Neil Chan, a larger than life figure who launched Solo Sounds International, and dominated the landscape of Arts and Entertainment in Guyana, commanding large costume and float parade bands at Mashramani in the 70s and 80s in Georgetown, died on Jan. 5. He was 88 years old.
Born on Nov. 4 and named Neil Vibert Ignatius Michael Chan by parents Soloman Chan and Rudy Beckles who lived in Georgetown, Chan, from a very young age created history, as a multifaceted person.
Cultural Director of the Guyana Cultural Association New York Claire Goring, a close friend and former member of the “Solo” team, recalled Chan’s commitment to creating a good life for himself, while promoting his country.
He was a sports enthusiast, who excelled at bodybuilding and weight lifting and represented Guyana at the 1966 8th British Empire Commonwealth Games in Jamaica.
Chan’s business savvy led to his appointment as general manager of the External Trade Bureau (ETB), in 1970, which was responsible for the importation of most of Guyana’s food and other commodities. He played a major role in trade at a time when foreign currency was in short supply and material for the development of the country were greatly needed.
He later started Bel Park Guyana Agency, and as a distributor of the Solo brand of agricultural equipment used by small farmers throughout Guyana.
Chan won King of the Band Competition on many occasions, leading Solo Sounds Int. to prominence at the Festival Arts of Guyana for many years, as the leading private sector costume band, well-known for splendor and pageantry with 1000 strong “Mashparaders.”
He participated in Mash Nite and Mash Day Competitions, and presented Solo contestants, displaying saris created locally by Solo staff at Deepavali Pageants.
Chan received the Golden Arrowhead of Achievement award, Guyana’s highest honor, for his dedicated and outstanding contribution to culture. He was also honored with the GCA of New York Award for his endowment to Guyana’s Arts and Culture.
He went on to launch Xanadu, a popular upscale discotheque the Place Where Dreams Come True – formally located at Vlissengen Road and Duncan Street in Georgetown.
This icon also played a significant role in developing costumed bands for tramping, after joining the steel band culture. He was a member of the musical group the Four Lords with Billy Moore, Neville Rose, Willie Wright, and Eve Manifold, who laid a foundation for his excellence as an exponent in Guyanese expression.
Chan’s Solo Sounds Int. was the first to bring international talent to Guyana. Such performers included, Trinidad and Tobago’s Shadow, David Rudder, Tambu, and the Charlie’s Roots band. His band became the most influential during the 1970s and the early 1980s.
Neil Chan would be most remembered for his supremacy in bringing all Guyanese together in the myriad of productions and collaborations he was instrumental in forming during his lifetime.
He was an astute businessman, well-liked, popular and versatile person. The Guyanese community and the thousands of lives he touched will dearly miss him.
Neil and his devoted wife, Sheila, shared 58 years of marriage. They also shared adopted children, Fabian Gaskin and Sattie Sasenarine, Carlotta, Vilma and George Chan.
Others who mourn Chan, include; nephews Musa Amin and Neil Allicock, nieces Patricia Mercurius, Sandra Britton, Marcy Allicock and six others; great nieces and nephew: Michelle Britton, Tony Britton and Abbi Braithwaight and 16 others; 18 great, great, nieces and nephews; cousins the Chan family; cherished friends: Fay and Grant Gaskin and family, the Spooner family, Claire Goring, Alicia Dougall and family, Inez Seepaul, and many others.