One for Uncle Ellis

I heard the news about Uncle Ellis on Thursday and it struck me again how these people always choose to go in the Carnival season.
It’s as if the other jumbies get restless around that time.  They miss them, the old talk, the jam sessions, the lime.
I only ever knew Uncle Ellis from a distance. From back in the days when I was new to this media thing and his nephew Tony gave me a bligh on his WEFM station.
They came with the territory, Uncle Ellis and his brother Aldwyn who we all called Pa Chow. A soca man and a mas man.
Days playing mas with Minshall.  Pa Chow building kings.  Uncle Ellis steering Charlie’s Roots to be one of those cutting edge kind of bands that you can’t put your finger on just what so different or so special about them.
In a country where we like to put people in boxes, where African people must sing and dance and Chinee people must mind shop and Syrian people must sell clort and Indian must plant garden, Uncle Ellis stood out.
Plenty talk about soca mafia.  Two generations of talk about who sell out to the Chinee.  And I shake my head and laugh because if you don’t know your value who is going to know if for you?
Before soca mafia there were artists dying in poverty.  There were steelband clashes.  There was Spoiler drinking himself to death and pan men losing their minds on coke.
Before Uncle Ellis there was this crippling self-doubt about who we are what talents we have to offer the world.
Now we don’t have young people wanting to be soca artists anymore.  Now we want to be stars.  We want to ride a rhythm and wave a rag play in some nice all inclusives up town.  Do a video and get big up on Synergy and Tempo.  Push a big Lexus like Iwer, pull down some warm advertising dollars.
And I wonder what Uncle Ellis could have done about it.  What his nephew Tony could still do.  If there is anything that can be done.
I wonder if anybody from the Ministry of Culture ever asked Uncle Ellis what he would have wanted in a Performing Arts Academy.
Another Carnival coming on faster than 160 beats per minute. And the same Carnival questions there, unanswered.  The same problems there, unresolved.
And Uncle Ellis gone to the big Carnival of the sky.  He’s managing a band starring Kitchy and Uncle Andre and John Isaacs.  Maestro’s there too and Roaring Lion.  Uncle Ellis holding reasonings with Brian Honore who I see coming with a dreader than dread Smelter Robber mas. Shorty I is trying his best to get them to behave in the Lord’s house.  Clive Bradley is conducting.
I regret that I didn’t think to record some of those late night studio sessions when Blakie or Rudder who pass through.  I regret I didn’t get to ask all the questions that now keep me awake.
I fear that we are losing all these wise people, without first hearing their stories.  Just sit and listen to them for hours and hours.  If we really are serious about forging a civilization, then we do ourselves a disservice by letting Uncle Ellis go before we have a chance to absorb some of his wisdom.
Uncle Ellis gone and I mourn the passing of yet another historian, teacher, keeper of our stories.