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History of the people of Trinidad and Tobago

Capitalism and Slavery

January 2003

Too much to swallow
Posted: Friday, January 31, 2003

by Kim Johnson

Ten years ago government outlawed tape decks in maxi taxis because they were thought to be deleterious to the nations mental health.

The problem was the Jamaican music that rocked the maxis. Young people were madly in love with it, but their parents were disgusted.

Dancehall lyrics seemed mostly gibberish. The little you grasped was violent, misogynist and crude.

It resembled nothing previously considered music. There was little melody. You couldnt sing it. The pounding bass, and angry yelling, was too loud. It saturated your very brain cells.

To an older generation entering a maxi was akin to being inside someone elses migraine. Even some drivers hated it, but you wouldnt get a young fare if you didnt have hard pong.

A panic spread that the nations children were being retarded by the daily dose of dub. They reached school addled, the music echoing in their skulls all day. And they returned home the same way.

Banning tape decks in maxis was one of the more sensible things government ever did, even if it did briefly shunt Chinese Laundry, who supplied the cassettes, to singing soca.

Now the time has come to carry the battle against stupidity further, beyond the terrain of youth and now into the land of adults.

I refer of course to the removal of televisions from every restaurant in the country.

They came into vogue around the same time dancehall music was infecting young minds. The vector of this virus was even more lacking in cultural merit than the Jamaican music.

Unlike its predecessor, Dallas, The Young and Restless was cheap and shoddily produced, its actors as untalented as those on local ads.

Yet somehow the adult public was quickly addicted to a fare intended mainly for idle housewives.

Because it played at midday, city restauranteurs realised they could attract a lunchtime clientele of Y&R junkies by installing televisions in their establishments.

After more than a decade the Y&R fad has receded but the televisions remain. You can find nowhere to eat that does not have a box flashing images into your peripheral vision and nattering non-stop nonsense into your ears.

Countless times I have suffered the scowls of sullen waitresses whom I had asked to turn down the volume, or better still switch it off completely, until I realised they too were as hooked on the box as the sad, solitary lunchers who would have been better served with a dose of ecstacy.

There is something deeply antisocial about a television blaring in an eating place. It intrudes into conversation like a boor tapping on your shoulder.
Conversation over the breaking of bread is mankinds oldest and most profound form of collective communion.

(I emphasise collective because an older communion is even more profound, but that is usually limited to two people.)

Sharing a meal cements relationships. It could be two people or an entire nation. It is the central ritual of sociability.

Thats why you have festivals, of which the core event is the feast. Christ had his apostles over to dinner a last time before his tryst with destiny. Not given to moderation, he offered them, symbolically, his flesh to eat and his blood to drink.

Even the more austere Muslim community has its Eid, for which its members are starved for weeks in advance.

There is something sacred about eating together. Salman Rushdie recalls in an essay about the family meals of his Bombay childhood, that any food which fell on the floor had to be retreived and kissed.

Although the logistics might give trouble in the case of, say, callaloo, the idea is impeccable.

In my own childhood the moment my sister and I began bickering over the bigger half of an apple or something of the sort, my father always said sternly, Never fight over food!

For decades I didnt understand that. Surely food is one of the better things to fight over. Not noble as fighting for love, but neither as base as fighting for money.

Now I realise that fighting for food suggests that you have arrived at the most desperate stage of survival, when the virtues of courtesy and generosity have been dispensed with. One ought not to behave so in conditions of plenty, even if theres only one dumpling left.

The truth is, I feel in my heart of hearts that food is a sacrament for which it is a sin to not show appreciation. The only other which comes close is a beautiful woman, and the two have much in common.

You can appreciate a beautiful woman at a distance, but food, well, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. Whats more, not just the eating but the eating with someone else, the sharing, which includes conversation.

As if that wasnt bad enough people carry it further and leave televisions on at home when theyre eating.

I dont know what came first, the boredom in company, which made people turn switch on the box, or the addiction which pressed the remote and drove all meaningful conversation out the window.

Its not as loud as the music was, so maybe TV babble will just become another white noise which comforts people in their solitude. Or perhaps well see the entire population becoming like teenagers, who manage to communicate the full range of their thoughts and feelings by grunts.

Either way, Im certain that no man who has eaten with his family at least once a week could ever develop the emptiness inside so necessary to become a bandit.

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The Petals Have Not Withered
Posted: Sunday, January 26, 2003

By Deborah John, Trinidad Express

Calypso RoseA youthfull looking Calypso Rose, performed last Wednesday on the Brian Lara Promenade, Port of Spain.

At 63, McArtha Linda Sandy Lewis better known as Calypso Rose is big and beautiful, bouncy and confident. It’s a far cry from the days when at the age of 16 and a skinny, 114 lbs she first stood on the stage of the original Original Young Brigade Tent.

On Thursday last, it was Rose’s day. She was honoured by the Mayors of Arima and Port of Spain who, respectively, gave her a plaque and the keys to the city. Its only the latest in a long line of awards and honours that she’s has already received from countries all over the world. She received the keys to the city of Ontario, Canada from the Mayor of St Catherine in 1993.

Here at home, two years ago, she received the Hummingbird Gold. She deserves all the honours and tributes that are now being heaped on her in her homeland however, for this woman is truly a trailblazer who paved the way for all the women everywhere who are now calypsonians.

But to write about Rose we must first explain that during this interview last Wednesday an exuberant laugh was never far from her lips. She also danced and chipped constantly, and thrilled a group of visiting schoolgirls and their teachers with a verse and chorus from “Fire In Meh Wire”. Dressed in fire bright red, she had them singing along and then signed autographs for the excited group.

But later on, it was a quiet and reflective Rose who spoke about her teenage days and early childhood. She was born in Tobago.

“Thirteen of us in a one-bedroom house.”

An uncle lived in Barataria, he had no children and offered to have one of the young Lewis’ come live with himself and his wife.

“Well you know they wasn’t really married, she was living with him, but he sent her over to choose one of us and my mother put all of us to stand up in a line. I was little and in those days I used to suck my finger. I used to stammer, and she saw me standing there and said “darling, what is your name?” and I said “c…c…c…c..artey”. She took my hand and said, “you want to come to Trinidad with me?” The next day we went on the boat.

Rose was nine years old at the time but when the excitement of travelling at that age subsided she missed her siblings. Her aunt had only elderly friends. In San Juan Government where her aunt enrolled her, with all the natural callousness of small children and inbred Trini arrogance, her schoolmates called her “small island.”

“It was a very sad life, at home (in Tobago) I had brothers and sisters to fight with, I was in the centre of three boys, is Kelvin, is me, then Sonny, then Lloyd. It was very demoralising to me.”

But as Rose talks, you can see what her aunt saw and why her heart must have gone out to the skinny little girl, picky head (her words), sucking the middle finger and with an endearing nervous stammer. But after a while things got better.

“I hung in there and I came to regard her as a mother, she was never a bad aunt.”

We have to imagine that Rose’s schooldays were that of the average child from a black working class family of that era because in the interview she does not dwell too much on those days. But she was in the school choir. Her uncle was a Seventh Day Adventist and this would be the source of plenty quarrelling, when later on, she went to sing in the tent. In her early teenage years she also worked in a palette factory in St James and was a children’s nanny to a Chinese family in Woodbrook.

But she believes she was born with a gift. “I come here to do this.” Her grandfather used to play the violin for weddings in Tobago, her mother’s mother “could sing nice”, and a great uncle sang in several choirs.

Even with her powerful voice, though, those early days in calypso were not easy. It made her strong, however, she’s overcome the stammer, although there are slight traces when she becomes excited. Lady Iere was her predecessor but by the time she came into it in the 1950s, singing in a tent was still definitely not the thing for a female. But she says the men in the tent respected her, except for one famous calypsonian who in a effort to frighten or unnerve her, “shook his thing” at her.

Spoiler, who led the cast in 1957, at the Original Young Brigade she remembers as being a “fine guy”. “He was light skinned and he used to wear his hat cock on the side.” He had long fingers and when he sang, he would curl them into his hands. She also remembers him composing his songs in a most unusual manner.

“He never wrote down anything in a copybook. He would take a matchbox and empty all the matchsticks. He would break all the sticks and the lyrics would come out of his head. He was great.”

The first song she sang in the tent and she sings and recalls the words as if it were yesterday was “Glass Thief”. This was based on an incident she saw in the Croisee. She comes from the era in which a calypsonian had to come up with 12 original songs every season and being a talented writer Rose has sung and composed over 800 songs, most of which she can remember and sing verses from on demand.

She was also happy to set the record straight on something that is commonly regarded as a fact.

“No,” she says with emphasis, “Sparrow did not sing Rose girl ah want yuh bad,’ for me. When he sang that calypso, I did not even know him.”

Rose who now lives in the US is still intensely proud of her Tobago heritage and she still expresses hurt over an incident that happened in the 1980s, that led to her decision to take up residence abroad. She was a passionate supporter of the NAR and ANR Robinson. She felt that Tobago was neglected by Trinidad.

Calypso Rose in 1973

Calypso RoseShe ticks off the complaints on her finger:
All the old vehicles were sent to Tobago.
One hospital.
Bad roads.
If the boat broke down and the cooking gas couldn’t come the island people had to resort to wood fires.

“So I sang “Robinson gi dem pressure, turn on de pressure.”

The name of the song was “Turn on de Pressure” and apparently it touched some nerves of the party faithful in Trinidad. Prior to the 1986 election, Rose had come to Port of Spain to buy some foreign exchange.

“Just US$100 and they had me waiting. Eventually someone told me I had to declare all my assets and they spoke to me in a very disparaging way. When they did come out to give me the money, they said “here take your money and go.”

So that’s what she did and its taken her all around the world. She reflects that if her father, the strict Spiritual Baptist who had his own church and her uncle, the strict Seventh Day Adventist were alive today they would be amazed at how far calypso has taken her. At the age of 11 she decided on her own that she wished to be baptised in the Spiritual Baptist Faith and she says she has never regretted the decision. “It keeps me sane.”

She has sung calypso in almost every major country in the world. “Chile, I have pages and pages of awards”, she says matter of factly.

She was made an honorary citizen of Belize in 1982. She explains that she wrote a lot of calypsoes which put the country on the map culturally. One of these was “Let We Punta” and she campaigned for the introduction of Carnival there with the tune “Fire in Belize”. The BBC even did a programme which is normally devoted to politics and politicans on her relationship with that country. She has toured the Caribbean extensively over the years. She has also toured Europe and all the Scandanavian countries many times. She can also say confidently that she prefers West Africa to North Africa and can explain why. She sings every year with a large luxury crusie ship.

She was the first person to win the National Monarch and Road March titles in the same year – 1978 with the compositions “I Thank Thee” and “Her Majesty”. She won the Calypso Qeen titles from 1974 to 1978 and she was honoured by the National Women’s Action Committee (NWAC) in 1991. Some of her greatest hits have been “More Tempo”, “Fire, Fire”, and “Come Leh We Punta.”. This season “Fire” has been introduced to a new generation with Double D’s “Fire -Tribute to Rose”.

Looking at Rose you can’t imagine that she’s a cancer survivor, because her strong physique shows no trace of having suffered serious illness.

“I am a cancer survivor,” she says proudly, although she deplores the manner in which the public had to learn about it. Three years ago young calypsonian Kurt Allen portrayed Rose as dying of cancer in “Heroes” the calypso he wrote for Denyse Plummer. She is no longer angry, but she says Alleyne’s careless treatment of it caused a lot of her overseas engagements to be cancelled.

“People need to understand how you feel when you find out you have an illness like that. It was in 1996 when I got the news. I had surgery on October 1, 1996, to remove particles of the breast. Then radiation treatment started from December 14, 1996 into February1997. After the radiation I was depressed, so I went to Haiwai to run away from myself. I really went for 10 days but after three days I realised my family was not with me, and I said what am I doing here and I went back home”

Home includes her stepdaughter and her five grandchildren and the three brothers who live in New York.

Her daily regime includes a lot of exercise. Her diet is also chosen with a view to fitness. It includes a lot of fish. “I use more olive oil and water for cooking. I use pumpkin and cats claw which is good for cancer. I use a lot of water cress and I take a lot of herbal treatments from my brother Lloyd Sandy, 1,000 milligrammes of Vitamin C daily. I hardly eat red meat.”

Today she’s glad to see how women have prospered in the art form and two of the women calysonians she admires are Denyse Plummer and Singing Sandra.

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Form of terrorism
Posted: Friday, January 24, 2003

Editorial Newsday/TT

THERE IS no denying the gravity of the crime situation in Trinidad and Tobago. The incidence of murder, armed robbery and kidnappings has reached a degree that disturbs us all.

But the recent attempts by outsiders to brand our country as a land prone to terrorism is a gratuitous calumny that we must firmly refute. How can the UK government dare to warn their nationals about visiting TT because of the danger of terrorists? As far as this threat is concerned, is their country not worse, much much worse than TT?

Britons have lived with the danger of bombings from the decades-old war with the Irish Republican Army. Violence on the London underground system is well known. And did the Police not recently raid a north London residence and find it to be the home of a terrorist cell? Did they not round up a whole lot of people who had in their possession chemicals used to make “weapons of mass destruction”, to quote a now popular phrase?

In the UK today their own intelligence has indicated the existence of many “sleeper cells” of terrorists who are just waiting for the US and UK to invade Iraq to launch their own war on the British public in their own land. Why is the UK government not warning visitors about the dangers these threats represent?

Are UK nationals coming to TT in any greater danger than what they face every day in their own country? One could understand the UK High Commissioner Peter Harborne advising his government about the crime wave which is similar to what happens on a regular scale in Britain today. Remember the man who stormed a school not so long ago and wiped out almost a whole class of young children and their teacher?

Yes we have too much crime in our country. Yes we must put an end to the killings and kidnappings and robberies. Nevertheless, we must strongly resent the UK government’s attempt to make us (and several other Caribbean countries incidentally) appear worse than they are.

In any case, using terrorist threats as an excuse for stopping cruise liners from calling at Port-of-Spain is nothing but a huge joke. The truth lies in the fact that American tourists now prefer shorter cruises that leave from Miami. They do not want to do any flying, to Puerto Rico for example, to link up with cruise ships coming our way.

Their fear of flying, which has seriously affected tourism in the Caribbean, stems from the September 11 attack and has now been intensified by the impending war on Iraq and its anticipated repercussions. The two cruise ships that recently cancelled their TT visits are British owned but they cater largely to American tourists who are now demanding shorter cruises, which is why they are calling on places closer to the US, for example the Bahamas, less than 200 miles from Miami compared to TT which is 1600 miles away.

More cruises are going to the Bahamas, Cayman Islands, Belize and Jamaica, in spite of the massive street crimes, a high murder rate and drug and gang related violence in those places. Still, it is good to see that British Airways is not bothered by these false alarms about terrorist threats as the airline has recently increased its flights to Tobago.

Violence in TT stems largely from criminal activity in which the vast majority of our people are not involved. The country is still a friendly place where visitors can feel safe as long as they take the usual precautions that visitors take all over the world.

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Dizzy, dizzy comes Carnival
Posted: Friday, January 24, 2003

by Peter Blood

Former Queen of Hockey Mary Sui Butt evokes memories of
Scrunter’s “Chinee iron woman” as she leads her hockey posse
with rhythm at Sunday’s Trinity College’s Soka in Moka 4.

This high-spirited female patron at Sunday’s
Soka in Moka 4 all-inclusive fete at Trinity College
finds herself at the centre of a soca sandwich.
Photos: David Wears

Exclusive inclusive fete action

IT seems as though last weekend has not ended, so hectic has been this Carnival’s daily schedule of events. Last week, I actually spent five consecutive evenings at William Munro’s Club Caribbean on Wrightson Road attending Carnival launchings of one kind or another. As recently as last night, there was the wrap to Calypso Rose Day in Port-of-Spain, and the opening of the Customs & Excise Sports Club & Lounge in St James.

Last Friday’s after-work agenda sped past like a blur and its dizzying itinerary included the Comme Ce, Comme Ca lime at Barbarossa’s Woodbrook mas camp; Anthony Alexis’ triple-CD launch at The Mas Camp Pub; the launch of Nikki on the Promenade ’03 at Club Caribbean; and after-work limes as well by the producers of Piche mas band and Trini Revellers’ The Gathering of the Tribes.

The Barbarossa lime was huge and featured performances by Ghetto Flex & Rocky, Shurwayne Winchester, Sean Caruth, Stacey Sobers, Burton Toney, Knycky Cordner and Curtis “Luv Sponge” Oliver.

At the launch, I learned that Barbarossa has secured sponsorship from Atlanta mega company iKobo Money Transfers. Under the deal, foreigners can pay for costumes via iKobo and collect their costumes upon arrival in Trinidad.

Alexis’ Mas Camp CD launch unveiled the music of Len “Boogsie” Sharpe, via a performance by Anslem Douglas of “Music in We Blood”; Chris Garcia doing a provocative performance of “Ah Feelin’ to Rock,” and being encored thunderously; and, Marvellous Marva rendering the more sombre “Holding On.”

Saturday night brought out the maturity of some of our younger performers with Onika Bostik and Naya George competently addressing a large Club Caribbean gathering at the launch of the NLCB International Soca Monarch competition. Naya’s elder brother, Iwer, also addressed guests.

But, the weekend’s icing on the cake was undoubtedly Sunday’s Soca in Moka 4, the all-inclusive fete produced by Trinity College. This one confirmed just how awesome a force Atlantik will be this Carnival.

Visually a stimulating experience, the trio of Atlantik frontline vocalists, Destra, Ronnie McIntosh and Marvinn, kept the large turnout on a high throughout their breathtaking performance. Atlantik was the most exquisite fine-tuned and well precisioned soca bomb on the night, although Roy Cape All Stars held its own later to round off proceedings just after 11 pm.

This weekend, the action turns to St Clair for one of the season’s most talked about all-inclusive fetes, Outta de Blue IV, at QRC Grounds tomorrow evening.

The high profile inclusion of the national instrument makes this one a most unique outing, fielding both the reigning World Steelband Music Festival champion (Exodus) and National Panorama champion (Neal & Massy Trinidad All Stars). At midnight, there will be a J’Ouvert jump-up around the college, with music by World Wide steelband.

Outta de Blue IV is also served by Roy Cape All Stars, Blue Ventures and DJ Hurricane George, plus a guest performance by Shadow. Party time is 4 pm.

On Sunday, “the mother of all-inclusive fetes” takes place. From 12 noon, everybody who is somebody is expected to touch down on the St Augustine campus of UWI where the UWI Development & Endowment Fund Committee will host its annual fund-raiser.

This year, patrons can look forward to first-class entertainment from Blue Ventures, Roy Cape All Stars, and DJs Crosby and Hurricane George. Not only will guests be treated to non-stop music, food and drinks but they will be eligible for giveaways and the door prize of tickets to Washington and Miami courtesy BWIA.

The event is one of several annual fund raising initiatives undertaken by the Fund Committee. Over the past 12 years, the UWI Fete has provided funding for some 500 Bursaries to deserving students. The overall value of the bursaries has also jumped from $75,000 in 1992, to $465,000 in 2002. As a direct result of successful Carnival fetes in the past, the Fund has been able to increase the number of bursaries to deserving students.

Sunday’s other major event is the preliminary of the 2003 NLCB International Soca Monarch Competition, at Club Caribbean. Over 100 hopeful artistes are expected to make a bid for placings in the semi-final, scheduled for February 14.

Believe it or not, the Carnival mas band launching still continue, including the eagerly unveiling of Peter Minshall’s Ship of Fools. However, Witco Desperadoes will launch its own nautical mas, Sailors From D’Hill, tonight. The launch takes place at D’Pan Theatre on Laventille Road and music will come from Despers, Laventille Serenaders, North West Laventille Performers and a host of top soca artistes.

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$8 an hour not too much
Posted: Wednesday, January 22, 2003

THE EDITOR: I would like to know from the business people in this country, why is it so hard to pay $1 more for minimum wage, from $7 to $8?

Why dont the employers get real. They know very well that $40 more weekly is just a drop in the bucket, for the high cost of living.

The business community should take a good look at the high rise in crime, and see that it is targetted at them, so instead of crying wolf, you can afford to pay $1 more.

Every action has a first and equal reaction.

Because of your selfish attitude towards your employers, ask yourself if you all are not directly responsible for the increase in crime in our blessed country.

I am not condoning the ills of the youths of our country, but that is the only way they know how to retaliate.

Employers, I ask you, as a concerned citizen to try and right the wrong before the crime situation gets worse. Some of you know that you can pay more than $8 per hour.

Let your conscience be your guide, and may God continue to bless you and prosper your business.

Pashley Street

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Carnival blues
Posted: Saturday, January 18, 2003

By Bukka Rennie

The more they change the administrators of pan, calypso and mas, the more we get the tiring, boring, sickening sameness and mindlessness that we like to boast is one of the seven wonders of the world.

Will no one bell the cat? Why can’t somebody boldly stand up and decide to stamp a divergent signature on this yearly debacle?

I cannot for the life of me understand why individuals will decide to take on such responsibility and not try to be different, fundamentally different. Good God, at least try to leave a mark that denotes the beginnings of a new point of departure!

Policy-makers and administrators ought to send the right signals in favour of what is to be desired for the future. If not, the rot will merely continue. Every aspect of our Carnival has been deteriorating steadily for years and no one seems able to put a halt to the degradation.

After over 150 years of Carnival we ought to know how to do it right, we ought to know the right combination of essentials that would make and keep and develop Carnival even further to be the genuine “national theatre of the streets”, to quote Errol Hill, and to be the quintessential showcase of our inherent creative energy and light.

But the deterrent to this becoming reality, and in fact one of our biggest problems, if not the biggest problem, is that our bureaucrat professional administrators, beside being unable to “envision”, seem always to either suffer from collective amnesia or seem to conspire to do everything that is illogical. Any time something, some facet of the festival, happens to work ideally and makes sense, it is duly scrapped.

Given such an approach and such an attitude to things, the management or mismanagement of Carnival has grown over the years to become, despite the yearly post-mortems, a huge mountain of “ta-ta” and Carnival remains banal crap, so much so that one is tempted to suggest a total banning of Carnival for at least three years until we can sort ourselves and our Carnival out.

But how can what amounts to cultural malaise as a result of what the world terms “development” be dealt with in three years? We need to keep trying as the festival happens.

How much more are we going to plead with young calypsonians to get their act and their art together? And if we are doing this can we come to do it with some consistent logic?

Last year one was applauded for singing about “mackoing” his mother and father having sex, “ah macko he and ah macko she”, now this year he is being taken to task for poking fun at the Catholic Church institution that deserves to be criticised. We need to decide who and what should be rewarded in the Carnival.

If money talks, then let it talk. Everybody will then fall in line.

This year Black Stalin, in calypso, calls for a return to the artistic sensibilities of a George Bailey, and Neville Aming expresses confidence in the ability of his daughter, 26-year-old Crystal, to “change the trend of Carnival” while he denounces the “bikinis and feathers and nakedness” that has taken over our Carnival.

But what they both have missed is that the degradation is part and parcel of the overall commercialisation and middle-classifying of Carnival, the “Woodbrookifying” of mas. Certainly not the Woodbrook of the Baileys but that of the Afongs and company. If yuh not from Woodbrook yuh is dog.

And coupled with all this is the transference of Carnival from being creative manifestation that was basically male psychological expression to being that of the female with all its attendant, creative, natural narcissism.

Years ago I remember saying to women: “Okay, so you have taken over the Carnival, but what have you brought to the table?” I even went further in a piece written for the OWTU’s Vanguard in which I said: “Carnival is now female, middle-class and white.”

In an attempt to remind us of what Carnival was meant to be, and to help us keep the proper focus, I will end here by quoting from my 1972 poem titled “Red Hawk Journey of a mas’ Artist”:

“…Turn, Red Hawk, turn

Turn from the hills of Laventille

And take courage to test once again

The limits of existence…

Cry the need, the thirst, for boundless movement

And soaring consciousness beyond…

But who shall bow to Red Hawk

When a crown of fiery feathers and costume colours

Hectic heavy, glide down on void below?

…What is this Spirit that strangely pulls

Long-lost communities and deep mysteries out/of misty epochs, forcing oneness?

Why seek brotherhood with winds and souls unseen but felt?

Why be Red Hawk?

“…Final blend for feathered crown

Fashion red and yellow streaks beneath black lining

It shall talk tomorrow of hope

And Monday’s now sinking Sun

That rose to open two Moons’ travel

With beads and little mirrors

Counting lives of warriors strong

Who walked whole lands in solitude.

Mainly, tomorrow, shall talk with bright, motion shapes

Brighter than projected images on silvery screens

Which taught Red Hawk his story

That same tomorrow when Tuesday’s dawn

Shall invoke unknown tongues like fluent water

And Red Hawk acknowledging

Neither fear nor omnipotent presence

Move downwards, oozy orbs ogling tense

Leaving in wake the careless noise

To feel at last no other self…

“…Why, Red Hawk, why the need to speak

With red bands tight over pulsating wrists

And temples pounding loud?

Why fly so high above containment

Walk so strong, alert

Eyes measuring like theodolites the slightest twitch

On faces below in void Savannah?

Matters only that Hawk is Hawk

And Mas’ is not mere portrayal

But the consciousness of Geronimoes

Imparting words by simply being…

But soon the second moon’s at end

And space and time are finished…..”

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Playing one for Bertie
Posted: Saturday, January 18, 2003

By Terry Joseph

If you never heard the name Bertie Marshall, there is a good chance your extra-terrestrial relatives failed to take a proper head-count at departure time.

After all, as any pannist will happily relate, Bertie Marshall is singularly responsible for the sound of today’s frontline steelband instruments, having discovered and implemented the use of harmonics in tuning technique and brightening overall sound in the process.

Rendered even more fragile under the heat of Carnival day sun, the notes were cooled by pouring water on them, before a tablecloth (the property of the Ollivieri family) was pressed into service as the first ever canopy.

My story is, however, much closer to home. Born in Success Village, Laventille, a mere three blocks from the Marshalls’ residence, it was Bertie my mother gave the responsibility (for Geraldine was quite capable of such things) of walking me to Port of Spain on my first day at Eastern Boys’ Government School.

As I grew, Bertie was highly ranked among the village’s revered saga-boys, a grouping that included “Spots” Fitzgerald, “Teddy” Belgrave, “Pops” Harper, Franklyn Ollivieri and (hold on to your chair) Keith Smith, men replete in tailored shirts; haute couture I would never enjoy until well after my first paycheque.

Bertie meanwhile founded a commercially successful steelband called Armed Forces, a name easily deduced from the frequency with which his group was contracted by American military stationed at the Chaguaramas naval base.

From our upstairs back-bedroom window, the band could be clearly heard during rehearsals.

At age 15 (and still at the window), I discerned a major change in the music. For openers, it was audibly sweeter even from so far west of its source. More importantly, the band had obviously assumed a new style.

I didn’t know details then but Hilanders stalwart Leslie Slater would later explain that Kim Loy Wong had returned to Trinidad in 1962 and convinced Bertie to revive a band he once led. “There was a policy conflict,” Slater explained, “so in that year, the band joined titles to become Armed Forces Hilanders.”

That was 1962. By the following year, “Armed Forces” was dropped from the banner. And with inputs from Slater and others, Hilanders developed trademark musical arrangements that included Latin percussion against a staccato melodic line that largely replaced rolling and refashioned the “walking-bassline” common to bands of the day.

Slater also explained Bertie’s concept of “satellite bands”, groups founded in other communities or conscripted therefrom, who would test new arrangements even before they were heard in Success Village.

Current Permanent Secretary in the Culture Ministry, Lester Efebo Wilkinson, remembers Slater’s band, Tunapuna-based Wolverines, as one such group. Bertie had others, at least one in the unlikely Couva community.

The new music was an instant hit among villagers and the more musical, but followers of bands yet to achieve this plateau became jealous and literally stoned Hilanders out of existence.

In the intervening years, Hilanders grew into a formidable musical force, indeed a foe, presenting strong challenges to the likes of Invaders and Trinidad All Stars, at the annual Jouvert Bomb competition.

But chased by the pan philistines, Hilanders was forced to accept defeat, although Bertie continued his experiments with pan tone and amplification, developing The Bertphone.

To date, it is the only publicly performed steelband instrument that could produce dampened or sustained notes by use of foot pedals. The amplifier allowed Hilanders to compete at Panorama with just one tenor pan.

By the turn of the 1970s, Bertie (and Anthony Williams) were deeply involved in experiments conducted at university level in the quest to mass-produce steelpan instruments. That project came to grief, a casualty of politics of the period.

Greater tragedy was to hit Bertie when warring brothers in the house next door climaxed their fight by setting the premises ablaze, the flames quickly spreading to Marshall’s residence, turning years of research into ash and smoke.

On the advice of pan legend Rudolph Charles, Bertie had already become in-house tuner to Witco Desperadoes, a position he still holds.

His parallel abilities in pan tuning, arranging and performance and the musical legacy of Highlanders had all but slipped from our consciousness, rekindled only by infrequent airplay of the band’s signature, Handel’s “Let Every Valley Be Exalted”.

But as has recently come to light (and largely from local-music collectors in North America), Hilanders recorded more than 20 songs, including an album with the Trinity Cathedral Choir.

In case you wondered, it is against this backdrop that I proposed to the National Carnival Commission (NCC) a Jouvert tribute to Bertie Marshall and Highlanders. It is to their joint credit that the project has been warmly embraced by the custodians of Carnival, endorsed by Pan Trinbago and relentlessly acted upon by diehard fans both at home and in North America.

Earlier this week, the Angostura Group of Companies agreed to support a Hilanders Reunion, which will be held on Carnival Sunday. The following morning, bands participating in a special contest will play Hilanders’ music exclusively.

Details of both events will be the subject of relevant publicity material but suffice it to say: It is the least I could do for the man who introduced me to school, generated village pride, laboured at pan research and development and gave us sweet music in the bargain.

Although still necessary and socially proper, just saying “thank you” would have been severely inadequate.

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‘Catholic Woman’ – a complimentary calypso
Posted: Wednesday, January 15, 2003

Newsday TT

THE EDITOR: Tell me, why it is that Catholic leaders such as Vicar-General Christian Pereira feel that they have the right to dictate to a secular society what they should listen to. The calypso “Confirmed (Catholic Woman)” performed by Brunton Toney and written by Wayne “Impulse” Modeste is in fact a complimentary composition of humour and commentary of the Catholic psyche. Every young Catholic male can testify to this through his familys expectations of him marrying a “good Catholic girl”.

To say that the song is demeaning to women is not only misleading but hypocritical, the Catholic church believing that women do not have the moral capacity to decide freely and responsibly matters related to their sexual and reproductive health.

This, by supporting antiquated laws that criminalise women.

Perhaps Fr Christian Pereira should be more constructive and focus his energies on issues that involve the actions of his clergy and followers such as sexual abuse and violence against women and children. And addressing human sexuality in a positive manner instead of covering up and casting blame on minorities eg homosexuals.

Again Fr Pereira should be reminded that he has the freedom of choice to turn off the radio or television, like I do when Channel 9s Trinity Television is on, unless I feel for a good dose of comedy.

Dere St

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Dealing with illegal ‘bombings’
Posted: Monday, January 13, 2003

Newsday TT

THE EDITOR: Now that Old Year’s night is gone, we can deal with the next barrage of illegal bombings from the street, from neighbours, from passing strangers, from ‘innocent’ children.

I’m not saying anything bad about our neighbours; they are all ‘nice’ people, nobody shooting any body and that sort of thing. In fact, we are the unneighbourly ones because it seems the Law approves. The Law can say what it wants about who should have fireworks, where and when, but Customs lets them in (I don’t know why; ‘they’ should find out.) If Customs accepts and all sorts of people get licences then their use must be legal possession of licences is nine-tenths of the law. Besides, reports say the police pass the sellers and the exploders in action and do nothing so that’s another stamp that says ‘Legal’. That’s why the mutineers were freed from all wrongdoing in 1970 ‘condoning’. So, to be neighbourly, we must adjust. We’ll prepare our weakest sufferers for the war. We can do like the Mounted Branch preparing their horses for Carnival.

We’ll start with lots of shouting and other explosive noises in their rooms or kennels day or night; we’ll progressively increase the volume, duration and unexpectedness of the noises till we bring them to high crescendo right near their ears.

When celebration time comes, our old sick parents and grandparents and our greatly loved pets will smile serenely at the height of the blasting frenzy. I mustn’t forget the babies. They can’t talk but they show discomfort and pain. (Some people may not believe that and may claim they are only pretending.) We may have to use whistles to train them blow them softly at first, then louder and nearer till we get to the loudest right against their ear (don’t mind that the EMA says about decibels, loss of hearing and physical damage to the ear caused by loud noises especially in younger children. Trinidadians don’t believe that).

Of course, there is a bonus: girls won’t be affected by boys ‘sooting’ them along the street.

The trainees will enjoy the challenge; we’ll give them marks and grades as they improve, and titbits like ice-cream, and rattles and bones. We, the trainers, will be suffering the torture of the damned.

That din! When celebrating time comes around, we’ll go off to Mt Hololo or San Fernando Hills or some old hut far away unless, with time available now, those with the authority decide to enforce the Law (That’s what laws are for generally) and fill any loopholes in it, soon.

Diego Martin

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Moment filled with danger
Posted: Sunday, January 12, 2003

By David Abdulah, Newsday TT

In 1804 the Haitian people established an independent nation. This was a remarkable accomplishment given that at that time the entire region – including countries like Venezuela – was only colonised but the population was enslaved.

The Haitian revolution therefore achieved what none other had and that was the emancipation of slaves, the defeat of the three most powerful imperial nations at that time -France, Spain and Britain – and the creation of an independent state. Of course the Haitian people were also made to pay a terrible price for their boldness as they were constantly under attack from the imperial powers that had been previously vanquished. And there has been underway a process of constant intervention and destabilisation which continues to this day.

One aspect of the attack on Haiti has been to isolate it from the rest of the Caribbean. While the difference in language has been a factor in this regard, the more important reason for the extremely belated integration of Haiti with the rest of the region has been that of our ignorance, ignorance in the sense of a lack of knowledge and information. This state of ignorance is itself a product of our education system and of our media, both of which have failed the population in this regard.

This coming August we have a great opportunity to redress the historical wrong, to say, as David Rudder did so eloquently in song several years ago Haiti, Im sorry.” The occasion will be the Third Assembly of Caribbean People which will be held in the historic town of Cap Haitien, Haiti. The Third Assembly, therefore, quite fittingly will help to usher in the bicentennial year of Haitian Independence, and so the Assembly takes on special significance to the Haitian people themselves and to everyone in the region.

A number of people may recall the First Assembly held in Trinidad in 1994. That event and the process that it created of bringing ordinary Caribbean people together in a single space to discuss common problems, common concerns, to express common aspirations and to develop a common agenda for the sovereignty of the region and the welfare of the people, is still very much alive. Indeed, when we look around the region and the world today we see many more reasons why the Assembly process is so crucial.

The Theme for the Third Assembly is Caribbean people: lets build our sovereign Caribbean, just, equitable, equal and peaceful.” It summarises the aspirations of Caribbean people today given the forces of neo-liberal globalisation.

Thus, we wish for a peaceful Caribbean, not one where there is the fear of violence at the local level and the threat of war on the international plane. We wish to have a sovereign Caribbean where we can determine our own destiny, not be in a state of colonisation either of the de jure type – as are the French territories, Puerto Rico, Montserrat and several other British and Dutch colonies – or of the de facto type like most of us are with our policies set for us by the international financial institutions.

We also wish to see our sovereignty respected and not have the US continue with the blockade of Cuba or be involved in the internal affairs of Venezuela. We wish to have societies where the principles of social justice and equity shape and determine the way in which the economy and social relations are organised, such that given the wealth of the nation nobody lives in poverty. And we wish to see power and the responsibility for our future residing in the hands of everyone, rather than our being in a political system where only a few decide.

Now many may say that this is just a wish list, a pipe-dream. I counter this position by saying that we will never make progress, indeed no society has ever made progress, except that it sets for itself lofty ideals and objectives and then consciously organises to work and struggle towards their realisation. It is also particularly important for us as Caribbean people to affirm and re-affirm what we believe in today since there is a clear attempt to make us accept something that is not at all in our interest. The pretext that is being created for war in Iraq is just one example of what I am referring to.

I am of the view that the moment is filled with both tremendous possibilities and dangers. The coming into office of Lula in Brazil is just the most well known of the recent shifts in the politics of Latin America.

Of course before Lula there was the election of Hugo Chavez in Venezuela. Most recently there was the election of Guiterrez in Ecuador and the very narrow defeat (some supporters have claimed that all was not fair) of the progressive indigenous leader Elmo Morales in Bolivia. The elections in Argentina may well result in another shift and this is yet another reason why the stakes are so high in Venezuela. The proponents and beneficiaries (the elite) of neo-liberal policies cannot allow the largest and most resource rich Latin American countries to be led by progressive forces.

The decisive shift away from neo-liberal globalisation that the recent elections in Latin America demonstrates, together with the ever stronger global social movement against neo-liberalism – as will be seen by the tens of thousands who will meet at the World Social Forum to be held in Port Allegre in Brazil this month – are the signs that tremendous possibilities exist at this moment.

This gives hope for the future, as will the Third Assembly of Caribbean People in Haiti in August 2003.

On the other hand, the storm clouds of war are gathering and threatening to unleash terrible damage. But there are voices against. And there are also moderate voices urging caution. Even the very influential New York Times is becoming concerned. Here is what their editorial said on Friday last Yet for all the Iraqi manoeuvring, America cannot simply declare Baghdad to be in violation of UN requirements and then go immediately to war. The political, economical and military implications of combat – not to mention the potential loss of American and Iraqi lives – demand every effort by the United States to resolve this confrontation short of war….all chances of doing so peacefully should be explored before the world is asked to decide on war. Before that point is reached, Washington should share its evidence (of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction) with the public.” Let us hope that such counsel is accepted.

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The passion of Carnival 2003
Posted: Wednesday, January 1, 2003

Researched and compiled by Peter Ray Blood

On Boxing Day of last year, I accurately predicted that Naya George’s “Trinidad” would be the Road March for Carnival 2002. When I did, almost everyone I told thought I was crazy.

Well, this time around, you might think me even more crazy as I make another bold prediction. Having not received too many CDs so far from the artistes, of the songs I’ve heard thus far, the one with all the right ingredients to cop a Road March right now is “Passion” by Militant.

Some may be inclined to think that this zouk-flavoured single is too slow for the road, but I beg to differ. Still fresh in my memory is the 1987 Road March, the slow Latin-influenced “Bahia Girl” by David Rudder. I also recall the impact of Rudder’s “High Mas” as well.

Guyanese-born Militant seems blessed with the Midas touch when it comes to composing hits. His 2002 single, “Hot and Groovy,” was also a mega hit, not just locally, but across the region and further afield as well.

Now, all the big guns have not fired as yet in the Road March race, so you can never tell whether my prediction will hold true. But, out of the starting box, “Passion” is way ahead of the field and to overtake it will require something really special, not to mention hot and groovy.

Writing about potential hits I’ve had, it seems that London-based SW Storm has finally found the right formula for a big hit. I refer to his rhythmic chutney-spiced single “Show Them,” and another cut from his latest CD, “Crazy.” Sure hope the fete promoters and radio PDs are listening to these two cuts.

Also in the mix for Carnival is the combination of Len “Boogsie” Sharpe and songwriting journalist Anthony Alexis. Together they’ve come up with a doozy of a song titled “Music in We Blood.” Arranged by Ibo, with vocals by Anslem Douglas, I predict that this one will be really big, at Panorama and at the fetes.

Other songs to catch my fancy so far include singles by Bunji Garlin, KMC, Sean Caruth, Shurwayne Winchester, Treason, Destra, Strongy, Denise Belfon, Shadow, Explainer, Colin Lucas, Machel Montano, Crazy and Impulse, as well the infectious “Trini to the Bone,” by the duo of David Rudder and Carl Jacobs.

The Big Shows, The Big Fetes, The Big Events

Wednesday, January 1, 2003 – NEW YEAR’S DAY:

4 pm: Formal Wear Football Fete Match, Brian Lara Grounds, Santa Cruz

4 pm: Sandbox presents Sand Dance 2002

6 pm: Yorke’s Annual New Year’s Day House Party, Alfredo Street, Woodbrook

9 pm: Smash Up 2003, Arima Velodrome

January 11:

8 pm: The Magnificent Seven, featuring Sugar Aloes, Cro Cro, Denyse Plummer, Pink Panther, Crazy, De Fosto and Baron, Jean Pierre Complex

January 12:

2 pm: St Francois Girls’ College first all-inclusive Carnival fete, music by Blue Ventures and DJ Hurricane George, Lions

Saturday, January 18:

Poison South Side all-inclusive, music by Imij & Co, Invazion, Naya George, Daniel Park

Sunday, January 19:

3 pm: Trinity College presents Soka In Moka, Trinity College Grounds, Moka, Maraval

4 pm: Crews Inn All-Inclusive, Chaguaramas

Saturday, January 25:

3 pm: QRC Foundation presents Outta de Blue IV all-inclusive fete, music by Roy Cape All Stars, Blue Ventures, Neal & Massy Trinidad All Stars, Exodus, Worldwide, Shadow and lots more, QRC Grounds, St Clair

2003 National Chutney Soca Monarch preliminary, Samar Entertainment Centre, Penal

9 pm: Blazing Soca, featuring Roy Cape All Stars, Traffik and much more, Fire Services Headquarters, Wrightson Road

Sunday, January 26:

11 am: UWI Endowment Fund’s 13th Annual All-Inclusive Carnival Fete, UWI, St Augustine

3 pm: National Association of Secretaries and Administrative Professionals of T&T all inclusive fete, nSa House, Fitz Blackman Drive, Wrightson Road Extension, Port-of-Spain

4.30 pm: Randy Glasgow Promotions presents Bunji Garlin Children’s Concert, Shaw Park, Tobago

7 pm: Island People’s Amnesia, Pier 1, Chaguaramas

Friday, January 31:

9 pm: TTR Army Fete, Queen’s Park Savannah (tentative)

9 pm: La Flor’s Soca Graduation, Pier 1, Chaguaramas.

Saturday, February 1:

2 pm: Holy Faith Convent (Couva) Carnival all-inclusive fete, at convent, Couva

4 pm: Hilarians’ Carnival 2003 all-inclusive fete, Bishop Anstey High School, Keate Street (contact Diane at [email protected])

5 pm: San Fernando Yacht Club’s annual all-inclusive

5 pm: Rotary Club of San Fernando all-inclusive fete, Presentation College Poolside, San Fernando

7 pm: 2003 National Chutney Soca Monarch semi-final, Rienzi Complex, Couva

9 pm: Licensing Fete, Licensing Dep’t, Wrightson Road

9 pm: International School of Port-of -Spain PTA’s 3rd Annual Carnival All-Inclusive Fete, Mobs2, Chaguaramas

Sunday, February 2:

1 pm: bpTT all-inclusive

1.30 pm: Randy Glasgow Promotions presents Chutney for Children Concert, Guaracara Park, Pointe-a-Pierre

2pm: PoS East Lions Club all-inclusive Carnival fete, Lions

2 pm: McLeod’s All-Inclusive Carnival Fete, Pier 1, Chaguaramas

2 pm: Diabetes Association of T&T’s all-inclusive fete, Mobs2, Chaguaramas

2 pm: Crews Inn Carnival Fete, Crews Inn, Chaguaramas

2 pm: Parrot all-inclusive, Hilton.

Saturday, February 8:

3 pm: Randy Glasgow Promotions presents 4th Annual Coca Cola Youth Festival, Concert Capital, Port-of-Spain

4 pm: Annual Pearl Gardens all-inclusive fete, Pearl Gardens, Petit Valley

4 pm: D’Pohlis Annual Carnival Party on the Farm, UWI Field Station (behind Mt Hope Medical Sciences Complex)

4 pm: Blue Range residents’ all-inclusive, Blue Range, Diego Martin

4 pm: Crews Inn Fete, Chaguaramas

4 pm: St Mary’s College’s 1st Carnival all-inclusive fete, music by Roy Cape All Stars and Imij & Co, at the college, Pembroke Street

8 pm: Miss India T&T Pageant preliminary, Rudranath Capildeo Learning Resources Centre, Couva.

Sunday, February 9:

2 pm: Mt Hope Patients Trust All-Inclusive Carnival Fete, EWMSC, Mt Hope (South Gate Entrance)

2 pm: Hilton All-Inclusive Carnival Fete, Hilton

3 pm: Annual Food Basket all-inclusive fete, Arima

3 pm: TT Credit Union Stabilisation Fund all-inclusive fete, La Joya Poolside, St Joseph

3 pm: Annual Maritime all-inclusive fete (TBA)

4 pm: Spirit Life all-inclusive party, Trinidad Country Club, Maraval

4 pm: Poison South Side’s Wet Fete & Cooler Ja;

4 pm: Poison fete, Pier 1, Chaguaramas (tentative)

4 pm: Magnolia’s all-inclusive fete.

Saturday, February 15:

12.30 pm: Flying Fish Swim Club’s Annual Children’s Carnival, PSA Grounds, Long Circular, St James

2 pm: Annual O’Farrells all-inclusive fete (TBA)

2 pm: National Gas Company all-inclusive fete

4 pm: Jess & Friends Annual All-Inclusive Fete, music by Iwer George, Preacher, Pt Fortin Engine Room, plus DJs Mega Force and Cutting Crew, Aruac Road, Valsayn South

4.30 pm: Randy Glasgow Promotions presents Bunji Garlin Children’s Concert, Skinner Park, San Fernando

8 pm: 2003 National Chutney Soca Monarch Final, Skinner Park, San Fernando.

Sunday, February 16:

11 am: National Panorama semi-final, Queen’s Park Savannah

1 pm: Friends of the ASCC Carnival All-Inclusive, Lions Cultural Centre (tentative)

2 pm: Annual Blood Bank Fete, Hilton

2 pm: National Centre for Persons with Disabilities all-inclusive fete, Naparima Bowl, San Fernando

3 pm: Carib Fete (tentative)

5 pm: Poison Fete, Mobs2, Chaguaramas (tentative)

5 pm: Randy Glasgow Promotions presents Bunji Garlin Children’s Concert, Jean Pierre Complex.

Monday, February 17:

8 pm: NACC stages Young Kings Monarch Final

Thursday, February 20:

4 pm: Republic Bank calypso competition, Republic Bank Sports Club, 8th Avenue Extension, Barataria (tentative)

8 pm: King/Queen of Carnival preliminaries, Queen’s Park Savannah

8.30 pm: Concert, Under the Trees, Hotel Normandie, St Ann’s

9 pm: Island Fete (tentative)

Friday, February 21:

5 pm: Trinidad Guardian/TBS Calypso Contest, Carpark, Trinidad Guardian

7 pm: Diego Martin Carnival Committee Traditional Bands Parade/Pan on the Boulevard, Wendy Fitzwilliam Boulevard, Diamond Vale

8.30 pm: Concert, Under the Trees, Hotel Normandie, St Ann’s

9 pm: Republic Bank Fete, Republic Bank Sports Club, 8th Avenue Extension, Barataria (tentative)

Saturday, February 22:

11 am: Red Cross Kiddies Carnival, Queen’s Park Savannah

2 pm: TUCO presents Kaiso Fiesta 2002 (National Calypso Monarch semi-final), Skinner Park

7 pm: Village Promotions presents International Brass Festival 2002, PSA Grounds, Long Circular

7.30 pm: Randy Glasgow Productions presents 2nd Annual Chutney Brassorama 2002, Guaracara Park, Pointe-a-Pierre

8 pm: Criollo’s Carnival all-inclusive party, Valsayn

8.30 pm: Concert Under the Trees, Hotel Normandie, St Ann’s.

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