edge

​The Art of Noise

Photographs by Mark Lyndersay.

Picture courtesy Mark Lyndersay
My name is Mikhail Neruda Gibbings and I don’t think I like being called “an artist”.

My father, the journalist and poet, Wesley Gibbings, named me after the Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, and the Chilean poet, Pablo Neruda. Large shoes to fill. But I can’t say my namesakes had any immediate impact on my life. I identify more with Neruda. I don’t think I currently have the capacity for any incredibly political works myself.

I grew up primarily in St. Joseph and still live there but Curepe has really always felt like home to me and doesn’t get its due respect. It’s so alive, constantly moving and transforming itself. My father would get oysters, and I, six years old, would sit in the tray of Jags’s truck while he served coconuts and vented about Curepe’s millions of stories. Curepe Junction is the closest thing I’ve ever had to a Miguel Street.

My great grandfather was a first generation Chinese immigrant who met my black great-grandmother. They eventually had my grandmother “Shirley”. Who married my half-Indian grandfather, “Cips”. My mother’s parents are Marianne Soares, a black Jamaican historian, and Esmond Ramesar, an Indian biologist from Rousillac. Luckily I got to know three out of the four of them before they passed, all incredible people.

I run a business with my girlfriend Teneka Mohammed. An incredible filmmaker and visual artist.

I consider myself very agnostic. I grew up Presbyterian and was pretty religious until I was around nine. My parents used to take me to religious debates and I would support the theists. I always assumed debates had to have some sort of winner. Once, someone asked “If there’s no heaven or hell what is stopping me from shooting up a crowd of people?” It deeply troubled me. Especially when it was met with a standing ovation! I just didn’t want to be associated with a framework that could facilitate that sort of thought process.
Pablo Neruda, Martin Carter and my father are my favourite poets. Obviously there’s some conflict of interest there. I used to carry my father’s books to primary school to subtly show off he was a poet. It entirely did not work. Also, reading this will be the first time he finds out I dropped one of his limited run Life in the City books into a drain and destroyed it. Sorry!

I don’t think my father knows the first creative thing I ever wrote was because of “The Fly and the Swat”, his poem comprised entirely of two words, “fly” and “swat”. I was seven. I didn’t know you were allowed to do that with words! It permanently changed the way I wrote. And absolutely frustrated every English teacher I had after.

I'm very proud whenever someone says, “I saw your dad on TV!” My father is a big hero of mine. I try to emulate his professional and artistic integrity and fairness in my own work. However, I never wanted a career in news media/journalism. Besides it being incredibly difficult and involving a lot of typing, I wanted to carve my own path, [not just be] Wesley Gibbings’s son. [Recently] my father messaged me to say somebody had just asked him if he was Mikhail Gibbings’s father. That makes me pretty happy.

I think my creative process today stems entirely from spending a lot of my childhood indoors. I am an only child and my parents worked long hours and travelled often. I could make a lot of noise and not bother anybody. I made music as strange and as bad as I wanted, with no one around to judge it. I try to channel that mindset when I write films or make music now.

I was the shortest student in the University Primary School. I only hit my growth spurt in form two, when we moved to Jamaica. Yams may in fact be magic.

I studied film at the University of the West Indies because I always wanted to be able to create something visual and I just could never figure out how to draw or paint. I think I love making films as much as I love making music. I don’t think the medium matters much anymore. All I want to do is create things that make me happy.

My childhood was music. Fela Kuti, Barry White, Marvin Gaye, Michael Jackson, Ataklan, Andre Tanker, BB King, Coltrane, Charlie Parker, Kitchener, Bomber, Sparrow, Stevie Wonder, Bob Marley, Earth Wind & Fire and more. I also wanted to play guitar as good as my Uncle Lindsay, who actually makes his own guitars and amps from scratch himself.

I think I like sounds and noises even more than music. Miles Davis, Lee Scratch Perry and Curtis Mayfield pushed the boundaries. And set the lens through which I [examine] music and what sounds mean and feel like.Picture courtesy Mark Lyndersay

I don’t know if I’ve figured out yet how to make music as strange and bad as I would like. I’m still developing the boldness to release the things I make. I have around 700 songs at different degrees of completion that will never see the light of day.

In form three, I bought a looper pedal. I played my guitar and used pots, pans, stove matches and other household implements to create percussion. And recorded it onto my [digital recorder] Audacity through my laptop speakers. And that’s how I would write music: blown out and distorted with uneven tempos. And it made me SO happy.

I started singing the other day too. I don’t have a great voice. But I can do some weird things with it that have been interesting to me.

I think Trinidad and Tobago has entered a new golden age of music, art and culture [like the] the WWII calypso boom. The internet has created this open space where young creatives can make absolutely whatever they like and build their own audience with almost zero bureaucratic barriers. What was seen as niche or “unmarketable”as recently as three years ago, can [now be] as or more popular than what we would have considered “mainstream” – whatever that word even means anymore. It may be the best thing that has ever happened to our music.


I direct a web show called the LightBox (created with Teneka) to highlight [new] voices. Along with Nicholas Subero, Yejide Cordner, Aviel Scanterbury and Adrian Kong, we try to create live versions of the work of local underground musicians and visual artists. As creators from different disciplines ourselves, we all realised how hard and expensive good filmic resources are to come by, especially for up-and-coming musicians and artists. It’s probably my favourite thing I’ve ever done creatively.

If I have any complaints at all about modern soca, it’s that I wish there was more of it. Past the industry bacchanal and the cultural politics is this truly raw joy that I’ve never seen anywhere else. It’s not all of what Trinidad and Tobago is, but it’s a truly beautiful part of what we’re capable of as a people.

I cannot imagine why anyone would want to live in a world without art. However, I worry often about that cultural value hierarchy that exists within art. Why should comedy, dancehall, soca, graphic design, make-up and photography be treated as less culturally valuable than a painting hung in a museum or some very rich person’s house?

I get to make art for a living. It’s like getting to play in your imagination as a job. I’d be doing it even if it wasn’t my job. The LightBox is the closest I’ve gotten to feeling as though the things I make bring other people as much joy as they bring me. Honestly I’m still figuring out ways to make it feel less self-indulgent.

If I have an idea when I’m about to go to sleep, I have to go make it, immediately. It never turns out very good but I haven’t quite figured out how to turn off or ignore that part of my brain.

Navigating a web of underpay, ego, clannishness and condescension has spelled the end for many talented and hardworking younger creators in Trinidad & Tobago. We have had to counteract the barriers put up by creators before us. I hope we do not make it this hard for those who come after us.

I believe Trinis – and Tobagonians – are the most self-aware people in the world. There’s no false pride, no overcompensation, no monolithic identity. We know who we are, we know where we’re from and we love it.

I don’t even know if I can define what Trinidad & Tobago means to me– and that’s why it’s the best place in the world to me. Trinidad & Tobago It’s the most amazing and terrifying thing. Trinidad hasn’t been around long enough, as a country, to even really figure out what direction we’re going in. That means we can make it absolutely anything we like. It’s not even a choice we have to make. We are, by our very nature, the road less travelled. And I like it that way.

​The Art of Noise

Photographs by Mark Lyndersay.

Picture courtesy Mark Lyndersay
My name is Mikhail Neruda Gibbings and I don’t think I like being called “an artist”.

My father, the journalist and poet, Wesley Gibbings, named me after the Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, and the Chilean poet, Pablo Neruda. Large shoes to fill. But I can’t say my namesakes had any immediate impact on my life. I identify more with Neruda. I don’t think I currently have the capacity for any incredibly political works myself.

I grew up primarily in St. Joseph and still live there but Curepe has really always felt like home to me and doesn’t get its due respect. It’s so alive, constantly moving and transforming itself. My father would get oysters, and I, six years old, would sit in the tray of Jags’s truck while he served coconuts and vented about Curepe’s millions of stories. Curepe Junction is the closest thing I’ve ever had to a Miguel Street.

My great grandfather was a first generation Chinese immigrant who met my black great-grandmother. They eventually had my grandmother “Shirley”. Who married my half-Indian grandfather, “Cips”. My mother’s parents are Marianne Soares, a black Jamaican historian, and Esmond Ramesar, an Indian biologist from Rousillac. Luckily I got to know three out of the four of them before they passed, all incredible people.

I run a business with my girlfriend Teneka Mohammed. An incredible filmmaker and visual artist.

I consider myself very agnostic. I grew up Presbyterian and was pretty religious until I was around nine. My parents used to take me to religious debates and I would support the theists. I always assumed debates had to have some sort of winner. Once, someone asked “If there’s no heaven or hell what is stopping me from shooting up a crowd of people?” It deeply troubled me. Especially when it was met with a standing ovation! I just didn’t want to be associated with a framework that could facilitate that sort of thought process.
Pablo Neruda, Martin Carter and my father are my favourite poets. Obviously there’s some conflict of interest there. I used to carry my father’s books to primary school to subtly show off he was a poet. It entirely did not work. Also, reading this will be the first time he finds out I dropped one of his limited run Life in the City books into a drain and destroyed it. Sorry!

I don’t think my father knows the first creative thing I ever wrote was because of “The Fly and the Swat”, his poem comprised entirely of two words, “fly” and “swat”. I was seven. I didn’t know you were allowed to do that with words! It permanently changed the way I wrote. And absolutely frustrated every English teacher I had after.

I'm very proud whenever someone says, “I saw your dad on TV!” My father is a big hero of mine. I try to emulate his professional and artistic integrity and fairness in my own work. However, I never wanted a career in news media/journalism. Besides it being incredibly difficult and involving a lot of typing, I wanted to carve my own path, [not just be] Wesley Gibbings’s son. [Recently] my father messaged me to say somebody had just asked him if he was Mikhail Gibbings’s father. That makes me pretty happy.

I think my creative process today stems entirely from spending a lot of my childhood indoors. I am an only child and my parents worked long hours and travelled often. I could make a lot of noise and not bother anybody. I made music as strange and as bad as I wanted, with no one around to judge it. I try to channel that mindset when I write films or make music now.

I was the shortest student in the University Primary School. I only hit my growth spurt in form two, when we moved to Jamaica. Yams may in fact be magic.

I studied film at the University of the West Indies because I always wanted to be able to create something visual and I just could never figure out how to draw or paint. I think I love making films as much as I love making music. I don’t think the medium matters much anymore. All I want to do is create things that make me happy.

My childhood was music. Fela Kuti, Barry White, Marvin Gaye, Michael Jackson, Ataklan, Andre Tanker, BB King, Coltrane, Charlie Parker, Kitchener, Bomber, Sparrow, Stevie Wonder, Bob Marley, Earth Wind & Fire and more. I also wanted to play guitar as good as my Uncle Lindsay, who actually makes his own guitars and amps from scratch himself.

I think I like sounds and noises even more than music. Miles Davis, Lee Scratch Perry and Curtis Mayfield pushed the boundaries. And set the lens through which I [examine] music and what sounds mean and feel like.Picture courtesy Mark Lyndersay

I don’t know if I’ve figured out yet how to make music as strange and bad as I would like. I’m still developing the boldness to release the things I make. I have around 700 songs at different degrees of completion that will never see the light of day.

In form three, I bought a looper pedal. I played my guitar and used pots, pans, stove matches and other household implements to create percussion. And recorded it onto my [digital recorder] Audacity through my laptop speakers. And that’s how I would write music: blown out and distorted with uneven tempos. And it made me SO happy.

I started singing the other day too. I don’t have a great voice. But I can do some weird things with it that have been interesting to me.

I think Trinidad and Tobago has entered a new golden age of music, art and culture [like the] the WWII calypso boom. The internet has created this open space where young creatives can make absolutely whatever they like and build their own audience with almost zero bureaucratic barriers. What was seen as niche or “unmarketable”as recently as three years ago, can [now be] as or more popular than what we would have considered “mainstream” – whatever that word even means anymore. It may be the best thing that has ever happened to our music.


I direct a web show called the LightBox (created with Teneka) to highlight [new] voices. Along with Nicholas Subero, Yejide Cordner, Aviel Scanterbury and Adrian Kong, we try to create live versions of the work of local underground musicians and visual artists. As creators from different disciplines ourselves, we all realised how hard and expensive good filmic resources are to come by, especially for up-and-coming musicians and artists. It’s probably my favourite thing I’ve ever done creatively.

If I have any complaints at all about modern soca, it’s that I wish there was more of it. Past the industry bacchanal and the cultural politics is this truly raw joy that I’ve never seen anywhere else. It’s not all of what Trinidad and Tobago is, but it’s a truly beautiful part of what we’re capable of as a people.

I cannot imagine why anyone would want to live in a world without art. However, I worry often about that cultural value hierarchy that exists within art. Why should comedy, dancehall, soca, graphic design, make-up and photography be treated as less culturally valuable than a painting hung in a museum or some very rich person’s house?

I get to make art for a living. It’s like getting to play in your imagination as a job. I’d be doing it even if it wasn’t my job. The LightBox is the closest I’ve gotten to feeling as though the things I make bring other people as much joy as they bring me. Honestly I’m still figuring out ways to make it feel less self-indulgent.

If I have an idea when I’m about to go to sleep, I have to go make it, immediately. It never turns out very good but I haven’t quite figured out how to turn off or ignore that part of my brain.

Navigating a web of underpay, ego, clannishness and condescension has spelled the end for many talented and hardworking younger creators in Trinidad & Tobago. We have had to counteract the barriers put up by creators before us. I hope we do not make it this hard for those who come after us.

I believe Trinis – and Tobagonians – are the most self-aware people in the world. There’s no false pride, no overcompensation, no monolithic identity. We know who we are, we know where we’re from and we love it.

I don’t even know if I can define what Trinidad & Tobago means to me– and that’s why it’s the best place in the world to me. Trinidad & Tobago It’s the most amazing and terrifying thing. Trinidad hasn’t been around long enough, as a country, to even really figure out what direction we’re going in. That means we can make it absolutely anything we like. It’s not even a choice we have to make. We are, by our very nature, the road less travelled. And I like it that way.