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Whither calypso?

Thursday, January 16, 2014

It is because the Carnival, the arts which give life and meaning to the festival, and its economic, political and cultural connections reach so deeply into people’s lives that they are so capable of sparking controversy and conflict. In his time, Albert Gomes, supporter and patron of Carnival arts, said the calypso tells us how we have “lived, loved and sinned.”


No surprise, therefore, that calypsonian Bodyguard's interpretation of the phenomenon of False Papers has stirred an early and unnerving (for many) convulsion. False Papers refers to the fact that the likes of Reshmi Ramnarine and Omar Khan are said to have claimed academic qualifications which were not supported by substantiating certificates. The lyrics of the kaiso touch on what composer Gregory Ballantyne (GB) sees as the ethnic tendencies of groups of Indo-Trinis and contrast them with what happens in the Afro community.


In a calypso twist, GB and Bodyguard denounce the claim made a few years ago by General Secretary of the Maha Sabha Satnarayan Maharaj to the effect that the reason for the success of Indo-Trini students at school is because they are studying while their counterparts in the Afro-Trini population are occupying their time “beating pan.” “When yuh feel dey was beating more book than the African, dey was fabricating degrees, defrauding the land…I am yet to see one single African in the lot,” goes a line in the chorus of False Papers.