August 18, 2011
I’ll admit it – I had no idea that any 78s from the country of Suriname existed. It made sense that there were recordings made, and I had some documentation stating that there were recordings of music from British Guiana (now Guyana), but nothing from Suriname – until I came across this rarity. As soon as I started poking around, the label, the artist, and the story behind this fun little record came into focus.
Suriname, the smallest country in South America, had been a Dutch colony since the 17th century, when the British famously traded it to the Dutch for the island of Manhattan. Previously, the Arawak and Carib peoples lived in the region. The Dutch brought African slaves to their colonies in Suriname and many escaped, starting their own rural societies away from the Dutch-owned plantations. They became known as the Maroons. In the 19th century immigrants from India, the Dutch East Indies, the Middle East, and China arrived, further diversifying Suriname’s population into one of the most varied in the world. In 1954, Suriname was granted some self-rule, but it wasn’t completely independent until 1975.
Edward James “Eddy” Vervuurt was born in Suriname in 1928. By the time he was a teenager, he was studying piano and composition at the Amsterdam conservatory. While in the Netherlands, he formed a band called “Edwardo y su Orquestro Rhytmico.” He returned to Suriname soonafter and had a long career as a composer, bandleader and conductor of the Suriname Philharmonic, as well as the head of the local radio station Radio Apintie. From what I understand, Vervuurt frequently incorporated local, Surinamese folk music into his compositions, and encouraged Surinamese composers to do the same, and to musically embrace their culture. He died in 1988.
The name of this label – Parbo – has two meanings: it’s a shortened nickname of Paramaribo, the capital of Suriname, and it is the name of a famous Surinamese beer. This record, it turns out, is in fact a promotional record for Parbo Bier, then being brewed at the Amstel factory (and now brewed by Heineken). The song title – “Lied” – simply means “Song” in Dutch. The colors and font on the label are the same as those used for the beer. Eddy Vervuurt, it turns out, was the bandleader for a local group featuring the vocalist “Big Jones” (real name: Marius Liesdek) who was a fisherman and sausage seller by day. According to an article by Joop van Mil, this band cut several records with an Afro-Caribbean feel, in Surinamese styles known as kaseko and kawina. Part of this song appears to be sung in Dutch (the national language of Suriname), although it’s possible (?) that the chorus is in Sranan Tongo, the English-based Creole language which is spoken by a large amount of the country’s population. It’s a wonderful piece – beer-infused or not. The musicians play beautifully and loosely, with Eddy giving himself a piano break that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Les Baxter album!
Na di Sranan mek’ en biri
Ala tra biri kon tan tiri
Issue Number: D 99088 H
Matrix Number: AA 99088 1H = 2//670