Following Caribbean development over a period of years very often leads to an almost chronic sense of exasperation over the continued failure of our societies to intervene decisively on questions...
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SuperBlue’s praise and warning
Has this been the most complex, most self-searching, yet free-spirited leggo (road march) of all time? Has an artiste ever bared his soul, thanked God for his deliverance, warned a generation about the dangers of drug abuse and addiction, yet so freed the spirit of a nation to bounce and celebrate the rhythms of a people in the manner that SuperBlue/ Blue Boy has done with his song, so innocently yet so meaningfully titled Fantastic Friday?
Maybe there has been, but with typical myopia, we in this generation may want to believe that this cosmic revelation (to borrow from historian Rudy Piggott) has come in our times because of our genius. Fantastic Friday is a praise song in the manner of Rudder’s thankfulness for the father giving the vibrations for “the ragamuffin (a sense of people being so unworthy in themselves) to congregate,” to receive blessings notwithstanding their intrinsic unworthiness.
But it is also a warning, as SuperBlue demonstrated on the night of Fantastic Friday when he used the spiritual father of the soca, Ras Shorty I, to warn a generation of the mind-bending and body-demolishing job caused by “the lady with the bag of white powder who don’t want to powder yuh face but bring shame and disgrace to the human race.”
Listen to it in the all but destroyed vocals of SuperBlue struggling for articulation; see it in his movements, still rhythmic but nowhere near the sure-footedness and smooth-flowing Blue Boy of 1980 when he came from Baptist Road in Point with a chant.
Now heralding his return is the sound of the bugle, still within his spiritual field and for his benefit, the bell of the mother welcoming, warning, admonishing, announcing the sailor come ashore, at the same time portending freedom to all who are willing to submit to the power of the peals.
“Well, ah pray and ah pray for a day like today, bright and shining… if the Lord is our Shepherd who shall we fear…de party start, Fantastic Friday…sincerely from your heart thank God it’s Friday…a voice from out d blue, thank God it’s Friday.” Freedom day for a voice, a spirit, a human who has undergone degradation, ridicule and at times reduced to being less than human: “Halle, Hallelujah, thank God for soca.”
The true High Priest of Soca of the times sings “to inform, educate, culturally,” to teach that there are storylines beyond jamming some woman or drinking rum. His composition challenges the young soca artistes to look for lyrics, to search for and to create melodies that will contain the energy of the times.
“Ah wining but decently”—the message Blue Boy sent a couple decades ago in Rebecca remains relevant in Fantastic Friday. In the composition, there is not one line, one urging of the crowd to get on “wassi,” however that is spelt. Yet SuperBlue has been able to find the lyrics and the energy of rhythm to allow the Carnival to be spontaneous, to celebrate to give vent to the urge to celebrate, but to do so within limits imposed by propriety and good sense.
And this is where SuperBlue has done what the truly great calypsonians and soca artistes have achieved: span eras of time and still be relevant. He has marched into the times of Machel, Iwer, Bunji, Kees, Fay-Ann, Swappi and others and not only out-created them, but has done so by setting down markers for the next age of soca—meaningful themes (storytelling) couched in a story format that has interest, even intrigue.
Can the new breed of soca artistes take up the challenge? SuperBlue has stated that he has created compositions for 2014. The challenge will be for the young artistes to create anew and not seek to outdo each other by flying through space in a Superman costume but through quality music and the theme-oriented lyrical compositions.
Now what of the man himself? As first expressed in a column three weeks ago, win, lose or draw, SuperBlue will require reintegration, continuing rehabilitation and support to “make it through the night.” The standard response of this society has been to sit back, judge, wag fingers at and “run we mouth” on those who have fallen off the track.
From our international experience, those caught in the vice-like grip of substance abuse cannot by themselves wrench free. Many have wriggled free temporarily only to be once again entangled.
Required is institutional support for a man who has struggled with his demons. Super, undoubtedly with the assistance of others and in answer to his own prayers, has shown himself willing and capable of returning; he needs additional support. He needs the continuing love and assistance from the tens of thousands who reached out to him during the Carnival.
The takeaway message from Fantastic Friday to the national community must be to wonder at the quality and quantity of resources being lost to the drug menace and the need for us to free a missing generation.