Up-Close … with veteran Seychellois musician Jack Yokowo
Still on the music scene at 63
Mention the name of Jack Yokowo to any person of the elder generation and the chances are that he will be immediately remembered with the famous bands of bygone days, such as the Buccaneers.
But Jack is probably most revered for his skills on the Hawaiian steel guitar, a feat that not many Seychellois can lay claim to. In fact, it is highly probable that Jack might be the only Seychellois playing this instrument….
Basically this style of guitar playing involves sliding a steel bar of some kind up and down the strings while laying the guitar flat on your lap, or suspended flat in front of you somehow on legs, or a strap. It gives out that ‘whiny’ and nostalgic sound that one invariably hears in country and western music.
Today, Jack, 63, is still on the music scene, playing the Hawaiian steel guitar with the country & western ‘Amigos’ band. In fact, a show is scheduled for Saturday February 23 at the ICCS for kids, some of whom will soon be taking part in a festival in Seattle, USA under the aegis of the Children’s Home Foundation.
The surname ‘Yokowo’ sounds Japanese and indeed Jack is the offspring of a Japanese father, Tamosu Yokowo, who married his mum, Raymonde Camille, a Diguoise, in Mombasa shortly before World War 11. The couple spent wartime in Singapore and Japan, before coming to Seychelles.
From this union, six children were born -- four girls and two boys. Among the girls is well-known Sister Bernadette of the St Joseph Congregation, a fantastic singer herself. Her real name was Isa Yokowo.
Jack, like so many of his contemporaries, went to school at St John Bosco and later St Louis College, then headed by Brother Camille.
He recalls that among his teachers was the late Antonio Beaudoin, who later became director of Information and Ericsen Larson, who at one time was a favourite voice on Radio Seychelles before studying at a university in the USA and is now settled to a more quiet life on La Digue.
Employment and interest in music
Jack left school to join the Government Survey Division. He was a few years later sent on a cartographer’s course in Surrey, in the UK, of which he still holds pleasant memories.
Music had always been his passion and he soon started playing in some of the bands that were entertaining during weekends at popular night-spots such as Rendez-Vous, City and Rainbow, to name just a few.
I remember these days very well as with friends from Mont Fleuri we would always come to town in the evenings, sit on the wall near the Clock Tower and be entertained - for free - by the band playing at the Rainbow. Needless to say, country and western songs were the favourites, but Mickey, Jack and the others also played hits from the Beatles, Rolling Stones and The Seekers.
The Buccaneers also played at the American tracking station at La Misère, at the Seychelles Club (opposite Freedom Square, formerly Gordon Square) and in the district social centres, notably Anse Boileau.
Jack played mostly the guitar. But it was not until he joined such bands as Mickey and the Buccaneers that he started making a name for himself. Rolly Chang Him (brother of Bishop French Chang Him) was the lead guitarist, while Jack played rhythm. Other members of the Buccaneers included Frank Juliette, presently living at Beolière and Albert Durand, settled on Praslin.
It was not uncommon for Jack to join the lead singer. Such was also the case when he joined “Pat et ses ombres”. Pat - that was Pat Barallon, then a senior at Barclays Bank - and Jack played as lead guitarist, with Guibert Pragassen on rhythm. There was also Eddie Micock, presently optometrist, on drums.
It was in the 1980s that Jack got married and soon after moved to Montreal, Canada. He was to spend nine years there, truck driving. By that time, he had two daughters -- Marcia and Lyn and a son, also called Jack who unfortunately suffers from hearing impairment and has to undergo therapy.
The elder Jack managed to survive sub-zero temperatures for almost six months a year. He recalls that it was not a bed of roses. He had to wake up early to clean and de-frost the truck, usually using a scraper and a rake. After nine years of braving the cold, it was great to be back in small sunny Seychelles.
Upon his return, Jack went to work at Hunt Deltel for a year, before a six-month stint with the Islands Development Company (IDC) as assistant manager at Farquhar.
He has now been with the telecommunications company Airtel since 11 years, where he is a driver/messenger. Living at Anse Boileau, he enjoys fishing and strumming his guitar. He also loves to call his kids in Canada every weekend and find out how they are keeping.
Jack Yokowo always enjoys playing in the ‘Amigos’ shows, which always attract a full house. He is really looking forward to this Saturday’s show when he shall be playing the piano.
Source: NATION 2-19-13