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Thursday, April 24, 2014
Trinidad & Tobago Guardian Online
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Phenomenal, lovely atmosphere
A blast from the past returned this place—sans humanite—to its humanity. You look right for a sign that we are still human in this town, and it comes from the left. Life, they say, is such that you never know what’s around the corner. I foresaw the departure of MacFarlane, perhaps even before he did; his was an unsustainable enterprise for more reasons than finance.
But I didn’t see the sprouting of K2K Alliance last year and this—poised, young, elegant and sophisticated—coming to take the mas somewhere unexpected and as yet unexplored. They came from out of the blue.
As did Super! Super! Super! Who would have known that this was the year when soca would turn a corner? Who could see that it would be Blue who would return poetry to banal rhyme? Phenomenal. Lovely atmosphere. Who could see that the inventor of the wave would resurrect to own the bounce?
And you telling me that for 21 years no one thought to conceptualise a soca monarch contender called Fantastic Friday? That is genius—doing something that everyone sees as obvious, except the seeing is after the fact, the obvious only so after it has been done.
From the moment that horn made the sound of the conch shell, that echo marking moments beyond the boundary, most of us knew that a special thing was happening. You watch Soca Monarch? (Between Machel’s and SuperBlue’s performances, there was Swappi with a soca aberration.) A country willed a man to sing, and be well. Tens of thousands performed for him, just in case he couldn’t perform himself. Beaver saw it too.
Compassion, love, promise—this nation’s humanity—that retreated, like SuperBlue, was restored that night. Three o’clock in the morning, wind chilly and fever rising, Super testifying and us praying for a day like today, bright and shining, and that day was every day. Everyone with a rag and a flag and a smile on their face—wait for it—Lordy dordy. People cried.
Then out of the blue comes this: If the Lord is our shepherd, whom shall we fear? We feared for ourselves, and for Blue—feared that this is transient, that something will pull him and us back into despair, that water would be more than powder. When, I ask you, has a soca artiste ever just came to say I love you?
(And Smokey and Bunty replied: We love you, SuperBlue.) When the fetes are too big, the stage too high and too far, when we are detached from the thing, jammed against fences, stretching stretching for a touch of a singer’s finger tip, when last, I ask you, has there been this intimacy between singer and chorus?
Sincerely from our hearts, we celebrated his, knowing his heart and mind have travelled thousands of miles of darkness and now, we pray and we pray for endless bright and shining days for him.
That wished was expressed again and again this Carnival, even at the maligned Dimanche Gras where, walking onto that enormous stage, Super looked this way and that, paused the way he does now, and talked about how many memories flooded his mind in the Big Yard. The last time I saw him there was in 1991 when he performed another of his firsts—the first calypsonian to make the Calypso Monarch final with two party songs—Get Something and Wave and Virginia.
Keith Smith, Deborah John and I watching this magician, and then watching each other quizzically because he sang Get Something and Wave in the first round and we thought he would save it for his finale. We remember that Road March and his famous women—Ethel, Rebecca, Lucy—but there was also the poetry of Virginia—women will slander/men will admire/but roll up yuh bum bum/shake up yuh bum bum/wine Virginia wine.
This as he recalled his last time on that stage and then slowed Ethel and Soca Baptist for a Grand Stand appreciation.
Machel knew what was happening, he knew Super had us dancing for freedom and love, had hopes flying high above the wasteland. To his merit, he conceived Float to rise to the challenge. If we hear nothing good about Machel this Carnival, we have to acknowledge that he is the only artiste who could challenge a legend; therein is testimony of Machel’s talent, experience and gift.
As Super was emotional, so was Machel, and the photo of that Blue kiss on Machel’s head was enough to tell us we have to extend our humanity to Machel too, the boy-turn-man who is also, no matter what he might say, in his own darkness.
This road march licking is historic. Fantastic Friday has won by the widest margin in the history of the road march competition, beating—you done know how this thing does go—Machel’s Jumbie (2007) which played 388 times compared to Shurwayne Winchester’s distant Open De Gate which played a miserable 34 times. At that time, Machel described his victory as “divine.” The commonalities are uncanny.
Exalted by one generation, Super has entranced another, and this one, it seems to me, needs him more. Watch out my children, he began, decades after Sesame Street. Blue has spoken from the heart to the hearts of a generation in need of lift. And if, as the sunrise, they open their eyes, they, like us who know Blue and his blues, might sing away theirs. Thank God for soca.
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