Keith Waithe

Inspired by Nature

Composer dedicates music to the wonders of the rainforest

DSC_3611When Keith Waithe plays the flute, he feels as if he is transported back to the rainforests of Guyana. It was a playground of his when Keith was a child where he spent many most of his time wandering through the dense foliage to discover nature’s secrets. In the thick tropical canopy that was punctured by thin rays of sunlight, Keith developed a keen sense of sound in the wilderness that would lure him deeper into the forest, his curiosity getting the better of him.

‘I would hear the chattering of monkeys, the chirping and squawking of birds and the grunts of wild animals,’’ said the Georgetown-born Keith.

I was fascinated by it all – the rustling of leaves as you brush past the bushes, the sound of water falling on the leaves, the sound of the insects and toads that echo through the forest,’’ he added.

Keith’s enchantment with the forest has grown on him ever since. Inspired by nature, this composer and musician has written a score called ‘Guyana with Love – Reflections of the Rainforest’ which he will present at the ComCelebrate! Concert staged at the Commonwealth Secretariat in London on 14 March 2008.

“The rainforest is a place of mystery and magic. It is a place where I find my Muse, in the morning mists or in the daytime shadows where I stand tall among the giant trees or at times, look up in wonder at the trees that seem to touch the sky,” said Keith.

He can conjure up the sounds of animals and birds from his array of flutes – Keith has 200 of them from around the world.

“Listen to this!” said Keith as he created the trumpeting of an elephant from his steel flute.

“And to this!” he exclaimed as he produced the whistling sound of a bird from a bamboo flute he got from China.

“And this as well,” said Keith, as he played a Nigerian bamboo flute, which gave off a humming sound.

The melodies of the forest will resonate throughout Marlborough House, the Commonwealth Secretariat’s headquarters, when Keith and his band, The Keith Waithe African Trio perform their musical repertoire, with Keith on flute, Jo Jo Yates on the cora and drums and Darryl Lee Que on drums and percussion.

Keith’s jazz fusion band plays a blend of classical, folk and contemporary music influenced by African, Asian, Caribbean and Western rhythms. Keith has recorded seven CDs to date, with the latest album titled ‘Diverse Canopy’ released in 2006.

“I would describe the kind of music I play as world music because it is an infusion of musical genres across cultures and across time. It is fluid and constantly evolving through the changes in musical trends, through innovation and improvisation,” said the London-based musician who quipped that he lives to perform rather than performs to live.

When Keith is not performing, he is coaching children and young people at music classes at schools, colleges and community centres.

“Music is an avenue for self-expression. One can communicate through music and song, through rhythm and verse, through our senses and our spirit,” said Keith, who is the director of Essequibo Music, which offers performing arts education such as poetry recital, story-telling, dance classes and music lessons.

“For me, music is food for the soul, and I use music to nourish young people and inculcate in them an appreciation for music and the cultural diversity that have defined or influenced music through the ages. This helps to build understanding and encourage integration among people in our multicultural society,” said Keith.