By *Jomo Sanga Thomas
(Plain Talk, July 12, 2019)
The biggest winner in Vincy Mas 2019 is not Shaunelle Mc Kenzie, who won her first calypso monarch after years of effort; Hance John, who took home his 2nd Ragga Soca trophy in 3 years; Lynx mas band with Band of the Year and King of the Band titles; Little Chris and his sister Kristiana for their continued domination of Junior Calypso, or Starlift for recapturing panorama from Sion Hill. Not even the youth and energetic Magikal who sent Soca lovers ‘bloody hell crazy’ on his way to winning the Soca Monarch Title.
The biggest winner was Rum. In 2019, rum was proclaimed cheaper than woman by Chewalle the Rummist. Skarpyon was so drunk he forgot which women he took to the party. Fonando cared not for soda or any form of chaser because he refused to go home sober. And so it was Rum, Rum, Rum.
Carnival is merriment and nakedness, fun and joy, creativity and festivity, but the re-emergence of rum is a negative that we neglect, to our pain and sorrow. Young people, especially our women, are consuming alcohol like never before. Gone are the days when malt was the drink of choice for our women. Guinness is no longer bitter and drinks with strong alcoholic content are now craved. Everybody gleefully demands rum.
What a reversal of fortunes. One of the many positives of Rastafarians was the serious assault they launched on alcohol. They also took aim at salt and sugar. Alcohol was aptly labelled the ‘devil’s soup’ for its destructive impact on the human body, as well as harm done to positive and friendly relations among citizens. Yet it’s rum, rum, rum ‘til carnival done and beyond.
What must Patches do to win the crown?
Patches is one of the giants in the calypso business. He has been knocking on the door of the calypso palace for a long time. The judges refuse to let him in so that he can sit on the throne. People say I like Patches because he sings about the government I like to hate. Nonsense! I love Patches’ style of singing, his writing, his authenticity and his energy. Patches has to be about 70, and if you ask him, Patches will tell you that Jomo is a yard fowl, a jimbo and a man who loves Massa more than Massa loves himself. So what? That is Patches’ take of the Vincentian reality. Maurice Bishop, the former revolutionary PM of Grenada, once called Barbadian Prime Minister, Tom Adams a ‘yard fowl.’ Words have meaning. If you can’t recognise big men and women in SVG busily acting like yard fowls, as De man Age said you like the society we live in need a spectacles.
Some say Patches is not deserving of winning because he only sings on the government. Do these people know anything about calypso? Calypso has its origins in rejection of the status quo. It speaks to the people’s pain and suffering. Patches captures the feeling of a section of the Vincentian population. There is none with his originality, melody and simplicity of delivery. He is the master of ridicule and biting satire. That is calypso. Calypso is not polite.
The latest slander is that Patches has joined Rasta Man I to sing in volumes. If we take similarity of topic as a yardstick, then the most voluminous of calypsoians is Mighty Chalk Dust. Yet he won the monarch in Trinidad and Tobago nine times, the last at the ripe age of 77 years. Based on this yard stick, De Man Age could not win the crown now, even if he sang “Spectacles”, “Who cares”, “Dey go ban it” and “Miss Penniston”. Cro Cro would be stoned off the stage and CP will not make the semi finals even if he sang ‘Jesse Gambler’.
Last year Patches sang Halleluya which mocked what goes on in our nation’s churches. What did Shaunelle Mc Kenzie win with this year? ‘Change’- same theme -change- a call on church leaders to leave the safe haven of the church buildings and go to the people. Originality! Melody! Catchy lyrics! Which will we remember? We don’t hate any calypsoians. We just love calypso more.
Calypso ain’t dying; the judges killing calypso. If a contestant could ‘buss’ and still win the crown, why throw out singers of the calibre of Sulle, Scakes, Age and Abijah, all with a well crafted calypso in the true tradition of the art form, simply because some competitors with mediocre lyric could sing better? Calypso judges need to reclaim the knowledge that a calypso competition is much more than a singing competition. A calypso is not just a song.
Mash up everything
In 1983 Mighty Arrow sang “Raise yo hand”. The “raise yo hand” anthem reigned for about two decades. Every artiste called on fans to raise yo hand, forcing Becket to cry out in disgust “me hand tired”. Chalky ‘Too Much Quacks” lambasted the imitators “since Arrow get through with raise yo hand, all man feel he is big, big Kaisoian”.
These days the new irresponsibility in the name of fun and fete is break down this and mash up that. Tear up this and pull down that. It is absolutely surprising that this called mixed with the high level of intoxication has not resulted in visible and serious acts of destruction. One artiste had the good sense to say “we go break it down and build it back”. We hope what is built will be better than what was torn down.
Child abuse in Calypso
Finally, child abuse in calypso must be called out and brought to an end. The content of many of the songs rendered in junior calypso competition is way beyond the comprehension of children. Take Little Kris, the primary school calypso monarch. In celebrating our country’s successes, Kris reminds us that we are chair of ECOSOC, the United Nations economic and social council that deals with sustainable development goals and of our elevation to the UN Security Council. Does Little Kris have a clear understanding of these institutions or is he simply singing what was given to him?
We cannot dumb down our culture to satisfy our lower taste. If culture is to be a weapon of liberation, it must be uplifting.
*Jomo Sanga Thomas is a lawyer, journalist, social commentator and Speaker of the House of Assembly in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
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