Wednesday, March 15, 2017

George De Souza "One of the greatest bassists" around

George with Jocelyn Allet and Pierre Naya
The girl in the picture with George was called Anne Collette. I taught her to play guitar and she was sensational.

George De Souza

Have guitar, will rock

George De Souza was an eight-year-old in Dar es Salaam when his big sister Ivy bought him a 20 shilling (in 1954 that was nothing to be sniffed at, if you had a shilling in your pocket you were considered rich) box guitar. His sister had seen that George was really interested and made the big sacrifice.
From that moment on, George began the sometime tortuous journey, but always borne with great determination, of learning to play the instrument.  “I was self-taught. I picked up some books from the library to help me learn. I listened to records and music on the radio to sharpen my ears to be able to pick up keys and cords quite easily.”
Four years later George took up the bass guitar seriously. He had already preferred playing rhythm instead of lead.  Inspired the kings of Rock N Roll at the time: Elvis Presley and Bill Hayley and the Comets (the unforgettable signature song that launched Rock N Roll worldwide, Rock Around the Clock), George played in his debut gig at the age of 13 at the Goan Institute in Dar es Salaam. It was a local group.
George recalls that there were quite a number of bands making a name for themselves. Among them were the De Mello brothers and lots of African bands. “They were doing covers of mostly British acts, early Rock N Roll and other popular music. These bands were amongst the best I had heard. Their rhythm was fantastic,” George says.
Some of the places that I played are Splendid Hotel, Ivos Nightclub, Kilimanjaro Hotel, New Africa Hotel, Twiga Hotel, Goan Institute, Italian Club, Greek Club (Atheans). My big break was having my own radio show, played there for nearly two years. Played on saturday afternoons. Played with top African bands, they must have learned it from James Brown. The African bands were just amazing. I helped a lot of them, the only thing that held them back was that  they couldn't sing in English to be more commerical.”
When he was 14 and while playing with a band, George realised that he was better than most of the bassists around and that he was also quite different from the traditional bassists and musicians. “I would go and listen to other bands and I could see that one thing (the X-Factor) was missing: they had zero personality. So, as a gimmick ,I started playing the guitar with my teeth, smashing a guitar on stage. Soon I was getting offers from Europe.

“In those days playing music was frowned on by a very conservative community but I made it my own in spite of what people said,” George recalls.

“Here's are a few insights into what the scene was like. When I played in Zanzibar we blew the house down, that was the first time they had seen someone play guitar with his teeth. We did a lot of Cliff Richards and Elvis covers. I wasn't making any money that way so i decided to go out on my own and form my own band, the Geogre DeSouza Show.

“There were only 4 bands playing in Dar and none of them were really anything special. When we first started we blew the roof off, I was playing lead with an Italian backing band. I got a Goan band made up of Lionel, Leo, Johnny Rock, and Milton to open for me. I made headway for a lot of bands by making friends with hotel managers and convincing them to have live music.

“We played at Margot’s night club from six to six. We would provide musical back up for strippers in the club which aas also frequented by visiting sailors. A lot of Goans were quite upset about that. I would play for embassies and quickly became the go-to act. Many other bands would come to me to see if I could book them a gig.”

The girl in the picture with George was called Anne Collette. “I taught her to play and she turned out to be quite sensational.”

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