Guyanese calypsonian Joseph Burgan-Thomas passes away


93.1 Real FM announced the passing of Guyanese calypsonian, Joseph Burgan-Thomas, who was well known for his popular song “Lilawatie.” He was recognized for his contributions for the development and promotion of Afro-Indo Beats and chutney.

Calypsonian, Joseph Burgan-Thomas who went by the stage name, ‘Mighty Enchanter’ passed away last Friday morning at his Linden/Soesdyke Highway home after a long battle with prostate cancer. Daughter of the late singer, Carla Trotman, said that her father suffered from the illness for four years and died at 7:30am on Friday.

Mighty Enchanter, composer and singer of popular song, `Lilawatie’, was someone who promoted harmony in his songs specifically geared towards the Afro-Indo communities. Many of his songs date back to the 1970’s era but their message ring true even today. Among his other songs were ‘Dulari Betty’, ‘Dishonest Pandit’, ‘Maughe wid me’, ‘I Love You’, ‘Miniskirt’, ‘Modern Girl Children’ and ‘Fareeda Darling’. Fareeda Darling was a duet which he did with his beloved wife Fareeda Azeez dubbed ‘The Lady Enchanter’. Azeez died in August of last year.

A former political musician also, the Enchanter along with Lord Canary and Calypso Stella were composers of the official songs for political parties – the People’s Progressive Party, People’s National Congress and the Working People’s Alliance.

‘Maughe wid me’ was one of his singles that was said to be of the ‘Afro-Indi Beat’. The Afro-Indi Beat was piloted and styled by the late Terry Nelson-Fraser, owner of Halagala Records which later became the HJP TV Station. In August of 2012, Burgan-Thomas was one of twelve persons who were awarded by the Guyana Cultural Association of New York. He was recognized for his contributions for the development of Chutney through the Afro-Indo Beat and for the tactful way he delivered social messages.

Remembering the singer, two-time Chutney Monarch, Roger ‘Young Bill Rogers’ Hinds said that Burgan-Thomas was one of the first Afro-Guyanese persons to sing Afro-Indi Beats. Hinds spoke of the ‘Lilawatie’ song sharing that other Guyanese singers would have gone on to make covers of the Mighty Enchanter’s original piece. “I have a 45 record with his `Lilawatie’ song on it. I never personally worked with him but his songs were among the same songs that inspired me in my music career especially since he was one of the first Afro-Guyanese singing Chutney”, Young Bill Rogers said.

The Mighty Enchanter’s music career along with those of other Guyanese artistes was detailed in the book called ‘Musical Life in Guyana: History and Politics of Controlling Creativity’. Author of the book, Dr. Vibert Cambridge, a professor emeritus with the School of Media Arts and Studies, Ohio University said of the singer in his book, ‘The Mighty Enchanter, an African Guyanese calypsonian, was also a pioneer and active promoter of the Afro-Indi beat.’ When contacted, the retired professor said, “Enchanter’s narratives were about the internal Indian life. He not only spoke it, he lived it. His true love was Indian…. He saw his relationship as a sign of what Guyana would become”, Cambridge said.

The professor further shared that through his interaction with the composer he learnt of his love for the Linden/Soesdyke Highway where he settled and had hopes that someday it would become a tourist attraction as he found it the perfect place for family relaxation.

Burgan-Thomas’s career and personal life were also featured in the Guyana Cultural Association of New York Inc’s on-line Magazine which said that he hailed from Wakenaam and was a former cane cutter, pork knocker and teacher. An excerpt from the magazine spread done by Cambridge in collaboration with Margaret Lawrence read, “As a musician engaged in the working-class struggle he commented on patterns of domination and oppression with the intention of calling attention to the problem and seeking rectification.”

The late singer who was also affiliated with the PPP was also remembered by former Minister of Culture, Youth and Sport, Dr. Frank Anthony.

“He used his art form to help educate people in their social and political struggles. He was one of the early pioneers of edutainment as he educated people through entertainment. His songs were about helping people in some way by shedding light on various issues….and about bringing about change. His passing has [saddened] this country and I’ll like to acknowledge his contributions to Guyana … and wish that the current Calypsonians can take a page out his book….”, Anthony said.

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