The story of how Akeem Adams became a violinist

By Alva Solomon

At around 2014, young Akeem Adams accompanied a friend to the National School of Music in the city, and the first sound he heard at the building was that of a violin being played. It was the first time he had heard one being played in real time, and he instantly became enamoured with the instrument.

Akeem Adams

“There were no other instruments playing, and the sound echoed through the hallway,” Adams told Guyana Times. He said he enrolled at the school and attended classes, and within months had honed his skills on the instrument while he attended the school.

Born in Linden, Akeem Adams is the eldest of four children. He said he first became involved with music while attended the New Silver City Secondary School in that mining town. He grew up with an aunt and his cousins at the time, since his mother had had an untimely death, being fatally stabbed by her partner when Adams was just six years old. He said he was too young to recall what had transpired.
He said that, while attending primary school in Linden, he participated in singing events, including singing in the school’s choir, but his big push for music came when he relocated to the East Coast of Demerara to live with his father to complete secondary school at the Golden Grove Secondary, and Ms. Bridget Nelson, the school’s music teacher, taught him the theoretical aspects of the subject.
“I could say she is my mother. She introduced me to music theory and the first instrument I learned to play, the recorder,” he added.

Akeem Adams serenaded this couple atop Kaieteur Falls during their engagement

Visit to the music school
Adams said Ms. Nelson made contact with a friend of hers at the National School of Music, and he was encouraged to attend. Initially, he said, he had planned to undergo voice training or piano or guitar lessons at the institution, but then things became interesting when Ms. Nelson’s daughter, local singer Ernesta Nelson, asked him to accompany her to the school.
“I had no interest in playing violin, but as I reached and was going into the school, the first sound I heard was the violin, and this was the first time I heard the violin in real time,” he recounted.

Akeem Adams as he played the violin at last year’s 52nd Republic Day anniversary celebrations

He said that after enrolling at the school, he learned how to play classical music on the violin under the guidance of Ms. Gillian Oak, a US Embassy staffer who was volunteering at the school. He said Ms Oak moved on to another post overseas after several months, but he continued to master his skills on the instrument.
Adams said that, as time went by, he started to play songs by ear, such as movie themes or songs he heard being played on the radio. “So I got better by doing it. Every day for practically three or four years, I would get to the National School of Music from about 9 in the morning until about 6 in the evening,” he explained. He said he would play the instrument all day while there. “It (kept) me company. It kept me out of trouble,” he added.

Favourite genre
Adams, who now resides at Kuru Kururu, on the Soesdyke-Linden Highway, noted that, in recent years, his career in the music field has been growing. He plays all genres of music, and according to him, his favourite is pop music. He said dancehall music doesn’t really produce much of a melodic sound, and as such, he does not really favour playing much in that genre, although he improvises on popular dancehall tracks.
He said the most difficult genre he has encountered, one which is still a challenge to him, is classical music. According to him, the repertoire of famed composers such as Antonio Vivaldi took many years of study to master.
“They took many years of study to get intonation right, to get the mode right, the tempo; and classical music had this tendency to be rigid,” he added.
Adams said Irish fiddle music is another genre that is difficult to play along to, but he noted that it can be fun to master.

Reception and plans
Adams said the audiences have been very receptive to his music. He has played at various public events, such as Independence and Republic Day events, the launching of First Oil, and also at State House, among other places.
He said playing music is his main source of income, and he noted that he would soon start a programme, through the Ministry of Amerindian Affairs, teaching music to Hinterland Scholarship students.
In addition, he said he wrote the Associated Board of the Royal School of Music exams at the National School of Music in recent times. He completed the Grade Four level. He said he has four additional grades to complete, and he noted that the COVID-19 pandemic affected the continuation of the exams. He said persons from the United Kingdom would have to travel here to supervise the exams, and he noted that it has been on a standstill.

Hired for weddings and social events
The young musician noted that he has a passion for playing songs from the Billboard Top 100, and he noted that playing the pop songs often connects with his audiences. He explained that when he has to play at events such as weddings, cocktails and Government functions, he considers the crowd, and whether it would relate to his music. He added that there is a tendency for persons to view the violin as being a ‘slow-sounding’ instrument. “So, like to play up-tempo music from the Billboard, you tend to get a good engagement with people.”
Adams said that if he has never heard a song before, he takes about an hour listening to it to decipher the key as well as to replicate the melody. However, if it is a song that he has heard before, it takes him about five minutes to grasp before he plays it on his violin.
The young musician says he plans to continue wooing audiences across the country as he continues to master the art of playing the violin.