Much-loved musician and bandleader Melvin Aloysious Augustine died at the Cayman Islands Hospital Friday at the age of 72, following a short illness.
Born in the village of Seine Bight, Belize, Mr. Augustine moved to the Cayman Islands when he was in his twenties to work for the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service.
His love for Punta music rocked Cayman in the early ‘80s as he went on to form the band Settlers and cut his own records and CDs.
Some of his biggest hits, “Bag a Sugar,” “Munzie’s Boat in the Sound,” “Fun Neva Done,” “My Mistake” and “Show your Motion,” drew people islandwide, especially in the 1980s when Pedro St. James Castle was known as the spot for good food and good music and where Mr. Augustine’s band was the star element.
After he became sick and could no longer drive, he would sometimes travel by foot, with his guitar on his back, from his home in Woodland Drive in Savannah to visit friends, including the writer of this article. He would spend hours on her porch, playing songs from his albums and reminiscing about birthday parties he had performed at in her home.
“The fingers not so flexible anymore,” he would say as he played a tune on his guitar. But, once started, there was no stopping him until some food or drinks were passed around. “Got to leave now, have to visit my best friend Cedric,” he would say.
Growing up in Belize, Mr. Augustine learned music from his uncle who took him along on gigs as a backup drum player. He became a professional saxophonist but played many musical instruments. When the band members wanted to drink and enjoy the party, Mr. Augustine would take over.
As a young man, he joined the police service in Belize before coming to Cayman, where he worked as a constable, but also as a tailor and band leader within the police service. He retired in 2007.
He went on to teach music at the Lighthouse and Red Bay Primary schools, where he cherished the chance to give the children basic music lessons and to build relationships with the young people.
He said he enjoyed it because the children really wanted to learn. He was teaching them how to use music as a therapy and life skill. “I was sorry when I had to leave,” he said at the time.
Reflecting on the ever-changing Cayman music scene, he said music was a lot different today and he felt it was more about business than having fun.
Mr. Augustine is survived by his wife Ina and children Calvin, Denise and Daniel. His funeral service will be announced at a later date.