Wednesday, March 28

Blackness & the Dreaming Soul

"Shoving Leopard is proud to announce the publication of Cy Grant's latest book, Blackness and the Dreaming Soul.

“..a masterful and compassionate assessment of the Western paradigm .. one of the top cultural studies of this decade. A masterwork"…. --Theodore D. Hall, Ph.D., author of "Over the Bones of the Dead-: Evolutionary Science--Past, Present & Future."

"Backness & the Dreaming Soul does not pull its punches – it has its finger smack on the pulse of what is eating away at the very heart of civil society" Professor Gus John

“……(his) holistic vision is truly multicultural, implying a new era of mutual respect and the end of a Western monopoly on definitions of reality. As such, it is a truly liberating book" David Lorimer Scientific & Medical Network----------

"The power of the book, and what makes it relevant to all of us, is the temper of reality that reflects the life of someone whose background and search for his own truth has had him open to some of the sharpest issues that are currently shaping human consciousness. " John Moat, author - co-founder of the Arvon Foundation.

Now available at Amazon see link below

The fact that March 2007 also marks the bicentenary of the Parliamentary vote to abolish the slave trade (though it was a further 63 years before British support for the international trade ended), and recent evidence of abiding racial tension and inequality in Britain, can only enhance the relevance and resonance of this important book. Launching March 26th 2007."

Blackness and the Dreaming Soul is an account of a long journey of self-discovery involving an ever deepening awareness of the causes of our current alienation from each other and the natural primordial world. It is an alchemical venture, exploring the darkness of the human psyche: being black and trapped in a white culture, as well as being white and caught in an ambush of denial. Written without bitterness and recrimination, Blackness & the Dreaming Soul is neither pure biography nor philosophical manifesto, but grows out of the author’s childhood as the great grandson of a slave in British Guiana. The book chronicles his career during a long sojourn in Britain, as a World War II RAF officer (two years spent as a prisoner of war in Nazi Germany), qualifying as a barrister at law, to a career in show business spanning stage, film, radio and TV. In the late 50s, Cy’s was the first black face to appear regularly on television, singing the news in calypso.

Blackness & the Dreaming Soul transcends attempts at categorization. It is a reconstruction of the way we make our reality, a journey leading the author to a holistic outlook beyond the frustrations that have dogged his life, beyond anger, beyond division and polarity, to a vision of unity in diversity in which all things are connected; man and nature, earth and cosmos.

“Blackness & the Dreaming Soul does not pull its punches – it has its finger smack on the pulse of what is eating away at the very heart of civil society in Britain’’ Professor Gus John

Tuesday, March 27

A Member of the RAF of Indeterminate Race

World War II experiences of a former 103 Squadron RAF navigator and POW from the Caribbean

Anyone old enough to recall the innovative BBC TV programme ‘Tonight’, broadcast in the late 50s and early 60s, will surely remember Cy Grant, whose regular appearances on the show made him the first black entertainer to have a regular spot on British television (although he was already established as a stage, film and TV actor).

What former television viewers will be unaware of, however, is that in addition to his career as an entertainer, Cy was also a qualified barrister and had been one of the ‘black few’ – about 400 Caribbean personnel who qualified as aircrew and took to the skies with the RAF during World War Two. He was one of an even more select few from this group to be commissioned as officers.

Cy, originally from British Guiana, travelled to England to join the RAF in 1941 and after undergoing flying training and qualifying as a navigator, was posted in 1943 to No.103 Squadron, based at RAF Elsham Wolds in Lincolnshire, as one of the seven-man crew of an Avro Lancaster bomber. But Cy’s flying days were to be short-lived; he and his Canadian and British crew mates were shot down over Holland on only their third mission over Germany in 1943. Two were killed and the rest became prisoners of war.

The curious title of this book derives from the appearance of Cy’s photograph in a popular German newspaper shortly after his capture by the SS. Under his image appeared the caption ‘A member of the RAF of Indeterminate Race’, presumably intended to demonstrate the depths to which the British were prepared to stoop in fighting their war.

What followed for Cy was a two-year period as a prisoner of war, in increasingly harrowing conditions, during which he had time to reflect on the irony of having fought to defend a country that had, in former times, enslaved one line of his ancestors.

His memories of his eventful RAF years, narrated here with modesty and good humour, make for compelling reading.

  • ISBN 1-84683-018-4
  • softback
  • 148 pages
  • many b/w photos

Ring of Steel: Pan Sound and Symbol

Ring of Steel: Pan Sound and Symbol

Review - Ian Dieffenthaller WASAFARI 2002

Ring of Steel traces the development of the steelpan: “The only acoustic musical instrument to be invented in the 20th century”. Grant’s book, which describes the transmutation of industrial waste – the oil drum – into highly tuned musical instrument, is offered as a paradigm for the development of the latter-day West Indian from an initial “collision of cultures”. We are not asked to read once for facts and again for this insight. Instead the story is a holistic one, its various strands being neatly woven together. Significantly the book opens with Grant’s poem Anansi the wise spider-man. Anansi is the West Indian trickster, a spider figure, who spins his webs at cultural boundaries. In literature, the boundary is often that of Great house (coloniser) and Folk (colonised) and the resulting “plantation model” is extended to represent all society’s sites of oppression (colonisation of women or the mind for example). Grant’s Anansi tells us of “Ogun/god of war and iron;/how one day his voice will resonate/through his son/Pan/spiralling outwards spanning the globe/a ring of steel/a healing web of sound".

Chapter One sketches Trinidad’s cultural development, explaining the unusual mix of French, English and Spanish settlers and how African and Indian traditions survive, despite colonial attempts at suppression, in religion, music and language. It defines the unique Carnival as an appropriation of European Catholicism by these “other” traditions and tells of the rise of the tamboo bamboo band following the 1884 Act banning African drums. Bamboo is cut to different lengths to produce three instruments which are struck on the ground or against each other. The bands co-existed with and were eventually superseded by “iron” bands comprising “ tin containers of all sorts”. No one knows who discovered that dented tins could produce musical notes but the first turned pan is credited to Winston “Spree” Simon in 1946.

“Behind the Bridge”, in Port of Spain’s poorest ghettos the “pan yards” became the focus of each community. Experimentation “produced a plethora of instruments”, all with different names such as ping pong, dudup, grunding…” and good pans became prizes worth fighting over. Violent “clashes between bands mirrored the territoriality of the urban landscape and the violence that society continually meted out to the underprivileged”. As Anansi would have it, it was the intervention of middle-class college boys and the involvement of women players and organisers that took pan to its international debut at the Festival of Britain. Though at first “people smiled indulgently”, it was an unqualified success. Yet pan and its culture remained reviled at home. Grant chronicles the slow road to acceptance and role-calls all its pioneers.

At the book’s core is an exhaustive exposition of pan-making and the various types of pan, and a description of the way the band is structured around an “engine room” of percussion. Grant outlines the science and musicology of steelpans, the most thrilling aspect of which for him is that steel when tempered is able to generate harmonics. This phenomenon, absent from other metallic instruments, symbolises the alchemy in the change from industrial waste to necessary component in WI culture.

The book addresses the influences of sponsorship and politics, the touristic trivialising of the instrument and the loosening of its integral role in carnival, leading commentators to predict the death of pan. Grant, however, charts the rise and continuing evolution of the instrument in places as unexpected as Switzerland. He debates whether the teaching of pan should be by rote, as is traditional, or by reading music; and speculates on the healing power of the harmonic overtones themselves. Should pan be solo or form part of a “steel orchestra”; should it play calypso or classics? He investigates the meaning and role of Carnival and the importance of all cultures, European, African and Asian to its continued existence.

“Kaiso, pan and mas are the cultural expression….drawing its conviction from the oneness of life and art. There is no separation as in the Western Tradition (p73). There are no passive receivers of the culture”.

The story of pan, is that West Indian culture, perceived subversively as part of a trinity, has the power to heal “rifts within a divided society” and that the continued evolution of pan is vital to “an evolving sense of identity and culture” unavailable in the West. Consequently, the illustrations in the book are, apart from Las Casas on Columbus, all from poets, novelists and calypsonians, never from official documents or newspapers. Grant allows the artists to recreate the places, events and people of his mythic history, much as Kamau Brathwaite employs the “folk” in defining “voice” in West Indian poetry. It is testament to Grant’s ability as poet and calypsonian that he is able to locate pan’s voice within the text of a sound technical exposition of an instrument.

For Grant the West Indies, a meeting place of cultures, is a site of myth making: Pan is present in Ogun. This book should be essential for those who want to tap into the creative potential of such sites.

MacMillan 1999, 120pp, 1SBN 0 – 333 – 66128 – 1; £13.50

Monday, March 26

The Cy Grant Album of International songs

The Cy Grant Album of International songs

Bibliographic Details

Publisher: Bradbury Wood, (1960)
Publication Date: 1960
Binding: Hardcover

My Curriculum Vitae


Member of the Lawrence Olivier Festival Co. London & New York, 1951-2
This way to the Tomb, Arts Theatre, London
Comedy of Errors, Bristol Old Vic & Baalbeck Festival 196-
Othello, Phoenix Theatre, Leicester, 1965
Cindy Ella (with Cleo Laine and Elizabeth Welch) Garrick Theatre, London 1966
The Roar of the Greasepaint, the smell of the Crowd - tour 196-
Joseph and his multicoloured Dream coat, Haymarket, Leicester, 1975
Ice Man Cometh, Royal Shakespeare Co, London, 1976
One-man show: "Return to My Native Land" by Aime Cesaire, platform performance at the National Theatre, before transferring to the Theatre Upstairs, Royal Court Theatre, London 1977 and on tour for two years including the Edinburgh fringe festival
Kingdom Come, King's Head, London
Night & Day, Derby Playhouse 1981
Maskarade, Talawa 1994
*THEATRE MUSEUM: National Video Archive. Interview: Blackgrounds


Sea Wife (20th Century Fox) 1956 Location: Jamaica
Calypso' (ENALPA Films, Italy) 1958 do Haiti, Puerto Rico, Antigua
Shaft in Africa, 1973 do Madrid
At the Earth's Core 1974


Man from the Sun (BBC) 1956
(Repeated 1992 Black & White in Colour)
Home of the Brave (Granada) 1857
*TONIGHT, BBC 1957-60: singing the news in calypso.
The Encylopaedist (BBC) 1961
Freedom Road, ATV (with Cleo Laine, Madeline Bell etc.) 1964
(Won 3 major prizes BERLIN T.V Festival)
GTV 9, Australia, ( daily appearances for 6 weeks) 1964
Cindy Ella (The stage play was first a radio play, an LP & Book) 1966
Schools Othello Act3 Sc.3 (with Judi Dench) Assoc. Rediffusion
Watch: Egypt ; Moses and Pharaoh BBC Schools Series 1980
Episodes Blake's Seven, The Persuaders, Softly, Softly , Born Free etc.
Voice Lt. Green,Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons
Metal Mickey Series
The Cleo Laine Show
Windrush Gala 1998

Own TV Series
For Members Only daytime TV series ITV 1955(?)
Country Style, Tyne Tees TV
Songs that Matter ATV 1971


Kongress Hall of the Deutschen Museums, Munich 1963
Queen Elizabeth Hall, 1971
Music Societies throughout Britain: De Montford Hall Leicester (2 Christmas Concerts with Leicestershire Philharmonic Choir) etc.


Savoy, Churchills. Quaglinos, Esmeralda's Barn, London West End and abroad (Bricktops Rome, New Stanley Hotel, Nairobi, Governor General's Ball Malta, Cruises etc.)
CSE (Combined Services Entertainment) Tours: Cyprus, Maldives, Singapore, Libya


2 LP's for World Record Clubs: Cool Folk and Cy & I, (with Bill LeSage)
Ballads Birds & Blues, Reality Records
Cy Grant, Transatlantic
45 : Psalms for the Grail, etc.
Single: King Cricket(Garfield Sobers)/Learie Constantine


Over 90 entries listed in BBC Sound Archives between 1954 and 1982
among them the Plays: Prisoners Progress, Blackamore Dandy, Cindy Ella
Upright Now My Country & I World Service 197-
The Way of Nature (A series of meditations on the Tao te Ching)
World Service of the BBC, 1980 (Repeated 1982)
Toussaint, Part 2 Tree of Liberty World Service 1990
Featured in Salutations (Radio 2 series paying tribute to black entertainers) 1993?
Caribbean Cocktail (Alex Pascall Desert Island style series) 1994

Own Series for Radio 2:
Rhythms of the Sun 197-
Calypso Chronicles, 1994
Panning for Gold, 1995
Amazing Grace 1997.


Ring of Steel Pan sounds and symbols (1999)
War Memoirs: A Member of the RAF of Indeterminate Race (2006)
Blackness and the Dreaming Soul (2007)


The Tree of Liberty in the Caribbean (Narrative Anthology) South Bank 1989:
(Bi-Centennary French Revolution)
Cheltenham Festival of Literature 1989
Negritude Revisited (from book Blackness & the Dreaming Soul):
Dartington Conference What Future for the Arts l988,
Open University Third World Studies Summer School 1989,90
Center for African Studies, Birmingham University, 1989
Loughborough University 1990
Influences: Central Library, Coventry
Return to My Native Land: Birmingham Museum
Only Connecting: A.E.M.S advisors and teachers, Trent Polytechnic, Exeter School
Columbus as Icon (From Blackness & the Dreaming Soul):
Open University Summer School, 1992
David Pitt Memorial Lecture: British Library 1998


Papers&Reviews Resurgence Magazine
extract Blackness & the Dreaming Soul Wasafiri, 1989
Colour & Prejudice, Concord in Devon Report. 1985
Poem, Caribbean Voices (Anthology John Figueroa)
Poem, Bluefoot Traveller (Anthology West Indian Poets in Britain ed James Berry)
Mother Country, (Chapter 1 - Blackness and the Dreaming Soul) Kykoveral 1996


Dartington Conference - What Future for the arts? (paper) 1988