By Richard Cartwright
That’s why it often comes as a surprise when someone says, “Did you know so-and-so is a collector of…?” It may be all manner of old Coca Cola bottles – large or small, in all shapes and sizes – walking sticks, figurine fairies, picture postcards of yesteryear or any subject, Hollywood screen stars or even getting involved in the back-breaking task of collecting sea shells!
Just recently it surprised me to witness how many enthusiasts are still into Lego. Judging by the incredible exhibition of large and intricate Lego creations at John Mackintosh Hall a while back, people have been collecting and hoarding thousands of Lego bricks in attics and cupboards. A leisure pursuit I had imagined was a fad long gone, not unlike the celebrated (at the time) Rubik’s Cube…remember that?
Well, Joe Victor is into local talent, collecting CDs, videos, and photographs of Gibraltarian artists; singers, instrumentalists, and groups of every genre. “Yes, I’ve been collecting this material for 16 or 17 years if I remember correctly, and even before that I’ve always been interested in our local singers and groups.”
I’m still going at it until three or four in the morning
At home Joe has his equipment set up where he busily puts together whatever he can gather from musicians and groups and produces montages of their work. Photographs, songs, and live recordings (and videos also if those are available for him to work with) are run through his computer and other gadgets, and a CD is produced at the end of many hours work. “Correct, I’ll sometimes start in the afternoon and I’m still going at it until three or four in the morning, but there’s really no specific time when to get going. It can be at any time of the day, whenever I get the inspiration.”
Joe loves Mexican music, and Gibraltar’s foremost promoter of Mexican songs was, and still is, Louis Caballero, who for many years now has been living in the UK. “Well, he rang me one day to see if I could fix some performances for him here in GIB, especially around National Day,” Joe recalls, “And that inspired me to become more interested in our local talent, so I started digging. I came across some of his recordings, including ones when he was with the Latin combo Los Zafiros, who were quite big in the functions and conference circuits in England and on TV there too.”
Clearly Joe became quite enthusiastic and as he researched further, he soon realised there was much to work on and that’s what set the ball rolling for him. Joe tells me how, as time went on, he discovered how many talented artists who many people, especially the younger generations, don’t remember or even don’t know about. He decided it would be great and more importantly, very useful to archive as much as he could discover, work on them, have them digitally restored and individually presented on a CD.
That inspired me to become more interested in our local talent, so I started digging.
Speaking of recordings, in the past all this music would’ve been recorded on tape, or reel to reel – way long before cassettes and CDs. He came across a ‘taped’ recording of a variety show recorded by Eduardo Hammond, who owned a small recording studio in Governor’s Parade next to the now-defunct Theatre Royal. Incidentally, in that studio, nephew Albert Hammond made his first recording of a song called “Estrellita” when he was about nine years old! “Yes, and it was Albert’s cousin Johnny Hammond, who handed me that variety show recording which had lots of artists on it who took us back to the 1950s. On it there was a great mixture of singing styles from classical singers like Mario Segui, popular singers like Nati Banda, Latin American type groups and others. There were also comedians and many other performers but mainly singers on that tape who I’m sure, people don’t remember…The tape was like discovering a gold mine.”
“Fiesta en el Aire” is what that 1950s show full of live performances recorded for posterity was called, and thanks to collector Joe, it has been digitised and is now safe!
Bringing the content a little more up to date, Joe regrets not having recordings of some of the very popular dance bands of the 60s and 70s like The Terriers, who he tells me there were no recordings of that he could find. The Modenaires is another band he doesn’t have – those were the two most sought-after dance bands of that era.
Of the poppier groups that were around then, The Diamond Boys are featured in his collection as are Albert and Richard and some others but not The V Brothers, who were one of the first pop groups to appear on the scene also, but, Joe affirms, he’s still on the go searching to see what he can come up with. At the moment he’s very excited about working on some of classical guitarist, William Gomez’ recordings – this is when he spends long hours on his computer and another professional, old style, tape recorder he’s proud to own.
Copyright issues have not been a problem so far, as most of what he works on has been recorded on equipment in the homes of local artists and what’s compiled and produced is entirely for local consumption. “And nothing of what I work on and produce is for commercial revenue or for any financial profit of any kind coming towards me. I’m just interested in this as a hobby and at the same time I’m promoting our local artists not to be forgotten and producing some sort of an archive. And people tell me they like that very much.”
At present much of what Joe does involves quite a bit of to-ing and fro-ing with his pen drive as he darts across the room from one piece of equipment to another… “Well, that’s true, but soon I hope to rearrange this room and have my studio equipment all together. I intend to create a space at one end of this room which, at long last, I can call my studio!”
No, he’s not a hobbyist who’s into picture postcards of warships or holiday destinations. His interest lies in local talent: artists and performers who have graced the stage, wherever that may be, or recorded some great pieces of work. Are you one of those? Joe will be very interested to know more about you. He wants to see to it that your talent will hopefully be archived forever…where your artistic endeavours will never be forgotten!