By Alva Solomon
She is known as one of Region One’s best calypsonians, her professional life as a teacher is also well acknowledged within that administrative region and one of her well-known abilities, is that of an organiser for events including the Santa Rosa Roman Catholic Church choir. Meet the talented Ingrid Harris, aka “Lady Devotee”, North West District’s well-known calypsonian.
Feat in music
Describing herself as an advocate for youth development, Harris is seen as a woman of many hats in Moruca. She caught the eyes of many in the public domain within the past five years when her melodious voice was featured around the country as a calypsonian, and she even competed for the national calypso crown in 2019. She said it was one of the most defining moments of her musical career.
Harris, who is a mother of four, told Guyana Times recently that she started out singing way back in her childhood years. She said she would participate in talent shows and other events such as concerts at Moruca where she explored her musical talent.
In the year 2000, she said her career as a singer came into being but it all started as a “behind the scene” scenario. She explained that around that time, she started teaching at Santa Rosa, Moruca, where she resides. She said the children would participate in the annual school’s Mashramani calypso competition and as such she paid an interest in writing the songs for the children.
“I would write the lyrics for the competitions, it took them to the national level and so that motivated me to do more of it,” she said.
Feat as a teacher
Harris said when she saw that her ability was producing good music, she decided to take another leap and sing her own pieces. “I started doing my own pieces, and I like it because it gives you this freedom to send a message to the public in the songs, depending on the topic you choose,” she said.
She said she then decided to participate in the regional competitions in the North West District and she won the crown at least three times. She said given her abilities, she was advised by fans, friends and relatives to come to the capital city. In 2019, she decided to go up a notch and she was shortlisted to take part in the national competition where she competed with the likes of King Perai and Young Bill Rogers among others.
Although she did not place among the winners, she said she was contented for reaching that level, more so being a female among the males. “I gained the experience I was looking for; it was like winning a lot,” she said. She said that year she enjoyed more exposure when she performed alongside Soca King Jomo as well as King Perai among others at a concert at Mabaruma. Harris noted that in 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic caused her progress to be put on pause, and she noted too that her commitments to the school and her family also slowed her a bit. But according to the talented woman, she has a lot in store where her musical career is concerned. She said she was introduced to Kross Color studios and according to her, in time she will decide how to continue her progression in music.
While her musical career has made her a household name, Harris spends a lot of time as an educator. She is attached to the Santa Rosa Primary School where she teaches the Grade Four students. It is a vital level since it is at that level that the students obtain the foundation in schooling as they prepare for the National Grade Six examinations. For Harris, teaching is not only a job, but a passion she loves sharing.
In 2008 she qualified herself as school teacher after completing the in-service training offered by the Cyril Potter College of Education. Today she is a senior assistant mistress and according to her, teaching is a means of contributing to the development of the community. “We need this type of service in the community here so that is why I chose to be a teacher,” she said.
But teaching and calypso aside, Harris is also actively involved in sports.
Feat in sports, cultural events
She told this publication that while she was growing up in Moruca, she had been involved in sports activities, either directly as a player of a sport such as cricket or as an organiser.
She recalled that she and another teacher had formed a club called the SanKum Sports Club which focused on cricket and football. She said as time progressed the entity evolved and the Moruca Culture, Youth and Sport Council came into being. While she has chaired that body in the past, she now sits on the Council and plays an active role in its mandate.
She said one of the challenges faced by the sport fraternity in the area is related to talented sportsmen and women leaving the area for the coastland or mining areas in search of employment. She said it leaves a vacuum and while such persons would return “every now and then” their presence at all times to nurture their talent is always in need.
Harris said that nevertheless, sports continue to play a major role in the development of the Moruca sub-region and according to her, it will continue to unite the villages. Harris, who also operates a small business at the Kumaka waterfront at Santa Rosa, is also actively involved in church activities.
Feat in the church
She said that she has been actively involved in assisting the Santa Rosa RC Church and according to her, she also formed youth groups to ensure the youth in the area are meaningfully occupied. She said these days she continues to assist in organising activities whenever the need arises.
Harris ensures that the choir of the church is well-prepared for Sunday mass and according to her, she is always passionate in serving the church. In 2013, she was invited by the Roman Catholic church to participate in Youth Day activities in Rio, Brasil, and Harris noted that the trip provided her with knowledge and experience which she ensured she imparted to the youth of Moruca on her return.
Calypso, teaching and church aside, the multi-talented Harris is deemed one of the better emcees within the North West District, and she has kept crowds active at many events in the region including at the popular Moruca Expo. Add this to her organising skills in regular five-aside football competitions, cricket match-ups and her involvement in farming on the family’s land, one would understand why Harris is seen by many in Moruca as a passionate contributor towards development in the region as well as youth development.
”If we come together and show the youth the right way of doing things, it will help, maybe not the fullest, it will steer them the way,” Harris reiterated.