In August the month of Afro-Caribbean culture is celebrated. Paradise Products Costa Rica does not want to miss this opportunity without paying tribute to a famous Costa Rican one of the founding fathers of a unique musical genre. That carries and transports the Caribbean with every note, chord and song. Don Walter “Gavitt” Ferguson.
Born on May 7, 1919 and a native of Gabito Panama, Mr. Walter lived his childhood in Cahuita, Limón, Costa Rica, a canton that would claim him as an Illustrious son. Living the life of fishermen. Don Walter has lived holding a guitar. Making Calypso-style music in his songs he narrates the daily life of the Caribbean, adventures, misadventures, loves and worries.
As a child, he learned to play the organ, the dulzaina, the ukulele and the clarinet in a self-taught way. And if that wasn’t enough, he learned to be a guitar luthier.
In the 1950s, Ferguson was part of a group called “Los Miserables” that performed guaracha, rumba, bolero and swing on Saturday nights at the Club House in Cahuita.
Although he did not actively work as a traveling musician and rarely left his beloved Limón, the fame of his songs and personality came to flood all of Costa Rica, serving as an influence for several Costa Rican musicians, including La Banda Centroamérica where one of its leaders Manuel Monestel has used, investigated and composed on the African diaspora in Costa Rica.
As a child, Walter Ferguson’s mother told him over and over that he would be a good composer, and that phrase penetrated deeply into him.
“When I wasn’t playing Calypso, I was composing rhymes, and when I was composing Calypsos I was composing it with my rhymes, and I remember that the songs I recorded were for the inspiration of the moment because I didn’t prepare them in writing. They just came to my mind, I put on my tape recorder, and that’s how I recorded them, ”Gavitt recalled.
Don Walter recorded his own songs in Cassetts, in order to sell to passers-by and tourists. His recordings are raw and rustic giving an authentic feel.
In 1982 the American musicologist Michael Williams produced and recorded Don Walter Ferguson on an acetate disc entitled Mr. Gavitt: Calypso of Costa Rica (cocoa plantation calypso songs sung in English), released under the Smithsonian Folkways Recordings label, on which he they collected some of his most famous songs. It also included the lyrics in English and a short biography. This recording, however, is of very poor quality, including crickets and background noise, and was not broadcast in Costa Rica.
Thanks to his rhymes and Calipsos, Ferguson received the following distinctions:
- An advertisement aimed at the Argentine market “You live in this world. You Need Visa ”used the song“ Cabin in the Wata ”by Gavitt.
- In 1992, Walter Ferguson was awarded the National Popular Culture Award from the Ministry of Culture and Youth.
- The CDs “Babylon” (2003) and “Dr. Bombodee ”(2004) obtained the Gold Record certificate granted by the defunct Papaya Music record label, both in 2007.
- For 2009, Gavitt was awarded the “Reca” Mora Prize awarded by the Association of Composers and Musical Authors of Costa Rica (ACAM) for his lifetime dedication to the composition of Calypso. Ferguson did not attend the ceremony – true to his habit of not traveling and abandoning his beloved Cahuita – instead, the award went to his friend and colleague Manuel Monestel.
- In his honor, the International Festival of Calipsonians – Cahuita was established since 2013, a cultural event where Afro-Costa Rican culture mixes with music, typical food and dance.
- In 2017, he was awarded the Emilia Prieto Tugores Intangible Cultural Heritage Award
Don Walter Ferguson today with 101 years is a living treasure for all Costa Ricans, his music is as ours as all the sounds of this land. To Don Walter from the Paradise Products Costa Rica team, our most sincere admiration, respect and gratitude for his immaterial contribution to the wealth of our land. This is the month of Afro-Caribbean culture in Costa Rica.