The Artist and the Tragic Muse
Don Drummond was a musical genius. A founding member of the Skatalites, Drummond was an accomplished composer/arranger and jazz trombonist. Unfortunately, his life became a tragic cliché--the solitary artist falling in love with an unavailable woman. In this case, the unavailable woman was an exotic dancer and singer named Anita "Margarita" Mahfood. Drummond suspected that she was cheating on him and he killed her. At his trial, he was declared mentally unfit and was interned at the Belle Vue Asylum where, as the story goes, he was not allowed to play his trombone and this led to his suicide. Such is the life of legends and many Jamaican writers have fallen for the lure of the Don Drummond's story.
One of the first poets to memorialize Don Drummond was Mervyn Morris and in his poem, "Valley Prince," the speaker in the poem laments about the relationship of the artist, his vocation and audience. The sound, music, and trombone become metaphors of the poet's craft and the woman becomes a symbol--a representative of a community that despite it's brutal history, prefers existence on a prosaic level. The betrayal is physical and spiritual. It propels the artist towards murder, mayhem, and mania.
Morris and Drummond know the betrayal of a community that refuses complexity. They know, "But straight is not the way; my world/ don' go so, that is lie," and as seekers they take the path of integrity and speak their truth: "Oonu giimme back me trombone, man: / is time to blow me mind."
(for Don D.)
Me one, way out in the crowd,I blow the sounds, the pain,but not a soulwould come inside my worldor tell me how it true.I love a melancholy babysweet, with fire in her belly;and like a spitethe woman turn a whore.Cool and smooth around the beatshe wake the note inside meand I blow me mind.Inside here, me onein the crowd again,and plenty peoplewant we blow it straight.But straight is not the way: my worlddon' go so: that is lie.Oonu gimme back me trombone, man:is time to blow me mind.From The Pond***