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When Steel Talks extends condolences to family and friends of veteran journalist and WST member Keith Smith.

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It is with sadness that I receive this notice, though knowing that most of us will come to this transition at some point, yet it is usually realized via a sense of surrealism.

Keith's writing and his joviality I would miss the most. May his family and friends find solace in his life well-lived, and may the peace of GOD, the knowledge of His never-failing love, give them the grace and strength to move through this transition.

Much love!

JL-C.

Janice Lawrence-Clarke

 

A master with the pen, who straddled varying styles of journalism to perfect his own style. A lover of our culture, a walking encyclopedia of sorts. A defender of Laventille and its people. Keith Smith was so much and more. Rest in peace my brother.
condolences  to the family  from  many of us fatima old boys - may god bless his soul
My condolences to the family , friends and co-workers of Keith Smith. May his soul rest in Peace. Over the years I have been an ardent follower of his column and editorials.

I wish to extend condolences to the family of Keith Smith on his passing. The life of this man can easily be reflected as a national resource because of the depository of knowledge of the culture of Trinidad & Tobago he possessed. His skill in writing was impeccable and he knew how to communicate this attribute with every one.Keith knew the first hand knowledge about the history of the steel pan. Laventille was his home, a place where the heart beat of pan in the island is demonstrated. All must be proud of the achievements of this brother. He mentored many as he gave his contributions to our society. His writings will reflect his legacy. I will remember you my friend, Keith.

 

Keith Smith was one of the most remarkable men I’ll ever meet. He was certainly the most gifted writer I’ve known, and that based on the most lightweight of literary forms, the newspaper column. His are the only columns I’ve ever cut out to file away.

Column-writing is exhausting. Composing one weekly, in which you mine your own life’s experiences for things to say, drains the most talented in a few months, after which they produce dull, tasteless mud, usually uninspired opinions on whatever is the most recent political bacchanal. Yet Keith was able to churn out a personal column daily for years – decades! – and still regularly produce gems of prose, even the occasional diamond. And that without the shameless self-promotion that is so common among columnists.

At their best his writing approached fine poetry – and his are the only columns I’ve ever read by any journalist anywhere, that were like that – in which you sensed profound depths of meaning below the flow of words.

And as he was vast in his talents so too, I felt – and told him so – that he squandered them with equal prodigality. Although Keith was quite aware of his talents he didn’t ponder on it or labour at honing them, as did other writers of lesser gifts but larger ambition – and I count myself in that group.

How many times I’ve seen him staring blankly into space with his hand half-buried in his mouth as if he were performing oral self-surgery, while making a strange gargling sound. Then he’d stop and pound rapidly at the keyboard with two fingers – literally pound, like all the other journalists who cut their teeth on old manual typewriters. That was how he wrote his columns: hurriedly, usually after their deadlines, and although he claimed they were for aesthetic purposes his long, un-punctuated, sinuous, stream-of-rushing-consciousness sentences were also born of haste and an abysmal laziness.

The contradictions in him seemed to be larger than I’d have thought possible to fit in a single human being, that combination of genius with wutlessness, and I was convinced that’s why he was so fat. He kept dark secrets and yet was the biggest blabbermouth you could imagine. Whereas we all have our silent internal monologues that we hide from the world Keith spoke whatever drifted through his mind in an enormous booming voice, swearing for instance at the stupidity some boss whose instructions he’d supported a few seconds ago with, “Yessir, yessir, that’s a very good idea!”

His personal habits were so unsocialised as to be in any other person repellant. His deafening groans and moans as he relieved himself in the gents room. The way he’d pull a fried chicken leg out of his pocket, dust off the lint, and eat it. The fine patina of white sediments that he would deposit on the desk after talking with you for ten minutes. One editor wiped her phone with methylated spirits after he used it.

Keith’s unselfconsciousness was like that of an autistic infant in that regard perhaps that is why, when I once told him of how I’d found Lord Kitchener’s inarticulateness made him seem autistic, Keith said with surprise and pleasure: “That’s wonderful, isn’t it?”
“How?” I asked, and he replied, “Because it shows how genius can take many forms.”

Now that I see the source of Keith’s brilliance was his capacity for wonder. He never became jaded or cynical but rather could be surprised over and over and over by the small things we encounter every day, both negative and positive, and that we take for granted. He was like a child who can play the same game over and over without tiring of it.

When I told Keith how pan tuners like Tony Williams, Bertie Marshall and Rudolph Charles never doubted they didn’t require university training to absorb whatever they needed from Western science, he marvelled with delight: “That’s amazing, eh? – how they so bold-face.” From that conversation I got the title guiding idea of my exhibition on the history of pan, The Audacity of the Creole Imagination.

The capacity for wonder often feeds the curiosity of some men and leads them into paths of research and study, perhaps as great scientists. With Keith, however, his phenomenal lack of discipline shunted him in a different direction. His wide eyes of wonder were more like those of Minerva’s owl, the symbol of wisdom.

His was a wisdom culled from the streets. Liming on the block, ole talking in taxis, hanging out in fetes, Keith was drawn to the warmth and generosity, the stylishness and humour of his people yet simultaneously repelled by their meanness and cruelties. He held not a single racial prejudice and as such was one of the boys but at the same time a man apart.

If Keith Smith was in character and physique larger than life he managed it with grace and style because his heart too was huge.

My sincere  condolences to his family ... he knew my father well.

Peter

Sincere Condolenses to Mr. Keith Smith Family, relatives and friends. Every year around this time people in the culture and arts profession leaves us on their homley journey and they all leave in threes. There was Mighty Conqueror-  the Mighty Striker and now our beloved Keith Smith. May they all rest in eternal peace. We will all remember them ' Whenever a steel band pass playing mas'. Thank you guys for the loving memories. you will all be missed!

The loss of Keith Smith's analysis, observation, writing and gravitas cannot be replaced ...... another great one joins the ancestors......RIP Keith

 

Geraldine Connor

What a thing, as Keith would himself declare, this larger-then-life writer-cum-culture-buff, will write no more. It's as if we expected him to be always there, forever, never missing a beat, not from pan wherever it came from, nor from the rhythm sections that he all but pioneered, or the tassa drums that were alien to his immediate environment, but not to his cultural sensitivities.

Many of us knew he was ill, but somehow we expected Keithos to defy the parameters of life and death, to cheat the Grim Reaper, laugh in his face, as if to say: Not me...I 'ent ready yet! Sadly, we all face the inevitability of death, but if like Keith, we'd live life to the fullest and leave legacies to uplift the country we so love, then we would have done our duty.

For me, far more distinctive than his racy prose and his commentary gems was his insistence on staying in Laventille even as the Hill descended into an abyss, fellas he knew as boys dropping around him like flies swatted by bullets, but Keith not even bothering to take cover, as any good soldier would. Whereas other distinguished sons and daughters of the Hill moved up in society and out of their community, not Keith. He wanted to remain grounding with his people, however good or bad they may have been, he trying to salvage so many souls via his pen or his booming voice.

You have left a void, my brother. But I am sure it can be filled, hopefully by someone who hails from the Hill. Yes, the Hill he so loved, the Hill where he lived and died. Rest in peace, Keith. Or better still, give 'em hell when you get to that place we all hear about but are destined to see only when we have passed on from Earth. One love. 

 

Ah boy, Keith Smith really gone?, as you said Raf, "what ah ting, His columns, like yours Raf is a pleasure to read, to his family and friends, my sincere comdolences,

My condolences to his family, on behalf of the Nelson Street Boys Exhibition winners of 1956.

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