Photo of Don Walter 2002 by Mario Chacón
We all agreed that this day at the Studio "Eclipse" in Turrialba shows exactly how the magic of Walter Ferguson works: people get moved by his music, and when they really start to love and care, they eventually want to give something back. So more and more people are joining the Tape hunt, all for the love of music and the immense respect for Mr. Gavitt.
As the digitalization and evaluation of those 5 tapes will take some time - please stay tuned for more news on this.
We're stoked to announce that the BBC World Service, with an estimated 60 million listeners worldwide weekly, will air an exclusive "Tape Hunt" episode on Sun 29 Dec 2019, featuring interviews with Don Walter, Peck Ferguson and Niels Werdenberg. Big up to Reporter Clayton Conn and his team for their effort to spread the word.
Fingers crossed, this show will reach more tape owners around the world (please contact us here) so we'll be able to find Don Walter's missing Calypsos from the 70s, 80s and 90s!
Following the broadcast on 29 Dec 2019, the Radio show will be available online.
In Central America, music distribution networks don't exist anymore, neither do record labels or CD or vinyl production factories. That's why the Tape Hunt project collaborates with a European label (Bongo Joe Records). Since most Record or CD Shops in Central America have been put out of business in the last 15 years - because of the dominance of downloading and streaming music - it is so much harder to get a copy of our album in Costa Rica than, say in Europe, the US or Japan.
As with Vol.1, Vol.2 was again produced in Europe. In order to get the album to Costa Rica and make it available within the country, we had to build our own very basic "grass roots" network, and we heavily rely on the friendly support of the very few remaining music dealers like Denki Records in San Jose. Thanks again to you all!
So today we celebrate the fact, that Don Walter can finally sell his copies in Cahuita. It will be available at Tienda Sol Y Mar at the family's hostel and breakfast place, right at the entrance to the gorgeous Cahuita National Park, that encompasses some of Gavitt's former cacao farm land.
Wimba! Ya Don Walter tiene la copia de su disco, el Volumen 2 del The Walter Gavitt Ferguson "Tape Hunt" Pueden conseguirlo en CD o vinilo directamente con la familia Ferguson los teléfonos 8838-3661 y 8893-2252
Spoiler: We don't know either! All we know is that we are very very greatful for this lovely support! Big up to Erin MacLeod for her great effort and catching up with Don Walter, Manuel Monestel, Paula Palmer and Michael Williams for this article. Shout out to Isadora Dartial, David Blot & the team from Radio Nova for making the pilgrimage all the way to Cahuita!
Fingers crossed we'll find more tapes in Europe!
Read the Guardian piece on line here.
Enjoy the Nova Club Episode here.
This previously unreleased Calypso was found on one of Don Walter's priceless home recorded cassette tapes. The specific cassette belongs to US author Paula Palmer, who wrote a book called "Wa' apin man / What happen" in 1977. It is the first book about Talamancen culture and quite some pages are dedicated to Don Walter. He returned the favour by composing this Calypso.
We estimate there are still many dozens of songs missing, maybe captured on surviving casettes out there, waiting to be discovered again. Help us get the word out there to find more cassettes and save another piece of Costa Rican cultural history.
"A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots."-Marcus Garvey-
Photo of Walter Ferguson wall painting by Christiane Zwick
In 2013 German journalist Christiane Zwick interviewed Walter and Peck Ferguson in Cahuita.
A year later her story for Radio NDR won the Golden Columbus Award.
AUTHENTIC AND IRRESISTIBLE AGAIN: The second "Tape Hunt" compilation album (LP, CD, CAS, DIGITAL) features another string of 15 previously unreleased jewels, carefully selected and restored from the Calypso King's legendary home-recorded Audio Cassettes that were found in various places in Costa Rica, the United States and in Canada. CD and LP come with extensive Liner notes on Ferguson's Biography, his tapes and the recent finds by the ongoing Tape Hunt. The album is available here.
Vol. 2 is dedicated to Don Claudio Reid, Cahuita's school teacher and Gavitt's good friend who passed away earlier this year. The song "Bad Minded People" tells the story of how Mr. Reid created Cahuita's central Park with his own two hands.
Links to Reviews:
Around the wax (FR)
Some years ago, the famous rapper & actor Mos Def a.k.a Yasiin Bey told his colleague Jneiro Jarel that he should visit Cahuita and link up with the legendary Calypso King. He followed through and fell in love with Cahuita.
In an Interview with the VICE magazine, Janeiro explains:
"I had a long talk with Yasiin Bey about getting away for a while, and I was interested in this small town on the Caribbean coast called Cahuita. He lit up and said he used to live there [and that] I should meet up with the legendary local musician, Walter Ferguson. I ended up going and fell in love with the place," says the nomadic producer Jneiro Jarel (also known as Dr. Who Dat?). Thus came about "Cahuita," Jarel's ode to the Costa Rican beachy paradise. A slice of experimental hip-hop made of live instrumentation and sampled bird calls, the track carries the grooves of LA's beat community, where Jarel spent several years collaborating with artists like Flying Lotus and Daedelus.
Check out the resulting Track: "Cahuita"
We’ve worked hard in the past months to put out the second compilation album (VINYL, CD, CAS and DIGITAL) of Don Walter’s legendary Tapes on time. Vinyl already entered in production and we’re crossing fingers that we’ll have them on time for the Calypso Festival scheduled 15-18th of August 2019.
Our project The Walter Gavitt Ferguson "Tape Hunt" is now officially of cultural interest. Though the declaration is from March 2019, we just learned about it today - wich is already a special day for Calypso: It's Don Walter's 100th birthday and the first National Calypso Day of Costa Rica.
Festejamos el Día Nacional del Calipso Costarricense y los 100 años del nacimiento del músico cahuiteño, Walter Ferguson, compartiendo la declaratoria de interés cultural aprobada por el Misterio de Cultura para el proyecto The Walter Gavitt Ferguson "Tape Hunt"
To celebrate this, we'll share a few Tape Hunt pearls today.
Enjoy a short Interview from 1981 and a beautiful lost & found Calypso from Gavitts legendary tapes. Thanks to all our contributors & supporters, without you we couldn't do this!!!
Drop in again later, we have some more for you.
Some of the mentioned details need a slight correction though: Calypso is not a mix of Reggae and Ska, it is a much older art form and cultural expression, dating back to the time of Slavery. Also the Tape Hunt is an initiative of the Ferguson family.
A few weeks ago we were contacted by Michael Williams, who had recorded the music for Don Walter's first album in 1981, wich was released on the US label "Folkways" a year later as "Mr. Gavitt: Calypsos of Costa Rica" and marked the beginning of Don Walters international recognition as composer and musician.
Mr. Williams had recently heard about our Tape Hunt project and told us that he still had the original cassette recordings from the LP - and probably also a few songs that did not make it onto the LP. Then, as he started to digitalise his almost 40 year old cassettes, he discovered that they contained mostly unreleased material, recorded in Cahuita between March 1981 and 1983.
Mr.Williams' original cassette recordings and the front of the 1982 Folkways LP.
In a recent e-mail, Mr. Williams shed some light on the background of the recordings:
" In March 1981 I met and recorded Walter Ferguson, having been introduced by Paula Palmer. I used a non-portable Nakamichi Cassette deck. We recorded several sessions at home and in the Cahuita schoolhouse after 5 PM. ...We tried to find a time and place with the least possible intrusive noise (i.e. trucks, children, roosters, insects) since a sound studio was unavailable. Nevertheless, there was significant insect noise behind all these recordings. So I had them cleaned up a bit by Mickey Hoolihan (who had recorded Paul Horn in the wild and lived nearby) before sending a demo to Folkways Records Inc. Folkways founder Moses Asch phoned me and offered to produce "Mr. Gavitt: Calypso Music of Costa Rica," which came out on vinyl in 1982. After Mr. Asch's death, the Folkways collection was acquired by the Smithsonian Institution. My five original 1981 tapes contain quite a few songs that were not included on the Folkways album.In spring 1983 I returned to Costa Rica and again recorded a series of songs by Mr. Gavitt using a Uher portable cassette recorder. After returning to the USA, I also looked around for releasing these recordings. But I was unable to find a producer at that time, so these recordings have never 'seen the light of day'."
Mr. Williams generously contributed all the unreleased material to the Tape Hunt project.
It is an important addition and another big leap towards saving Walter Ferguson's legacy: The recordings contain many rare and unheard songs, even a few short interviews and a whole session of Don Walter's beautiful "Lo-Fi overdubs", featuring double voice and drumming.
Stay tuned for more surprises soon!
Above: The original cassettes from Paula Palmer.
Above: The first editions (eng/spa) of Paula Palmer's book. Quite some pages are dedicated to "Mr. Gavitt", his lyrics and his biography. Since 1977, the book has been edited and re-published several times. It is still available today (last edition from 2005).
Paula Palmer is a North American sociologist who lived on Costa Rica's Caribbean coast from 1973 to 1993. There she helped Afro-Caribbean and indigenous Bribri communities analyze and publish their own accounts of their histories and aspirations as unique peoples. For three years she directed a Community Research Project at the regional high school, where her students published their own oral histories of the region. Since 1996 she is executive director of Global Response/Environmental Action and Education Network, based in Boulder, Colorado.
In the early 1980s "Mr. Gavitt" developed a simple trick to add a second voice to some of his recordings, using a second tape recorder for playback. In this interview the 99-year old "King of home recording" remembers how he had surprised Paula Palmer, the author of "Wa' apin man" - a book about the Afrocaribbean Culture in Talamanca - with the resulting double voices. He also recalls a particular incident, where he had himself quite confused by trying to record a third voice on top of all that.
Now, what you hear at the end of this clip is a noisy but stunningly beautiful, two voiced version of "Monilia". We have found this gem on Tapes coming from Costa Rica. So far, we could rescue only one other example of his overdub experiments. According to the man himself, he did record quite a few, sometimes adding a second voice, whistling or percussion. Of course we are hoping to find some of these overdub sessions with the invaluable help of our supporters - so thank you for sharing!
Above: Don Walter (left) and his friend and neighbour Don Claudio Reid playing their favourite game Tablero. (picture taken from the biography of Walter Ferguson: “El Rey del calipso” by Françoise Kühn de Anta).
Above: The central park on main road in Cahuita with busts of the towns fundadores.
Below: Hear Don Claudio recount the fascinating history of old Cahuita, true to the oral tradition of his people. Thanks to David Chavarría for this recording.
We are going to release the first 7inch vinyl record of Costa Ricas one and only Calypso King, featuring two of his well known Calypsos, "Going to Bocas" (known from Dr. Bombodee, 2004) and "King Of Calypso" (known from Babylon, 2003) but in much earlier versions, recorded by Mr. Gavitt himself on his legendary self-produced cassettes that luckily have been found again last year. In a collaboration with Denki Records and the Tico label La Flaca, 200 pieces of this gem will be sold exclusively in Costa Rica on Record Store Day, April 13th 2019.
While it will be quite hard to get one of these collectible 7" records, the Tape Hunt's true philosophy is making Don Walter's forgotten, unreleased and unheard compositions available to a broad international audience. In order to achieve this, we will release the second Volume of "The Legendary Tape Recordings" in mid 2019, feat. 15 lost & found jewels.
Above: Don Manuel and Mr. Gavitt infront of the Ferguson family's hostel "Cabinas Sol y Mar" in Cahuita.
The following info is taken from the original article in La Nación. Many thanks!
Bajo la dirección, producción y tutela del músico e investigador cultural Manuel Monestel, cantantes y músicos como Jorge Drexler (Uruguay), Inti Illimani (Chile), Javier Ruibal (España), Devon Seale (Trinidad y Tobago), Leandro Maia y DNA Urbano (Brasil), Patricia Saravia (Perú), Marcel Padey (Benin), Boulpick (Haití), Lenchito Sax (grupo garífuna de Honduras), Deborah Dixon (Costa Rica-Argentina) y grupos costarricenses como Editus, Infibeat, Kawe Calypso y Cantoamérica, serán parte del disco conmemorativo donde todos interpretarán –en diferentes estilos y géneros musicales– las canciones de Ferguson.
Todavía en producción, el disco verá la luz el día del cumpleaños de Ferguson y cuando también se celebrará por primera vez el Día Nacional del Calipso, que fue declarado por la Asamblea Legislativa en setiembre del 2018. Ese mismo día también se acordó que Ferguson recibiría el título de Ciudadano Distinguido y Padre del Calipso.La idea de este disco tributo es de Monestel, quien se ha destacado durante su carrera artística como uno de los más fuertes precursores del calipso costarricense. “La idea se gestó hace unos años durante una conversación con amigos en España. Fui enganchando la idea, poco a poco empecé a consultar con amigos a ver si mostraban interés y se fue tejiendo el proyecto”, recordó Monestel.
Así las cosas, canciones muy conocidas como Callaloo, Carolyne y Carnaval Day, así como otras no tan famosas como Cahuita Is a Beautiful Place y Good Day sonarán en idiomas como el francés caribeño, portugués, garífuna, gaélico o con sonidos del flamenco y violines celtas. Serán aproximadamente 20 canciones que dependiendo del tiempo de las grabaciones, podrían presentarse en un disco sencillo o uno doble.
Monestel trabaja fuerte para que todo esté listo para la gran fiesta del calipso costarricense. Para ello ha recibido apoyo de arreglistas como Felipe Fournier y Daniel Solano.
Cada artista interpretará una canción y su selección se realizó de diferentes maneras. Algunos de los artistas escogieron algún tema de las propuestas que les envió Manuel, otros optaron porque fuera Monestel quien les indicara cuál canción se podía ajustar más a sus propuestas musicales. “Trabajamos con varios estudios en Costa Rica; los músicos internacionales lo hacen en sus propios países y nos mandan las piezas. En paralelo vamos armando el diseño gráfico y la preparación del master”, aseguró Monestel.
El proyecto es apoyado por la cooperación alemana, pero Monestel confirmó que siguen buscando patrocinios para solventar algunos otros gastos de producción. La presentación del disco en homenaje a Walter Ferguson será el propio 7 de mayo con un concierto en Cahuita. Monestel confirmó que los días siguientes a esa fecha se hará un espectáculo en algún teatro de San José."
In 2017, nine original tapes were located in Canada:
In 2018, six original tapes were found in Costa Rica:
In 2019, five original tapes were recovered in the USA:
In 2019, unreleased parts from Don Walter's "Folkways" album were donated to the Tape Hunt: