by Larry Smith
Last week I took a trip on the underground railroad of Bahamian music. Man, I was walking in Jerusalem just like John. I saw a number of signs, and all the guides remembered quite well. And sometimes, they even had fire and brimstone coming out of their mouth.
We embarked at the Doongalik station on Village Road. Jackson Burnside and Charles Carter were the conductors on a fascinating journey to excavate the memory of two great Bahamian musicians - the idiosyncratic guitarist Joseph Spence (who would have been 100 this year) and the obeah man Tony McKay (whose first album appeared 40 years ago, when Tough Call was a yoot-man).
One of the guides on this trip was 79-year-old Geneva Pinder. She described her Uncle Youngie as "the sweetest man...sitting with his pipe and singing with my parents. My grandmother was a Sunday school teacher on Andros and we had to sing from when we were little. My mom wasn't that learned, but she could rhyme."
Geneva's mother, Edith, was the sister of Joseph Spence, who died in 1984. And it was her rhyming - a musical form sometimes described as an ancestor of rap - that attracted the American folk artist Jody Stecher to Nassau in 1965, where he recorded Spence and the Pinder family in their Culmersville yard.