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A recession-proof Kalypso Revue
The idea and word “recession” may be on lips and minds all over the country, but it was notably absent from the Kalypso Revue tent on Saturday night at SWWTU Hall on Wrightson Road, Port-of-Spain. Instead there were celebration, excess and triumphalism in audience and the show.
A sold-out audience included the eminent personages of the Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley, who received a hero’s welcome; his long-time sidekick Minister Fitzgerald Hinds; and, the PM’s doppelganger, Jack Warner, who received a number of backhanded compliments through the night. In fact, the most restrained element of the show was the MC, Sprangalang, who was decidedly low-key, not always a wise choice in a calypso tent, but it worked well for him amidst the waves of ebullience.
The overarching theme of the evening clarified explicitly mid-way into the show with Skatie addressing the Prime Minister (who sat at the foot of the stage): “We back on track again / with Rowley driving the train” because of which he saw, “A light on the horizon.”
Naturally this was all against a backdrop of last year’s election, wherein “we” got rid of “termites and parasites,” who took the majority of licks. Skatie also had a few words for Mr Warner, which he was able to direct to him face to face, as Mr Warner was seated a few feet away from the Prime Minister: “Everybody know he spend Fifa money by the million…but when the time came, “the cabal know it was time to get rid of this jackass.” Mr Warner took it with all the humour that could be expected of a man embroiled in extradition proceedings.
And so it went—from the biblical to the legalistic to the civic, from moral outrage to sly barbs delivered by Chalkdust (When Trini Get Vex) and Pink Panther (The Election Over). Thirteen of the 26 singers put their mouths from a variety of angles on the previous government.
Marlon Edwards, whose Bun Dem from last year is still on my mind, invoked biblical mythology and historical destiny to welcome the PNM back: “The forces of hell put us to the test...Dr Williams, Ellis Clarke were architects of our country…we were forged from the fires of liberty” conflating biblical with historical nationalist sentiments to confront the notion of the UNC. He was echoed by Devon Seales’ Respect God Voice, throwing back at the Opposition Leader her own words: “The voice of the people you say is the voice of God / the people have made they choice, respect they voice.”
In less ecclesiastical terms, Wendell Goodridge sang Lock Dem U” with a kind word for Mr Warner, who, when the previous government’s “ministers play hide and seek / thanks to Jack we get a peek …They think we chupidee / they try to mamaguy we.”
The Original Tempo’s In mih lawyers hands went for extended metaphor, casting the 2010 to 2015 government of the country as the citizenry’s marriage to a deceitful woman. He also managed to load in there the “Fifa money that finance the UN,” and that under the last government, “African eh get no land only Cepep wuk” because “it was always they plan / to mash up the land…after they vandalise the treasury / to fix they self and they family.”
Also clear early on was an interesting theme lurking around the corners of the evening: the opposition of UNC against “we” Trinidadians. But that’s as far as it got—no open racial expatiation—and it wasn’t just about acrimony. There was praise for two PNM ministers. Michelle Henry’s Ask Yourself was a paean to Colm Imbert facing down the Opposition on the finance committee with his blunt style: “Ask yuhself who have the country in misery…who drain the overdraft hiring lawyers.”
Makeda Darius paid a more conventional tribute to Tobago MP and Minister of Tourism Shamfa Cudjoe, enjoining her with reeducating Kamla, rewriting history, and correcting memory, to wit: “my history you want to switch, you son of a bitch...all the fabric she tear Rowley must repair,” and so forth.
Alana Sinette managed to be less pedestrian with her clever Moron / Oxymoron, showing the difference between one and the other, to wit, vote for the UNC, you’re a moron; putting UNC and honest in the same sentence, oxymoron—illustrations ranged from Sepp Blatter to Roodal Moonilal and Gary Griffith and the word “quiet.”
Away from these big themes of triumphalism and un-subtle PNM celebration, were the subtler themes of rewriting history and creating new memories, or re-framing the memories of the PNM’s constituency. If only there were sociologists, historians, and/or anthropologists studying this.
The rest of the show focused in traditional areas—nation building, humour, social issues and so forth. But by far the most fascinating performance of the evening came from Sugar Aloes, now something of a hero/martyr, who kept the Revue alive during the dark PP years. A relaxed, almost seigneurial Aloes delivered his two songs, Collaboration and Why do the Heathen Rage, whose (the latter’s) message was captured in its first line: “What goes around comes around,” —cliché, but representing hard-earned wisdom.
Starr George sang in tribute to Jit Samaroo and Kitchener, and Malaika Ballantyne’s Trini Vibe was the typical “nation building” calypso. In a more pointed vein, Mahalia Regis examined Too much race talk, an account of the PNM/urban black constituency’s desires and understanding of racism: apparently most of the race and racism talk is directed against Africans by guess who? If only it would stop and we’d all just get along.
Also on the topic of simplistic racial rapprochement Bevon St Clair came out in a Indian bridegroom’s wedding groom outfit. He wants to see the rainbow, but his understanding of history and how it evolved were fairly monochromatic, conforming to the standard “Creole” Afrocentric narrative. Still, the desire for rapprochement is not to be sneezed at.
There was the statutory visitation of violence to women, in Tenielle Cooper’s Something Wrong. She raised the interesting point that some women’s whole lives are punctuated by violence (licks from granny, from daddy, etc), so in later life they expect to be beaten as a sign of care: “I always associate love with licks.” Continuing on the theme was Marissa Ransome’s Shoulda Invest Time, about parenting, single mothers, and the fate of black children. Warrior Empress’s line in Black and Ready led in from the PNM’s “Red and Ready” elections tag, to despair at the black population’s seeming inability to get out of the mire of underachievement.
All in all, a most entertaining night, satisfying for the PNM constituency, and gratifying for the government, and the calypso was pretty good too. Also revealed were the usual insights into the PNM’s constituency’s view of the world, of race, of itself. Having looked at it for a number of years, it appears that worldview is changing—there is a creeping realisation of self-sabotage in profligate breeding and bad parenting, and CEPEP culture. Hopefully, the PM, who was addressed directly by many of the performers, took notes.