From Guyana With Love: Juke Ross’ “Not A Blade of Grass”

May 10, 2016

Words by Larry David

For over 100 years, Venezuela has tried to claim that a vast swathe of Guyana, an area west of the Essequibo River that is home to indigenous villages and mining camps, abundant with deposits of gold, diamonds, bauxite and other minerals, belongs within its borders. Last year tensions escalated once again after Exxon Mobil, conducting work on behalf of the Guyanese government, discovered oil off the shores of the disputed land; Venezuela tried to stake a claim to the oil.

During another border dispute flare up in the 1970s, one of Guyanaโ€™s favorite musical sons, Dave Martins, was inspired by a Native American Chiefโ€™s speech refusing to bow to the white manโ€™s invasion of their land, and wrote a resistance song for his countrymen. “Not A Blade Of Grass” instantly connected with his people and became part of Guyanese folklore.

โ€œThe Chief spoke about his peopleโ€™s love for their land,โ€ recalls Dave Martins, leader of the legendary Tradewinds band. โ€œThat they would not give up one river, not one buffalo, not one valley, not even one blade of grass. In a flash, it hit me; that was the way to write the border song โ€“ it should talk about Guyanese love for Guyana and not mention Venezuela at all.โ€

The lyrics are beautifully crafted, defiant and relevant today to Guyana and just about anyone else who ainโ€™t into backing down. Flash forward to today and Guyana has produced another musical son, Juke Ross, who possesses a voice that God took special time to pour out when he was depositing the gold, diamond and oil in the depths of Guyana. The universe will undoubtedly be hearing a lot more from Juke Ross in the future but, until such time, he has, with Dave Martinsโ€™ blessing, recorded a cover of “Not A Blade Of Grass.”

The 2016 iteration was produced by Jamaican dancehall star Serani, and is being released in time for Guyanaโ€™s 50th Independence Anniversary.