“Songshine was a kind of miracle. I was lucky enough to be part of making it happen.” — Gillian Moor
Roger Mohammed, better known in the calypso fraternity as “Bodyguard”, has shot back at Michael “Sugar Aloes” Osouna, saying he (Osouna) has no moral authority to talk about racism. Mohammed’s comment come in the wake of Osouna’s decision to reject him and his song False Papers for the Kalypso Revue tent this season.
Osouna, the manager of the Revue tent and a veteran calypsonian known for his controversial calypsoes, has rejected the song because he says it is offensive, racist, unfairly attacked members of the Indo-Trinidadian community and would serve to divide Afro-Trinidadians and Indo-Trinidadians. But in an interview yesterday, Mohammed charged that Osouna was also responsible for “almost single-handedly running the majority of “East Indians” out of calypso tents.
Defending his song, Mohammed said it was simply a reflection of what has been reported in the media. “The song talks about the people who were caught with false papers and these people happen to be East Indians. “From Reshmi Ramnarine to others. I cannot talk about the Syrians or Chinese because they have not been caught doing this. I am just doing my job as a calypsonian,” Mohammed said.
Ramnarine, a former head of the Strategic Services Agency (SSA), resigned in January, 2011, after it was revealed she lied about her academic qualifications. A police corporal assigned to the Guard and Emergency Branch (GEB), Mohammed said the genesis of the song came from the statements attributed to general secretary of the Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha, Sat Maharaj, who objected to the idea of the steelpan in schools when it was suggested as part of the curriculum.
“Basically, what Mr Maharaj was saying is that while East Indian children would be beating books, the African children would be beating pan... my song was born out of this statement many years ago. “I am totally in disagreement with Sugar Aloes. He is practising a very high level of hypocrisy. He has no moral authority to tell me anything about my song,” Mohammed said.
Accusing Osouna of also displaying double standards, Mohammed recalled Osouna’s song about Oma Panday, wife of former prime minister Basdeo Panday, while Panday was in office. “Sugar Aloes also sang about a former female government minister years ago and this was very offensive,” he said. Insisting Osouna had no right to criticise his selection, Mohammed said he believed Osouna rejected his song because of financial reasons.
“I believe Sugar Aloes does not want to offend the present regime so as not to get finance for the tent,” he said. “Some people are of the view that from the time you say African or Indian you are racist. It is in the context which you use it.” He said because of his mixed heritage he could not be accused of being racist, as he has “Indian blood” running through his veins but looked predominantly African.
Asked if the song would be performed in other tents, Mohammed said the cut-off date for auditions and selecting a cast were already gone. He said by the time Osouna had refused him, the other tents had already selected their casts, which was late last month. He attributed his tardiness in getting to other auditions before to his job which he described as “very demanding.”
“My time was also clashing on a regular basis with Leston Paul who is also very busy. But right after the studio I took the CD and went to Sugar Aloes’ residence and it was rejected. “By the time I went to the other tents it was simply too late. So the song is now unattached and I will have to perform it as such.”
Contacted yesterday, several senior calypsonians lent their support to Mohammed, describing the song as “very good.” They added, however, that since Osouna was the manager of the tent he had the final say.
Selected excerpts from False Papers
It easy to say Sat will be Sat
And try to ignore people like dat
But Sat Maharaj controls a large group in society
So when he makes a definitive declaration
It carries a lot of clout
We feel he know what he talkin bout
But time has a way
Of recycling the tings we say
And holding them up against logic and reason
So when Sat say ‘Indian children beating book
‘While black children beating pan’
No cousin! Is better yuh didn’t say nuttin
Cause recently, one setta Indian people get caught
Wid false papers, false papers
I’m yet to see, one single African in the lot
And not one of them fraudsters ever face a court
So yuh theory have more holes than a water can
Like is better some ah dem Indian did beat a pan
When yuh feel dey was beating more book than the African
Dey was fabricating degrees, defrauding the land
Doh bother to say dat I on race
Such red herrings are well out of place
I’m simply putting Sat’s statement on the altar of truth
For too long so-called leaders in this country
Have abused media access
Causing divisiveness and unrest
If Cudjoe or Khambon should rage
And say something that’s off the page
You will jump up to defend your race and religion
So yuh poison pen ah cyar condone
Stop pushing that racist undertone and lies
The evidence says otherwise
So you tell me, how so much Indian people get caught?
Wid false papers, false papers
While conversely, not one African in the lot
Plenty black people study and work hard for what they got
A good degree could stand scrutiny for decades after
But the false ones disappear like nougat sweetie paper
And like they try to put ah African inside dey cancar
But dey bounce dey head because W..... M..... is a dougla.