The Case of the Music Dealer

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"The Case of the Music Dealer"

By Kim Bailey

"This is my nephew, Vidiadhar Maraj, we call him Vidia," my uncle says to Mr Jefferson. "He loves the calypso music too, always going to the tents. I caught him coming out of one the other night and he was still dancing to some song he heard in there. Was it one of the Sparrow's?"

That was probably the extent of my uncle's knowledge of calypsonians, but the white man's whole face lights up, blue eyes shining as he turns to me and asks, "Is that so?"

"I went to my first tent with some boys from school and well, something stuck. I used to dream about making my own songs for the stage. Of course, my parents wanted me to be a lawyer," I say.

He nods at this, as if commiserating, this friend of my uncle who is not a lawyer, and asks, "You go to the tents?"

"When I have time, when they're open," I say. Every single chance I get is what I mean.

"Do you have any favourites these days? I quite like the Mighty Sparrow myself, but Lord Kitchener is always a good time, and that Mighty Spoiler fellow is quite funny," says Mr Jefferson, with what sounds like genuine interest.

My uncle says nothing, sipping water. I reply, "They're all very witty fellows."

Mr Jefferson bursts out laughing, then slaps the table with one hand. A few heads turn at the other tables and a waiter glances over, eyes narrowed. I hope no one comes over to complain. Mr Jefferson, unaware, says, "Yes! They're so clever with their puns and jokes. I keep trying to get my friends to listen but all the want to do is dance and ignore the lyrics. I have quite a few favourites myself, mostly the older artists like Invader, the Duke of Iron and Attila the Hun. I actually have been collecting recordings of their work from time to time."

"You must have quite the collection," I say.

"Yes, well," he clears his throat, smile disappearing, "I was supposed to collect a real prize the other day, but I don't think that shall happen now."

I glance at my uncle, who shrugs, and I ask, "What happened?"

Mr Jefferson gives a half shake of his head, not looking at either of us, then says, "Let me say for the record that I don't think I'm being duped."

I lift both eyebrows at my uncle now. Mr Jefferson takes a deep swallow from his drink and continues, "A few months ago, on my last visit I went to a calypso tent for an evening out. I had made a few friends at this particular tent and one of them...let's call him Mr A, who knew I had started collecting recordings, informed me that he knew someone with an extensive collection that I might be interested in. If they didn't have the rare ones I preferred, they might be able to procure them."

My uncle clears his throat. I wince at the sound. I have hated that sound for most of my life. It's his way of signalling that I've been foolish without stating it outright. Mr Jefferson, who doesn't know this of course, merely glances over, before going on, "I jumped at the opportunity. Who wouldn't want rare pieces in their collection, especially with the popularity these days? I had heard renditions of some of the songs in the tents, but to hear the originals? I couldn't resist."

I can imagine. I have a few records sequestered in my office at the law chambers. I ask, "Were they originals?"

He grins brightly and replies, "I was rather fortunate. This man, they called him 'Gramophone' of all things,his name is David Jones, is the real deal. Even took me to his house-he lives next door to a panyard-and he had a room just dedicated to his music collection. All originals, and some of them were signed."

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