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There’s hope in the music

Monday, February 24, 2014

Violence and a horrific crime that hit home and was shamelessly ignored by the police defined last year’s Carnival season for me. Needless to say bad memories make me a brutal judge of Carnival so imagine my shock when I switched on the radio and actually liked and enjoyed this year’s music. I find myself revelling in nostalgia for the days when I walked up George Street to visit Growling Tiger, the first official calypso monarch of T&T. 


Much of this year’s music reminds me of conversations with Tiger, who subscribed unknowingly to the Guyanese magical realist writer Wilson Harris’s theory of fossil memories. Old, unrecorded melodies and rhythms, he once told me, would crop up in the music of new generations of calypsonians who could have never heard that music. 


Music, Tiger believed, is a memory in our blood. I wouldn’t go so far as to say any singer of this year’s hits has broken through some magical realist barrier to the past, but the essence of Tiger’s theory is alive and well in a generation of singers who are reaching back to calypso’s roots. Witness Farmer Nappy’s haunting horn lines in Big People Party or the marriage of humorous lyrics and rhythmic melody in Cassie’s Man in de House, evoking some semblance of Spoiler.