Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Birthday Morning, hello 73!

Birthday morning - clear, calm, and quiet. Are those insects or persistent tinnitus? Hard to say. A distant Toucan creaking away, a few sassy parrots across the river. Pretty quiet. But, right next to the house, in the gully's high bush, the gentle chuc-chuckling of Trogons. Such a calming chorus. A very nice way to greet 73. Here's a picture of the little guy (a Violaceous Trogon) right next to me off the veranda.

Well then, on to taking a look at the Bittersweet Memories team. Let's meet them in the order they came on line with the project. That would bring Sam up first. Sam Harris is the founder and leading artist in the regionally popular World Culture Band. He writes and arranges the music, sings, and plays lead guitar. He is also the lead guitarist for the award winning Garifuna Collective. Living Stateside for many years, he has played with many of the leading artists up there as well as a number of European acts. His experience and reputation in the industry is international. When he finally decided to come back to Belize, he settled into his family home here in San Ignacio, formed his band, and quickly became the God Father of Cayo music. (Here's a look at Sammy above) A more generous, open, encouraging leader we could not hope for.
I first played for Sam after death dissolved my little group Neva Betta and I was cast up on the dry shore of "playing with myself" on the veranda. Sam, hearing me from his farm right across the river, invited me to help him open his new club in San Ignacio by playing four of my original tunes with the World Culture Band Backing me. What a thrill to hear my songs played by a truly great rocking band! I sat in with them on and off for a couple of years after that, but finally went back to performing solo singer/songwriter gigs. It was though playing with Sam that I  met his young keyboard player, Santos Dominguez, but that's the next story! Santos and I played a duet act for some years billing ourselves as Doktah D and Santos. It is here that my repertoire of performance ready songs grew. But, Doktah D and Santos ran its course and a few years later I was back to a solo act. I didn't find that satisfying, though, and drifted back into howling at the moon of evenings on the veranda.  Finally, deciding to make a record of the music for my daughter and grand kids, I gave Sam a call asking for help. And we were off to the races!

Sunday, 23 April 2017

the good, the bad and the beautiful

Well, it was a kind of "good news, bad news" morning. The good news was the, from early, screeching of the Chachalacas and Parrots with the underlying steady rhythm of croaking Toucans. That was also, however, the bad news. Terry threw one of her famous parties last night and I drank maybe just a little too much red wine and for sure dirty danced little bit more than an aging spine really should do. I could have done without Mommy Nature's good morning wake up calls just this once! Still and all, I live and it's all good.
Today's picture is of a Green Vine Snake we happened into down by the shore Friday when we went down for a cooling dip and a beer. As you can see, it knows I'm there and is trying very hard to look like a leaf. Although this is a big snake, going on 7ft. I'd guess, the head is shaped to mimic a leaf and we would have missed it if Toshi had not noticed a great loop of the body in the brush. Oxybelis fulgidus (tie-tie snake in Creole) feeds mainly on small lizards, frogs, birds, and occasional small mammals. it is rear-fanged and mildly toxic to humans. So much for the sublime, on to the ridiculous!

The CD, Bittersweet Dreams, started life as an attempt to leave something more than just "stuff" to my daughter and grandchildren. There is nothing more uncomfortably revealing of the inner self than one's poetry. Still and all, being old and soon enough dead, I figured I wouldn't really have to endure the discomfort all that long. So, the first thing to know is that these are not a kid's songs. They were written from around the age of 40 or so to just months ago. The idea of actually selling the songs came from Sam Harris. I had hired Sam to help me arrange and record the music. But after our first song was recorded (Another One Barrel Morning), Sam played it around for friends in the business and the feeling was that we could do something more with the music than lay it out on a casket as a legacy. So, we had already brought in Santos, my former performance partner, we then brought in Paul Flores of Studio A in Belmopan. I picked out 9 more songs and we were off to the races! Here's the original of the picture that became the CD cover. next up, a closer look at the songs and the team.

Friday, 21 April 2017

announcing love on earth

Although I promised to talk about Bittersweet Dreams in this blog, that has been delayed by the completion of CD #3, love on earth. It hit the internet, becoming available on cdbaby.com, yesterday. It will be available on all your favorite music download sites very soon - each site has its own pace of getting new material uploaded. We are pretty proud of this effort and look forward to hearing your opinions. The cover photo, taken in a May Plum tree in front of the house, is of a pair of amorous Wishwillys (Spiny-tailed Iguanas) showing us that "love" is hardly limited to ourselves. Check out the tongue! I'll be back on track with more news and views from backabush Belize next time around. Meanwhile, keep up with us on Doktah D's Facebook page.

Monday, 17 April 2017

Quiet Coffee on the Veranda

I always wonder what makes the difference in a mornings music. Yesterday, all screeching parrots and rasping Chachalacas, today mostly quiet with a flock Keel-billed Toucans croaking away above the river and the gentle hoo-hoooing of a Red pilled pigeon in front of the veranda as we eat breakfast. Both mornings equally bright, clear, and cool. Go figure.

So, as to Doktah D's music, let's talk today about how a hobby turned into a career. I started writing, first poetry and then songs, as a way of keeping track of my own emotional journey through life. As an Anthropologist, I was really required to keep track of what others were saying and doing around me, but my personal feelings and reactions were hardly appropriate data. Yet, we are all profoundly moved by the people and events swirling around us. These songs, then, are my way of dealing with events in my own life and the lives of others I care about without just simply "outing" all our respective dirty laundry in public! Gradually, here in Belize, I started performing these songs, first with Mike Hill and Tim O'Mally, as the trio Neva Betta, then for a while with Sam Harris and the World Culture Band, and finally with Santos Dominguez. Santos and I stopped playing together a couple of years ago, after which I went out as a solo sing/songwriter for a bit but it was nowhere near as much fun as playing with young Santos. I reduced my musical activity to writing songs and singing them to myself on the veranda of evenings and playing out as a guest blues harpist with local musicians now and again.
The recording started as a "bucket list" project to leave something of my self to my daughter and grand kids. I called in Sammy Harris to help and then we called in Santos. What started as a family document however, quickly morphed into a serious recording effort thanks largely to the faith Sam and Santos showed in the early recordings. *next up, Bittersweet Dreams and the recording team*

Saturday, 15 April 2017

Wake up calls

The monkeys were quiet last night! But were still here feeding in the wild Custard Apple just 5 meters off the end of the veranda. The mornings music? Keel Billed Toucans croaking away, White fronted Parrots screeching in the Caimito, Chacalacas screeching like an old time farm wife trying to coax water from a rusty hand pump, and, finally, a pair of Laughing Falcons yucking it up over the chicken run (fun for me, not so much for the chickens!) Here's a shot of a big Red-lored Parrot, my favorite of the local parrots, and a common thief in my citrus trees.
As to the other music, the 3rd CD, love on earth, is in the final stages of editing and should be uploaded to CDBaby Tuesday or Wednesday. We're pretty proud of it but before I have much to say about it I want to introduce the first 2 CDs, Bittersweet Dreams and A Quiet Man. I'll start tomorrow with Bittersweet Dreams and tell you something about the songs (where they came from and what they mean) and the sound (who does what to produce our signature sound).

Friday, 14 April 2017

Welcome to Toucan Bluff

Toucan Bluff is an "off the grid" freehold in the Maya Mountain foothills of Western Belize, Central America. This blog will be about life here in the bush and my professional life and activities as a singer/songwriter here in "The Jewel."
My wife and I bought a farm on the banks of the Macal River in Western Belize over 20 years ago. We retired early from our University posts up in the States and took up life here in the bush - no water, no power, doing laundry and bathing in the river and using kerosine lamps for light. Its been quite a journey to today's luxuries of clean rainwater collection and solar power. We spend our energies on reforestation, providing rich habitat for local wildlife, and pursuing our personal interests. In my case, that would include teaching self defense and martial arts and pursuing my new career as a singer?songwriter.
I have been writing and performing songs for many year but it is only recently that I have decided to take the next step and record and distribute the music. At this time I have two CDs available on the internet. Bittersweet Dreams and A Quiet Man are available for preview on Youtube and purchase from cdbaby.com, iTunes, etc for download, and Spotify, Apple Music, and many other sources for streaming. Look up those titles by Doktah D and you should find them. Two more albums are in the works and should be out soon. I will announce them here.

I am new to social media and am likely to be pretty clumsey in my attempt. Still, I hope to combine a bit of a look at our life here in the jungle with keeping you up to date with events in my musical journey. I guess it all comes down to noise. Between the Howler Monkeys out side the bedroom window last night, the parrots in the Camito and Cedar trees this morning, and my dissonant howlings as a singer, "the quiet life" here in the bush is not so much!

Talk to you soon, Doktah D