Keith Waithe is a flautist, flute-collector, music teacher, composer, and director. With a career spanning over 40 years, Keith is a musician who hails from Guyana, in South America. Born in Georgetown and raised in the village of Kitty alongside his three siblings, Keith’s musical journey began at a young age when his father, Darnley van Herbert Waithe, introduced him to music by teaching him to play the trumpet. Growing up in a musical environment with his father’s involvement in reputable bands, Keith developed a passion for music that would shape his future.
During his formative years, Keith joined the Salvation Army Band, playing the trumpet and bass drum. After leaving Tutorial High School, he apprenticed with the Guyana Police Force Band, where he discovered a passion for the flute and piccolo. In 1973, he received a British Council scholarship to study at the Royal Military School of Music, graduating in 1975. Keith obtained a PGCE from the University of Surrey in 1976, expanding his teaching abilities. He spent two years in Guyana before permanently moving to England, where he started his career as a peripatetic teacher, instructing music at primary and high schools, as well as at colleges.
Keith founded Essequibo Music, supporting contemporary Black British artists, storytellers, poets, and musicians. As the director, he collaborated with notable individuals across various artistic disciplines. Keith also conducted workshops and cultural programmes, including residencies, workshops, and thematic workshops for renowned organizations and schools.
Keith later established the Keith Waithe and the Macusi Players, a multicultural group of musicians representing Caribbean, South American, African, and Indian heritage. Through this ensemble, Keith aimed to transmit knowledge and skills in world music while engaging in national and international performances.
From 1981 to 1989, Keith worked as a community development officer for the London Borough of Ealing. He played a crucial role in developing projects and programs for Black youth, particularly at The Priory Center in Acton. Later, he became the senior community officer for all community centers in the Borough of Ealing while continuing to play with the Macusi Players and advancing his musical projects.
Keith’s passion for music extends beyond his flute-playing skills. He is also a flute-collector, amassing a collection of over 200 flutes from around the world. This activity allows him to explore the origin and nuances of various flutes, enriching his compositions with eclectic sounds. Keith’s music often incorporates vocal gymnastics, conjuring the sounds of animals and birds reminiscent of the Amazon Rainforest. He takes pride in showcasing the vibrant culture of Guyana while representing Britain and Europe on international stages. Gracing the stages of numerous festivals throughout the United Kingdom, Keith’s performances have captivated audiences at renowned events like Glastonbury Festival, Hay Festival, Ealing Jazz Festival, Wessex Book Festival, and many more.
Throughout his career, Keith has been involved in literary ventures and collaborations with spoken-word artists and poets, including Kwame Dawes, Patience Agbadi, Jean Binta Breeze, John Agard and Grace Nicols. His work has been featured on various radio programmes and media platforms, including the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). He has performed in countries such as India, Denmark, Italy, Lithuania, Ghana, France, Peru, and the United States, collaborating with renowned artists like Nitin Sawhney and Courtney Pine.
Keith’s artistic contributions are documented in his LP, “Come From That Window Child — An Anthology of Poetry & Music,” recorded in 1986. He has also released two DVDs: “Live in Lithuania” (1997) and “Now is the Time — Keith Waithe & the Macusi Players” (2003). Additionally, he has produced ten CDs, showcasing his musical range and creativity.
In recognition of his meaningful contributions to the preservation of Guyanese culture through music, the Guyana Cultural Association of New York, Inc. awarded Keith the Wordsworth McAndrew Award in 2003. He also received the WOM@TT Best of British Award in 2010 for his outstanding achievements. In 2019, Keith collaborated with British-Guyanese hip-hop rapper Loyle Carner on the BBC World Radio programme “Sound Odyssey.” Their work on “BBC Sound Odyssey: Loyle Carner in Guyana” earned them the Special Recognition award from the Latin American Travel Association (LATA) in 2020. In 2022, Keith was featured in a Guardian Newspaper article entitled “Older, Gifted and Black,” which highlighted the talents of over-50s Black British artists.
Keith Waithe continues to inspire audiences worldwide with his innovative musical style. His vibrant performances and tireless efforts in music education and cultural exchange have left an indelible mark on the music industry. From his current residence in Ovingdean, East Sussex, Keith collaborates with local artists such as John Agard, Grace Nicols, and Sussex Flutes. He also continues to perform at renowned British festivals, including Ealing Jazz Festival, among others. He still frequently visits Guyana, further connecting with his roots and celebrating the richness of Guyanese culture. Keith Waithe is recognized for his musical contributions and has touched the hearts and minds of many with his artistry.