Calypso takes to the high seas this month as Trinbago Unified Calypsonians Organisation (TUCO) celebrates Calypso History Month. The month was officially ushered in on Wednesday, at a specially produced show, held at De Nu Pub (The Mas Camp), in Woodbrook. TUCO chairman Lutalo Masimba (Brother Resistance) explained: “We wanted to present the art form in its purest form, with just acoustic accompaniment. It was really a successful production, both performance and attendance wise.” Headline acts included David Berreaux & Friends; Brigo, accompanied by guitarist Vincent Rivers; Black Prince; and an extempore showdown between reigning extempore champion Lady Africa and Black Sage. Masimba said the month is filled with many fun-filled and enlightening activities. He said the blue riband item is the commemoration of 100 years of calypso recording. He revealed this will be a collaboration between the National Archives, Nalis, Carnival Institute and TUCO.
TUCO will spearhead an exhibition that identifies the timeline of calypso recordings for the past 100 years. “That is the centrepiece of activity for Calypso History Month,” said Masimba. The exhibition will be mounted at the National Archives for two weeks, from October 12, before being mounted at Nalis for another two weeks. During Calypso History Month, TUCO also intends to host school tours and workshops, as well holding lectures and workshops at libraries nationwide. A thanksgiving church service is also scheduled for October 21, at 11 am, at Cathedral of the Holy Trinity in Port-of-Spain. Masimba said: “At the service TUCO will celebrate calypso and commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Calypso Revue tent. After the church, from 12.30 pm, Revue calypsonians will participate in an ‘open mic’ session at SWWTU Hall. Calypsonians can just walk with their music and perform throughout the day. “Simultaneously, in the east, at a venue to be finalised, calypsonians will have a similar show from 3 pm.” As the month of thanksgiving and celebration winds down, TUCO will hold a boat cruise on October 27, aboard Iwer George’s Coral Vision, at 7 pm.
What about elections?
While Pan Trinbago is supposed to hold its elections of officers this month, no date is set for the TUCO elections. Masimba explained: “There are two schools of thought as to when we should hold TUCO elections. Some people want it as soon as possible, at the end of November, while others want it to be held after Carnival 2013. “I’d prefer that it was held the end of November as, in that way, the new executive would be going into Carnival with a mandate and endorsement from the body. “We have been through some rough waters as we have spent the past six years in court, during which time we had no elections. “Since the departure of Pink Panther as the chairman before me since 2010, I have had the challenge of holding this organisation together. I have given it my best shot, working with the conditions I met when I began.”
Citing achievements since his tenure as chairman began, Masimba said: “By way of productions we haven’t done as much as I would have liked. However, there has been considerable improvement in organisational structure of the organisation and its finances. “For instance, we now have a finance committee, something that is of vital important to the life line of any organisation. I can also now boast of TUCO’s accounts being audited, on time, and the executive providing the membership with transparency. Our organisation is also now fully computerised. “We have been successful these last two years in the promotion and marketing of the calypso art form and the welfare of the membership. A major achievement has been the substantial increase in prize money for the national calypso monarch competition. “This year has been a bountiful one for the calypso art form. Partnering with the Ministry of Arts & Multiculturalism we have been able to deliver on some major events, especially the 50th Anniversary of Independence Calypso Monarch Competition. “The commitment of our administrative staff is out of this world and exemplary. They go beyond and above the call of duty...day in day out. I feel extremely fortunate to head an organisation that has such a committed staff.”
Future of calypso
Looking ahead, Masimba articulated his vision for the future thrust of TUCO and calypso. “We have been lobbying with the Ministry of Education to make sure that we get our artistes going into schools, as artistes in residence. This is part of our outreach programme. “In addition to which, we continue to struggle for a broadcast license. We have been trying to acquire one since 1999. The last thing TUCO was told was that there isn’t band space on the airwaves, and that the band space has to be audited. This has been so for more than two years. On the positive side though, we had a promising meeting with Communications Minister Jamal Mohammed. “A broadcast licence is fundamental to the work of TUCO and its longevity. “Other TUCO positives include the work we’ve initiated on a health and injury compensation plan for our members. We are also going full steam ahead on establishing a pension plan. We are intent on taking care of the general welfare of our members, especially to ensure that the social requirements of the elders in art form are met by the organisation. It is imperative that we do so, acknowledging that it is because of the path they walked it’s why we are here today, and reaping and enjoying the fruits of their labour.”
Lutala Masimba (Brother Resistance)
A graduate of Queen’s Royal College and UWI, Lutalo Masimba is the founder of Network Riddim Band of East Port-of-Spain. Inspired in the 70s by legendary griot Lancelot Layne, Masimba, adopting the monicker of Brother Resistance, perpetuated “Rapso”, a hybrid of calypso and poetry. Masimba assumed the chairmanship of Trinbago Unified Calypsonians Organisation (TUCO) when then chairman Pink Panther (Eric Taylor) vacated the post to venture into the realm of politics.