By SAE Institute
Here at SAE Institute, we not only take pride in our talented and professional instructors, but also our students, some of whom are already making a name for themselves by sharing their talents with the world.
We recently connected with SAE Institute New York student Gavin Mendonca, whose fusion of his Guyanese culture with rock ‘n’ roll, created an entirely new sub-genre of rock music he calls “Creole Rock”.
His unique sound has not only allowed him to make a name for himself in his local community, but has also taken him all over the world, performing at festivals, conferences, music camps, and even recording an album in the depths of the Guyanese rainforest. Read more about how he developed his sound, why it’s important to him to preserve his history, and how he connects with others (and nature) through music.
How & when did you get started in music?
GM: In 2011, I joined my first punk band in my home country of Guyana. In Guyana, rock music is very obscure and has a very small underground scene. I then joined a heavy metal band called Feed the Flames which allowed my musical skills to really level up. Not just playing my instrument, but also the business of music and managing a band, organizing our own shows, DIY sound engineering, marketing, and tour management. We were able to travel multiple times to Trinidad and Suriname for major Caribbean Rock festivals.
In 2018, I got more and more into preserving identity through music and found a passion for Guyanese and Caribbean Folk Music. Since then, folk music has taken me all around the world, from Brazil to China, Barbados to Sweden – building cultural bridges through music, everywhere I go.
How would you describe your unique sound?
GM: After paying attention to Folk music, I realized how similar it was to punk rock. Same simple chord progression, rowdy and ruckus, stories about rebellion and fighting against ‘the man’.
I then started to fuse punk rock with our folk songs and started writing songs combining punk rock rhythms and melodies with Guyanese-Creolese language and stories.
Why is it important to you to preserve your Guyanese culture through your music?
GM: I believe that music – as important as it is to our economy and social events – is also very important to preserve our history through song. The way our forefathers lived, the way the world was, and how community was, so we can see and acknowledge how time allows people and community to evolve. But it is important that we do not forget where we come from, even as we evolve to new heights.
You recorded your latest album in the rainforest. What was that experience like?
GM: It was amazing! My drummer Chucky and I, along with our brethren Ziggy who’s a filmmaker, spent 4 days in the Iwokrama Rainforest – one of the largest protected areas in Guyana, and the world. Home of the jaguar, caiman and harpy eagle, among other giants, and thousands of species of birds, plants, and trees like the giant Mora tree which we recorded the album under.
We want to now not only contribute to the preservation of our folk music, but also to highlight the importance of rainforest conservation and protecting the jaguar.
The experience itself was amazing. I used a Zoom H8, which is more or less a whole studio in the palm of your hands. I used a Sennheiser e845 for my vocals, a Shure PGA81 on Chucky’s Djembe, a pair of Samson pencil mics in XY formation for my acoustic guitar, and an XY microphone that comes with the Zoom to capture the ambience of the rainforest.
So, when you listen to the album (which is now available on Spotify) you’ll be listening to Guyanese Folk Music IN the rainforest!
What are you looking forward to next?
GM: Aside from being a musician, I am also the director of a three-day world music festival in Guyana called the Rupununi Music and Arts Festival. I also participate every year at the Folk Alliance International Conference here in the US, as well as Ethno World events – a global music camp for folk musicians in over 40 countries around the world every year. So far, I’ve participated at Ethno USA 2022, and I was the official sound engineer for Ethno Sweden 2023.
School is so that I can really develop my sound engineering and music production skills, and then continue to travel the world. Next year I’m aiming for Ethno India and Ethno New Zealand.
I also want to get more into building beats and instrumental music for licensing and sound design for film and advertisements, so that I can work remotely (composing and producing pieces on a laptop) while I travel the world.
For more information about Gavin and the music of Gavin and Chucky, visit www.creolerock.com or check out the videos below! To learn more about the Audio program at SAE Institute New York, connect with us online or by phone at 212-944-9121.