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How this Vermont family — and Jamaican band — is healing after a health crisis

A photo showing four Black people standing together in front of a red building, two men and two women. The younger woman is wearing light blue jeans and a light brown long-sleeved crop top with long braids; the older woman is wearing her hair up in a thick ponytail and has a white and grey patterned blouse with navy pants. The younger man has his hair styled as an afro and is wearing a dark blue shirt, and the older man is sitting and wearing a graphic black t-shirt. The four people are leaning all together as a family.
Elodie Reed
/
Vermont Public
Caribbean Rain is an intergenerational Jamaican musical group made up of Shelburne residents Judi Emanuel, Mikey Dyke and their kids, Lara Emanuel-Dyke and Michael Emanuel-Dyke II. The family band also includes Mickey Dyke when she's visiting from Canada, where she lives.

Several years ago, Vermont gained a rare gem: the family band Caribbean Rain, which bills itself as the state’s only multigenerational Jamaican musical group.

Made up of Mikey Dyke, Judi Emanuel and their children, Caribbean Rain started performing as a formal band at the same time that the family relocated to Vermont. And following a recent health crisis, they’re more determined than ever to share their music.

This piece was produced for the ear. We highly recommend listening to the audio. We’ve also provided a transcript, which has been edited for length and clarity.

A photo of the interior of a hallway lined with guitars and instrument cases, as well as the black, green and gold Jamaican flag hanging on a door.
Elodie Reed
/
Vermont Public
Just inside the Dyke family's front door, a visitor is met by the Jamaican flag and many an instrument.

Elodie Reed: On a recent lush, rainy Monday, I walk inside the Dyke family’s apartment in Shelburne. And it is immediately obvious this is a home of musicians.

A mixing console takes up most of the dining room. Instruments line the kitchen hallway.

The family’s band, Caribbean Rain, makes music across genres: reggae-jazz, folk, pop and original. And like the green, black and gold flag proudly displayed by their front door, it is an homage to their Jamaican origins.

Caribbean Rain, singing:

Caribbean Rain,
Caribbean people,
Caribbean sea come
wash our tears away
wash our tears away!

Elodie Reed: The Dyke family departed Jamaica for Vermont in 2017. And Judi Emanuel says although it was colder here, it also felt familiar.

Judi Emanuel: When we were in South Burlington, looking over on the mountains reminded me of — of where we live in, say, up in rural St. Andrew, and of Mandeville.

Elodie Reed: Judi says while the family has always sung together informally, they officially formed their band when they received a 2018 grant from Clemmons Family Farm in Charlotte — where Mikey and Judi are also teaching artists.

A photo of five Black people -- two younger women, a slightly older woman, an older man and a younger man -- in winter coats standing on a red carpet with a Christmas tree in the background. Everyone is smiling and leaning into one another.
Judi Emanuel
/
Courtesy
The members of Caribbean Rain — and also the Dyke family — from left: Lara, Mickey, Michael, Mikey and Judi.

With the grant, Judi says the band taught workshops on Jamaican music. They also began putting on performances — at least until 2020, when the pandemic hit.

Following that involuntary hiatus, just as the family was getting more gigs going again, something else happened. On March 5 of this year, Mikey had a stroke. He survived, and he recently returned home after three months of medical care.

Elodie Reed: Mikey, how are you feeling? How’s your recovery going?

Mikey Dyke: I cannot deny, I'm in shock. A stroke. My dear wife has done everything. But a stroke removes you from everything. So I’m taking it in pieces.

Elodie Reed: Mikey says depending on how well his speech comes back, he hopes to continue performing with his family.

In the meantime, he says it’s been difficult to lose both the jobs he had prior to the stroke, when he was working as a package handler and as a parking garage attendant.

Mikey Dyke: So there’s no income coming from me — apart from my potential to produce good music.

More from Vermont Public: New study suggests pay equity, antiracism improves well-being for Black artists in Vermont

Elodie Reed: Nursing that potential — in himself, and in others — is something Mikey has been doing his entire life.

Mikey Dyke: I was initially self-taught. My mother had a shop with a piazza. I was on the piazza, and played and attracted a lot people, and we’d play. But one day, I decided to go to city, which is Kingston, to see what I would find. And as fate would have it, I crossed the parking lot of the then-Jamaica School of Music, and Melba Liston, who was a great trombonist, who had played with Duke Ellington … saw me and called me. I ended up studying with her. And eventually I led the department, and I stayed for 40 years.

Elodie Reed: You’re — you’re speaking with obviously so much emotion. What makes you feel that way?

Mikey Dyke: Well, I think partly it has to do with the community. I grew up with a lot of poor people, and I was among them.

We provided teachers for not only Jamaica, but many of the Caribbean islands. And I got them teaching jobs — to a lot of poor teachers, go back to their communities—

Judi Emanuel: That’s right, baby. 

Mikey Dyke: —and teach. 

Elodie Reed: This desire of Mikey’s to teach and share music with the community — it’s propelled him to work on a big project: a series of music education books, accompanied by original recordings from his family. He started it 10 years ago.

A photo of a Black man sitting in a wheelchair next to a keyboard and in front of a giant computer monitor that has another keyboard below it. On the computer monitor is an audio mixing program with rows of multi-colored wave forms. In the foreground is a microphone.
Elodie Reed
/
Vermont Public
Mikey Dyke began working on the music education book project a decade ago, and has since spent much of his free time — including during his recovery from his stroke — at this mixing console in his family's Shelburne apartment.

Mikey Dyke: I wrote a book for every grade level. They have five songs to carry them through the year, and scores to read. My intention is to get them to sing as quickly as possible. 

Judi Emanuel: And play.

Mikey Dyke: And play, and not feel left out.

Elodie Reed: What are the songs about? 

Lara Emanuel-Dyke: “A Big Hello” is grade four— 

Elodie Reed: This is Lara, Mikey and Judi’s daughter.

Lara Emanuel-Dyke: —and that one's just about saying “hi” in the community, I suppose. Or just welcoming yourself into a space. 

Judi Emanuel: We could do it as a piece, Lara.

Lara Emanuel-Dyke: Yeah. It’s really positive — and cute! OK, do a piece? 

Judi Emanuel: Yeah.

Lara Emanuel-Dyke: Alright. 

A photo of two hands of a Black person holding a blue and white book cover that is titled "Play di Music: Grade 1, audio and ensemble scores for teachers/conductors, Michael J. Dyke"
Elodie Reed
/
Vermont Public
Mikey Dyke has been working for 10 years on music education books that teach school children how to sing and play. He says all that's left to do is publish them.

Caribbean Rain, singing: 

I’m thinking ‘bout a 
New day, good ways
Thinking ‘bout a 
Nice vibes,
Thinking ‘bout a
Inside
Thinking ‘bout a
New heights
Thinking ‘bout a
Lows highs
I’m thinking ‘bout a
Wrongs, right
Thinking ‘bout a
Inside
So to the guy selling paper by the yellow shop
The boy cleaning windows by the big red stop
The lady selling shoes with the baby on her lap
Hello, a big hello
To the man with the shirt with the writing on the back
Saying have a nice day pon di rock

A photo of an audio mixing program on a computer screen, with bands in shades of blue, purple and magenta stacked on top of each other.
Elodie Reed
/
Vermont Public
In addition to what they create as the family band Caribbean Rain, members of the Dyke family are making music individually, in different genres. Lara focuses on children's songs, Mikey on folk, Judi on reggae pop, inspirational and gospel, and Michael on eclectic, including reggae rock.

Elodie Reed: To publish these books and songs, as well as more unreleased music — and to help pay for the new medical equipment Mikey will need as a result of his stroke — the family says they’re looking into different financial options, including a fundraiser.

Judi Emanuel: So we just want to be able to be self-sufficient with the gifts that we have. We want to share them.

Caribbean Rain, singing:

Come we go dung
Come we go dung a Solas 
Market
Come we go dung, come we go dung!
Fi go buy Banana!

Lara Emanuel-Dyke: Yeah!

Elodie Reed: So good!

Judi Emanuel: Thank you!

Lara Emanuel-Dyke: That’s just the surface.

Mikey Dyke: This is the first I’m singing!

Judi Emanuel: Yes, Mike, you’re singing! Mike, your voice is going to come back, you know?

To learn more about Caribbean Rain and the Dyke family's music, you can head to emanuelroadrecords.com.

Have questions, comments or tips? Send us a message.

_

Elodie is a reporter and producer for Vermont Public. She previously worked as a multimedia journalist at the Concord Monitor, the St. Albans Messenger and the Monadnock Ledger-Transcript, and she's freelanced for The Atlantic, the Christian Science Monitor, the Berkshire Eagle and the Bennington Banner. In 2019, she earned her MFA in creative nonfiction writing from Southern New Hampshire University.