is love and music.
God isn’t temple, church, mosque, nothing. God is being kind and showing love to people in general.
In my temple days with my grandmom, I really used to go to eat the food. I just liked mischief.
Then a music class was introduced. The teacher was Shivanand Maharaj, a violinist.
My first instrument was keyboard. Not the harmonium, keyboard. I started to play with Shivanand in his band on all his shows. I started to teach when he couldn’t make class. He would give me the lesson and I would explain it to the class keyboard-wise.
Being my hands were so accustomed to the keys of the keyboard, I was so engrossed watching my teacher play the violin.
When I was 21 years, when I see my music teacher home by me Christmas morning with a violin, I light up like Christmas! Cake wasn’t enough for that smile.
He showed me the notes and, the knowledge I had on the keyboard, I just transferred it to the violin.
A year or two later, he told me, you have a different style and you have to spread your wings and fly. And he give me his blessing and I decided to go solo.
I do a lot of charity, help out the community, all kinda fundraisers. Helping poor people, just to see the smile on they face. To see the bride face when she walking in to she favourite song… Money can’t buy that! That joy you does be having in your heart, putting a smile on they face.
You need money to survive. But I really play violin to make people happy.
Trinidad like a pelau. So I don’t watch race as I go in an event; I would more see an age bracket of 60 and up. I might go in a sweet-16 party, a club or a bar, mainly young people.
You have to know which set to perform. You have to feed off the crowd. You see tanty look like she love she man, them pitch marble together, so, right, I have a song for you tanty.
And I bus’ wise man say only fools rush in. See a man with two teeth missing, looking old school, I will tell he, what a wonderful world! Them kinda vibes.
I not saying this for everybody, but the bad part of the job is, Trinidadians don’t have time management.
They tell you to reach for a time to play three songs. And I have to wait two hours to play them three songs? Because you went to take out a photo? Or a tyre get flat in a limousine?
And I have people waiting and when I reach the next event they’re like, “Way, you real unprofessional!” I can’t tell the client that waiting on me for the bride entrance is the people before them.
When you going on your honeymoon, you checking in three hours early – but, for your wedding, you running late!”
A next thing: not everybody could mix and engineer a violin.
A sound system could make you or break you. Is a very discouraging thing.
I onstage playing, people watching me, and while I playing, a man interfering with my sound settings. And I have to keep my composure! I can’t tell him ‘bout he mother condensed milk pan.
A Trinbagonian, in my point of view, will always represent their self anywhere in the world. You will know them.
Is not even the accent. Is an aura or spirit around them. You could identify them in a crowd by the special aura they emit.
Trinidad and Tobago to me means heaven and hell. What path you choose could make it your heaven or your hell.
Read the full version of this feature on Friday evening at www.BCPires.com