By Carlton Joseph (Maryland, USA).
Kudos to Trinbago Unified Calypsonians Organisation’s (TUCO), the Trinidad and Tobago organization that represents calypsonians, for an excellent presentation of Calypso Monarch 2014. The show was a great improvement from past presentations and the use of Errol Ince and his orchestra to support the artists did much to raise the quality of the presentation and showcase the art form in a professional manner worthy of our cultural heritage.
The Trinidad (PPP) government decision to place the Power Soca Monarch and Chutney show in higher esteem than the Calypso Monarch show by awarding more prize money to the winners of these competition over the Calypso Monarch competition shows a blatant disregard for the culture and total ignorance concerning the history of this indigenous art form. Like a tree, Calypso is the root and trunk of the culture of our society, Soca and Chutney are the branches of this tree, and whether the government or power brokers in society recognize or understand this symbiotic relationship, Power Soca, Groovy Soca and Chutney need Calypso for their sustenance and survival.
Soca and Chutney serve the entertainment needs of the people but cannot serve their deeper emotional and psychological needs. The PPP government has demonstrated its pettiness and vindictiveness toward the heart of the culture by rewarding the branches of the tree more sustenance than the root and trunk of the tree. Any government that does not understand or appreciate the culture of its people and country does not deserve to be the government of that country. I trust that the people will remember this act of total disrespect the next time they go to the polls.
In business like in life what is promoted often returns to haunt. It seems that the government is more comfortable with the bland lyrics of the jam and wine rather that the more caustic but highly informative lyrics of calypso. Close examination of the Power Soca Monarch and Chutney Monarch shows reveals the essence of the government’s position. Ignoring the calypsonian and disrespecting the art form in a small country where crime is on an upward trajectory and illiteracy is gaining ground, is living in a fool’s paradise to think that by doing so, the issues identified by the calypsonian will go away. Not acknowledging the problem is an admission of inability to find solutions and an unwillingness to solve the problems in our society.
In the period of slavery, calypso and the calypsonian represented the only medium by which our ancestors were able to communicate the hopes, fears and aspirations of the masses of slaves who could not, or were not allowed to read or write.
Today, although most of our folks are literate, calypso still represents the medium by which the masses communicate their demands, hopes and aspirations to the politicians and others that they elect into office to serve “we the people”. It appears that the Trinidad government has decided that our culture should only reflect bacchanal and entertainment, while information and education should be ignored.
Today, Radio and Television executives have decided that these media should be used for entertainment and for serving the corporate interest. They have decided to promote music that keeps the masses intellectually bankrupt. So calypso has again become the primary avenue for the identification of the issues plaguing the society.
Attempting to silence the calypsonian by promoting Power Soca, Chutney and Groovy Soca, and punishing calypso tents that do not toe the government’s line, is not going to silence the calypsonian or eliminate the social and other problems they identify. The calypsonian is only giving voice of the people, and expressing their dreams of a better society. The calypsonians are providing the government with valuable information information from the people, and once a year giving voice to the voiceless on the largest stage in the country. Ignoring the voice of the people will be to the government’s and country’s detriment.