AS TOLD TO BC PIRES
My name is Dappa and I play the solo violin.
I am unorthodox. Different.
For a long time, if you held hands with a girl, it was a big thing. If you kiss him on the cheeks, you are a lord.
One sports day in high school, a partner said, “Boy, if you could kiss all three girls over there, you’re gonna be a real dappa, boy!”
I walk right by them girl and play I trip and fall. Will they laugh or feel sorry for me.
I walk, boom, I pretend to stumble and fall. I want to cry. I tell her, if I could have a kiss individually, I’d be fine.
This guy was the news bearer all over the neighborhood, so the whole neighborhood hears the story how I kiss the three prettiest girls in school who are breaking up on their own.
As I get home and walk past the duplicate man, “Boy, look at Dappa’s litter!”
Since then, this name Dappa stuck with me.
My name is Shiva Chaitoo. Like Chai-tea, Chai-too.
I tell people I’m from the south, because when I tell them I’m from Fyzo, they say, “Which part is Fyzo in?” Who in Trinidad knows the South?
I tell them I am the good guy from Fyzabad, so I say I live in Fyzo-good.
Probably the most famous person in Fyzo is former President Anthony Carmona, a really humble and genuine guy known throughout the community.
After his wife saw me play at the community center, I had the honor of playing at the diplomatic dinner at President’s House. It was, like, a really good achievement. Because of this performance alone…
I get along well with my mother and father. I am the only child.
Sometimes, growing up, I wanted a brother and a sister. Sometimes I was glad I didn’t have one.
I have no family myself. I have a girlfriend.
One or two.
Three or four.
I always say, “Count your blessings!
Trinidad so sweet.
Boy’s days in Fyzo-good were in the countryside: riding on a cart, looking to pick the neighbor’s fruit – I wouldn’t say stealing.
Everyone was united. If you did something wrong, the whole village will know about it. If you don’t say hello to an elder, that’s another problem: you have to grow up with good manners. This is the most absolute lack of respect.
If you do something wrong, the neighbor beats 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 anymore. This is the house I grew up in.
Is so calm, when I play the violin, I feel so relaxed. No one around to harass you.
But a minute walk and me on the main road.
The primary school was Siparia KPA. I went to Palo Seco Government Secondary.
I liked the school at the level of the distance to be covered, it was a little half an hour. You see another part of Trinidad. You see pretty girls. You make different friends.
“Keep learning” is one of my favorite quotes.
One Valentine’s Day at school, I tell a taxi driver who buys doubles outside of school to take me home. And I bring the stereo from my house, hook it up to a mic, and start playing some music.
Everybody wants 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 discovered the advantages of being on stage around 14 or 15 years old.
I was raised in the faith, I practically grew up in the temple with my grandmother.
But what I really believe in is love and music.
God is not temple, church, mosque, nothing. God is kind and shows love to people in general.
When I was at the temple with my grandmother, I used to go eat the food. I just liked the mischief.
Then a music lesson was introduced. The teacher was Shivanand Maharaj, a violinist.
My first instrument was the keyboard. Not the harmonium, keyboard. I started playing with Shivanand in his band on all his concerts. I started teaching when he couldn’t teach. He was giving me the lesson and I was explaining it to the class on the keyboard.
Since my hands were so used to the keys of the keyboard, I was so engrossed watching my teacher play the violin.
When I was 21, when I see my music teacher at home on Christmas morning with a violin, I light up like Christmas! The cake wasn’t enough for that smile.
He showed me the notes and, the knowledge I had on the keyboard, I simply transferred 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 gave me his blessing and I decided to go solo.
I do a lot of charity, help the community, all kinds of fundraisers. Help the poor, just to see the smile on their face. Seeing the bride’s face as she enters her favorite song…money can’t buy that! That joy you have in your heart, putting a smile on their face.
You need money to survive. But I really play the violin to make people happy.
Trinidad like a pelaou. So I don’t watch the race while I’m in an event; I would rather see an age range of 60 and over. I might go to a sweet-16 party, club or bar, mostly young people.
You have to know which set to perform. You have to feed on the crowd. You see Tanty seems to like her boyfriend, they’re rocking together, so, okay, I’ve got a song for you Tanty.
And I know the wise man says only fools rush. To see a man with two missing teeth, looking old school, I’ll tell him, what a wonderful world! They have a kind of vibe.
I’m not saying this for everyone, but the bad part of the job is that Trinidadians have no time management.
They tell you to reach for a certain time to play three songs. And I have to wait two hours to play them three songs? Because you went to take a picture? Or a flat tire in a limo?
And I have people waiting and when I reach the next event, they say to me, “Way, you’re a real non-professional!” I can’t tell the client that these are the people waiting for me for the bride’s entrance.
When you go on honeymoon, you arrive three hours early – but, for your wedding, you are late!
Another thing: not everyone could mix and design a violin.
A sound system could make or break you. Is a very discouraging thing.
I’m playing on stage, people are watching me, and while I’m playing, a man is interfering with my sound settings. And I have to keep calm! I can’t tell him about his mother’s condensed milk casserole.
A Trinbagonian, from my point of view, will always represent himself anywhere in the world. You will know them.
Isn’t even the focus. Is an aura or spirit around them. You could identify them in a crowd by the special aura they emit.
For me, Trinidad and Tobago means heaven and hell. The path you choose could make it your heaven or your hell.
Read the full version of this feature Friday night at www.BCPires.com