Waiting for Kaiso to Dead!

 

For at least thirty years out of my life people have been holding an unnecessary wake for Calypso. Is like Calypso on a ventilating machine, everybody sit down in the waiting room absolutely convinced that any minute now it going to dead.

 

Every season you have people who are more guilty of nostalgia than real common sense accusing the art form of being dead. And trust me, next year there will be a Calypso Monarch competition with calypsonians arguing about not receiving enough money; and an audience accepting sub standard performances and songs. Calypso dead? Not quite. Calypsonians and calypso shows being lazy and unoriginal? We have plenty of that. And this is not to say that all calypsonians are that way, but the ones that get offered up to us and labelled as True True Kaisonians have definitely become that way.

 

What we recognize as being Calypso in 2013: slow, preachy, lyric-heavy songs that focus on social or political issues, wouldn’t be recognized as a calypso back in the 1800s when the form was still evolving. The stick fighting songs we have today share a closer resemblance to calypsos of a past era. And if calypso could have evolved then to survive and appeal to a twentieth century audience, then it can do so now. And is, but most of us are unaware of it.

 

But you see, we have our notions about what is a calypso. We create our own mental definitions and stick with them. We have had artists repeat a particular formula year after year for the last forty plus years; they have been paid by tents to repeat that formula; crowned as monarchs and received hundreds of thousands of dollars and cars for singing the same formula. And when that formula begins to go stale or bore us the cultural ignoranti among us, who know only one thing as Calypso, get up and pronounce in a self-important fashion that Calypso is dead.

 

So let me disabuse you. Calypsos, good social and political commentary, with infectious beats and memorable hook lines are being sung here every year. Year after year and we ignore them. There is no rule book that says a calypso has to be slow, must have four or more verses, must have brass in it, and can only be performed by person’s upwards of thirty years of age. Calypso has no formula!

 

jointpop FC

jointpop FC

Back in the nineties, when Sugar Aloes and Cro Cro were at the height of their vitriol, making tent going an unpleasant experience for Indo-Trinbagonians, men like Gary Hector, with his band jointpop FC, was singing songs like. “Port of Spain Style” and “Bashment to Halloween”. By the year 2000 the band had released another album to its hardcore group of fans with gems like “New Fast Food in Town” and “Crack, Pitbull and Gun”. Any of those songs I just named there could have knocked Panther and Kurt Allen out of the Savannah last night for lyrics and melody. And until you have seen Gary Hector in full flight you do not know what rebellious insouciance is.

 

In the last decade our most powerful calypsos have been coming from Soca artists, yet we continue to deny their contribution to local music because we have been trained to be dismissive of soca music. It just there to wine and get on bad. We barely listen to the lyrics and then accuse the songs of having no lyrics. Why! Because they aren’t slow? Because they don’t fill our narrow stereotype of what a calypso should be?

Fay Ann Lyons and Bunji Garlin

Fay Ann Lyons and Bunji Garlin

In 2009 when KMC sang ” Yeast” what was that if not socio-political commentary? Does being able to dance to it lessen its message? When Fay Ann Lyons sang “Meet Super Blue”, how many of us realized that it was a calypso of affirmation? We were probably too busy wining to listen to the lyrics and understand what they meant.

 

machel Ben HurIn 2006 when Machel Montano sang “No War” and “We Not Giving Up”, what made them not a calypso? The artist? The beats per minute? The musical arrangement? Have you actually listened to the lyrics of “The Return”, “Mr Fete”, or ” Fog”? All fitting the model of songs of affirmation?

 

This year we too busy with memes about waking cows to realise that Bunji Garlin’s “Diffrentology” is the next sound in calypso. Or that “Savage” is yet another well crafted calypso offering from Garlin discussing our class strificstion issues, much like “Lies”, ” Fete is Fete”, and “Clear the Road”.

 

gyazetteWe might also not be exposed enough to the local music scene to realise that the band Gyazette could have sung any number of songs from their soon-to-be-released album and possibly won the Calypso Monarch title. Kerene Asche’s “Meh Padnah Ship” would be forgotten next to front man Nikolai Salcedo’s blistering delivery of ” Who Is the Captain of This Ship”. And the disdainfully saucy message in his “Mango”.

 

Unfortunately, we have come to rely heavily on stereotypes and formulae here. To win prize money, you have to follow formulae, and bands like jointpop and Gyazette aren’t much for formula. While Montano indulges in formula every year to win soca competitions, he also gives himself enough leeways on his albums to experiment with form and sound. Bunji Garlin, since exploding onto the local music scene since the late nineties has been delivering calypso after calypso annually. In fact, I’d love to see him shake up the extempo competition one year and show the stalwarts what Sans Humanite really is. Just think Red Edge Freestyle session and you too will wish that NCC would hurry up and fix all of the silly competitions that rely on formula for their judging; and have artists stifling art forms in order to eat a food. While the slavish audience looks on demanding the same thing every year; and if they ain’t get it, is not “true true calypso”.

 

It is not that Calypso is dying, rather we, the organizers, judges and audience holding a pillow over its face, while the art form struggling hard to free itself.

But while all yuh eating up all yuh self over Kurt Allen and Pink Panther, I going and rock my Gyazette, jointpop, Bunji and HD…..and I still say Trinidad James shoulda win last night’s crown…WOOO!

Full Dotish!

 

 

TWICKS (This Week In Clusterf@$KS): Feb 13th- 19th

Mr Fete Machel Montano and Miss-Must-Fete-Despite-Having-a-Country-to-Run!

There were many stories this week that battled for primacy of place in the Pantomime; but for many reasons the Prime Minister’s appearance at Machel Monday on February 13th earned top position. The incident took place at the start of the week and threw most of the nation into a total tailspin, not because her presence at fetes are unexpected; indeed, like any Trini worth her salt, the PM seems to have racked up more feting time than office hours since her return from the India Extravaganza. It seems too that on her way back from India she made a stop in London to buy a pair of pricey Louis Vuittons that she showed off to the crowd at Machel Monday. The PM’s detractors were loudly critical of her appearance on the stage as well as her dress code. Those in favour of the PM and desperate for this govenment to remain relevant and in power immediately dismissed the furor over Kamla’s inappropriate dress code as a “non-story”, what’s the fuss about? Do we question Rowley’s underwear?  The level of moral relatavism that was employed to shift from the real issue at hand was a clear sign that the supporters of this government have grown desperate. To not see those boots as vulgar and inappropriate and a symbol of what this government, certainly its Prime Minister, has come to represent to significant portions of the population, is to put one’s head in the sand. Kamla mounted a stage in an ad hoc manner representing not her private self, but the country as PM, and sought to honour a soca artiste with an award that is yet to be named, and whose reason is yet to be explained, dressed in exactly the sort of ostentatious bling that we decry in the nation’s youth when we talk of their value systems. What made our PM this last Monday a role model to the nation in any real sense? What made her a leader or stateswoman in that stunt on stage? Come Carnival Monday and Tuesday she intends to jump with Trini Revellers in a section whose theme is based on Africa….more pappy show for the masses. Take that in all yuh gaaaar!

The other reason this story received top billing was what the image above also symbolised for the fete goers and soca lovers. This appeared to be Kamla Rani’s public endorsement of Double M for major prizes at Soca Monarch and within seconds of entering the stage the talk went around the Hasely Crawford Stadium that Montano had to indeed still be in the government’s pocket. The Machel Hate and the Iwer Support became renewed and MMHD would spend the rest of this week battling not just his own demons about winning the competition but the spirit of the Vengeance of Moko that so many of the Carnival population would feel was his just due to publicly aligning himself with the government. Many asked, “who is the pimp in that relationship: Machel or Kamla?”

MMHD during his Groovy performance dressed as a Gladiator a la Ben Hur (not pharaohnic or napoleonic either!). Photo courtesy Trinidad Express website.

Then came Fantastic Friday and though Montano delivered two technically proficient performances (his voice was hoarse though and he resorted to bellowing, but then so did most of the competition), it was clear that he didn’t have as much audience support as he used to command in his pre-competition days. Montano would go on to cop not one, but both titles, as most people suspected; and now in the minds of most, Montano, for all his obvious talent and mastery of the musical form has sunk to the position of Government Stooge in the eyes of many. HE is in bed with government it seems, and willing to sell his social capital in exchange for real liquidity. So the PP Govt is reliant on his fan base to remain popular, populist and relevant. But the tides are turning for both HD and the Govt…

Of course one of the delicious little ironies that the Pantomime has noticed is that many people seem to want to ignore that Iwer George, who now has popular support as the wronged and robbed soca artiste who is entitled to the crowns, was and is openly PNM and benefitted greatly from PNM largesse. While then PM Manning never came on stage to wine and bling out and publicly endorse George, everyone within the industry knew that Iwer was heavily endorsed and supported by the PNM…indeed there is much to sustain rumours that George has been involved in diesel bunkering since the PNM’s tenure. So the ire of George’s fans may well be a case of political do so aint like so!

Ancil Roget leading his flock to 9% Promised Land. Photo courtesy Trinidad Guardian website.

The OWTU brought the government to its knees this week, and who don’t want to see that or concede to it hadda be smoking what destroyed Whitney Houston. Ancil Roget and his cohorts using a combination of gas and mas, turned the government on its head as he exploited the People’s Panchayat’s greatest fear: the shut down of the country on their watch! A national strike is akin to the 1990 coup for this government because it is a stigma and ghost they will NEVER be able to escape. Roget set the pack nicely. Waiting the week of Carnival they announced the strike, knowing full well that if the strike began Carnival Saturday and ran for 90 days there’d be no Carnival to distract the natives from the pressures of gas shortages, long lines to fill up and even more frustration in a place that is already a pressure cooker given the ineptitude of the govt.The government tried to grand charge with small pieces of trump like threatening to import gas and deploying the army. Game went to the union though, who got 9%. Now I wonder how the PSA 5% cap supporters feeling today?

The cornered Jack Warner

Fifagate has gotten to be too much for the Pantomime to fathom at this stage. Who aint suing little Jack Warner is who aint remember he owe them $$$ or who aint land in the country yet for the Carnival that is Jack! On February 12th wired8686.com’s Lasana Liburd dropped a bombshell that revealed Warner was involved in an Haitian aid scandal scheme. Warner just can’t seem to cut a break or start smelling clean. In typical Warneriffic style he threatened to sue Liburd for defamation and continued to avoid answering any real questions. The UNC party has also taken to pretending that there is no stench coming from Jack despite a clamouring public and numerous opinion polls. When Liburd contacted members of the UNC executive, either his calls got cut off or they indicated that there was no need to investigate the many problems plaguing Warner. Weird much?

AG Anand Ramlogan: Forgetful Jones? Photo courtesy Trinidad Express website.

In a move that struck of pure convenience the AG decided that he wanted nothing to do with the ACIB, despite knowing that this was a body that has been under the direct rule of the AG’s office since the tenure of Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj as AG. An& has singlehandedly convinced me that not only is government aware of precisely what went down during that raid on Newsday and Andre Bagoo’s home, but that they were probably the ones who instructed the operations and are now seeking to play a clever game of cover your ass. It is Clarence Rambharat’s article earlier this week, along with fmr AG’s Maharaj’s comments on CNC 3 that put the nail in the coffin for me. Mr Ramlogan even wrote about it during his time as a columist for local newspapers. And, just as eager to avoid the storm that the govt being linked to an attack on the media is likely to cause, the PM has readily agreed that she will remove the ACIB from under Ramlogan and place it under Gibbs, a man who has proven to us time and again that his major duty as CoP is to be the govt’s Fall Guy! What has me curios is this…why all the elaborate lies An&, when so many people would have been able to call you out on your claims of ignorance about the ACIB? Are you that convinced that the population is that gullible? Thank goodness we have Justice Rambharat’s article to help refresh your memory. But it’s worrisome that in light of the Newsday Raid you throw the spotlight on the Police Commissioner when in truth and in fact it’s really you, dear Mr AG, that has to explain why the ACIB conducted that raid…isn’t it?

The Commish!

 

The National Fall Guy Glibbs got his performance review this week and the PSC under Ramesh Deosaran gave the Hot Shot Top Cop a pass!  Then backpedalled, a dance so common under our current regime, and said it provisional. One member of the team even declined to sign off on the review. So now, we don’t know whether Glibbs has passed or not, what we do know is that Glibb’s continues to have a free hand under this government to make mistake after mistake and cock up after cock up in the name of National Security!

 

 

 

Justice Gladys Gafoor, throwing dust in dey face these days.

 

The Gladys Gafoor Affair has gotten even more complicated. No one knows if I-am-a-Gladys was informed by the President of her suspension, who gave the order in the Minisrty of Foreign Affairs and Communications to tamper with the President’s press release or if the President is still an independent office, because he clearly seems to be taking orders from someone…but why? What gives Max?

And in between all of this, it’s still murders, robberies and general crime on a regular. Calypsonians want more monies, Louis wants a bottle ban, road accidents aplenty and prophets throwing wine all on Kamala!

De Vice Cyah Done!

Have a Happy and Safe Carnival to All. See you Ash Wednesday!

Crime Clusterf@$k/Political Pantomime 20mts, 24dys: FANTASTIC FRIDAY!

HD and his back up dancers showing us how to take advantage of the stage, Soca Monarch 2011.

Today is Fantastic Friday and the country fixated on Gas and Mas not exactly in that order!

 Kevin Ramnarine busy convincing us that everything under control,

Go out and fete and jump up, the govt taking care of things!
When has this govt had anything under control?

Petrotrin trying to encourage strike breakers and promising them better security.

Senator Abdullah assures us that he was wearing his General Secretary hat when he signed off on the strike action letter…..he wasn’t a senator then.

Little Jack Warner is now caught in the Haitian Aid Scandal $hitstorm and threatening to expose all, expose himself and grandcharge his way out of ignomy. Too late too late, Jack!

Glibbs and his sidekick Ewat-ski

In a not-surprising move from Prof Deosaran at the Police Service Commission, the Hot shot Top Cop Glibbs has been assessed and found adequate. Ignore the failed SoE, ignore the police raids on media houses, ignore the rental of a crop dusting plane for surveillance. Ignore the increased crime rate that Glibbs has no handle on!

MMHD and the PM, at Soca Monarch 2011.

All eyes will be on the Hasely Crawford Stadium tonight as Benjai and Machel Montano HD collect their prizes……ooops as soca artists compete for the Groovy and Power Monarch titles.
Will Iwer George’s diesel bunkering rhythm finally outpace the govt endorsed Pump Yuh Flagman?
Can Kerwin Dubois’ Bacchanal wow the judges adequately?
Or will the People’s Champion Benjai, who just received a nameless award from the PM gain the groovy crown.
Will the PM outdo Madonna and have a spectacular half-time show,

Where she storms the stage yet again to remind the crowd to be patriotic?

Will she show follow Machel to fete after fete with his winning check in hand?
It’s Fantastic Friday Folks!
De Bacchanal now start

De Vice Cyah Done!