Alice Yard, a quaint cozy performing space at 80 Roberts Street, Woodbrook, will be the venue for a most interesting and topical event on July 30, at 7.30 pm. The new CAISO coalition, which includes blogger/community organiser Colin Robinson and cultural critic Dr Charleston Thomas, is hosting an evening of calypsoes that have addressed the issue of homosexuality. The media is abuzz with reasoned debate about homosexuality of late. But a group of Trinbagonians wants to take a different, unconventional approach to that too-often controversial topic. The coalition is asking people who share a love of the national art form to gather together to spend an evening listening to calypso. Planning to create a tent-like setting, the group is inviting the public to listen to the ingenious and playful ways in which two dozen recorded calypsoes have treated with homosexuality over six decades.
The event is scheduled during the month when members of T&T's gay community have for the past 15 years celebrated pride in their identity. But it is "deliberately about getting people together, regardless to sexual orientation, around something we share a love for," say its organisers.
As for why the organisers are hosting this session, a release this week explained: "Calypso's imaginative treatment of homosexuality is as fascinating and it is unacknowledged. Homosexuality too often divides Trinbagonians unnecessarily." Building on published research by retired UWI professor Gordon Rohlehr, one of the pre-eminent scholars of calypso, Robinson, Thomas and others have collected some 30 recordings from the 1950s to the present that "show remarkably witty treatments of the topic."
"It's not the only approach to homosexuality in calypso," Robinson continues. "There is moralising, scorn, violence, ridicule.
But, unlike Jamaica, playfulness seems to be the dominant approach in our indigenous music. And, to me, homosexuality is one of the topics to which calypso has brought some of its subtlest imagination and sweetest ingenuity."
The audience will be invited to share their own memories of other treatments of the topic; talk about the meaning of the music; why dancehall and calypso treat so differently with the same issue; and, what implications the music and its history might have for debates about homosexuality in the current political moment. The release stated that plans for Carnival season activities on the topic will also be aired. The programme has been organised in tribute to CAISO, a coalition recently formed to promote an inclusive, 20/20 vision of sexual orientation and citizenship in T&T. Robinson is one of two authors of the group's new blog at gspottt.wordpress.com