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GB shocked by decision
There was division within the calypso fraternity yesterday after False Papers, a calypso performed by Roger “Bodyguard” Mohammed, was rejected by the Kalypso Revue calypso tent, managed by Michael “Sugar Aloes” Osouna for the 2014 season. On one side were the members of the fraternity upset by the decision, who called the move an act to censor calypsonians, who have traditionally been given licence to sing on wide-ranging issues affecting society.
On the other side were those who believe calypso tents reserve the right to make choices in the interest of the public. Bodyguard, a police officer, and the song’s composer, Gregory “GB” Ballantyne, have expressed dissatisfaction over the treatment meted out by Osouna. But in an interview with the T&T Guardian yesterday, Osouna defended his decision, saying he believed the calypso was divisive because it was unfairly attacking Indo-Trinidadians.
“Bodyguard brought a CD for me to hear a song which I found was a nice song, but didn’t think it was appropriate for the Kalypso Revue tent,” Osouna said. “I find that the song has some racial undertones which I find are uncalled for. As a businessman I cannot pay somebody to insult my audience.” Noting that Bodyguard makes no specific reference to any particular individual in the song, Aloes said he felt it could have been tempered or smoothed.
“It would not be fair if seven Africans commit a crime and a calypsonian of the same ethnic group sings that Africans are rapists and murderers. If you are accusing somebody, call names and do not attack an entire group of people,” he said. “When I sing my songs I call names. I have attacked Panday and Sat Maharaj in the past and called their names. Sat was wrong for what he said some years ago. “But if what Sat said years ago was wrong, how can Bodyguard be right this year? Two wrongs don’t make a right.”
On a call-in programme on I95FM yesterday, Osouna was criticised for the decision. Many callers noted that he had made a name for himself with calypsoes which often denigrated segments of society and created controversy and division. Aloes admitted yesterday that many people, including the selectors of casts from other calypso tents, had criticised his stance. “People are claiming that calypso is not a business,” the two-time national calypso monarch said.
“People say that calypso is an art form. I contend the calypso tent is also a business, and a very serious one at that. Every tent that has collapsed through the years did so because of poor business practices.” He said his decision was strictly a business one and he had no animosity towards Mohammed. “I have nothing personal against Bodyguard...He sang in my tent as recently as two years ago,” Aloes said.
“Just last year, in my tent, Alana Sinnette was singing No Moral Authority, and Michele Henry sang Clause 34, two scathing commentaries against the government, and I took both of them in. Yet there are people out there who are attacking me, claiming that I have sold out. “Bodyguard is wrong to suggest that I am censoring his song or a calypso.”
‘Nothing wrong with song’
But Ballantyne, the song’s composer, expressed shock at Aloes’ reaction to his song. He said, “I don’t know what is wrong with the song. I find it strange that a man like Sugar Aloes, a man who I have put in Dimanche Gras at least three times before, and who is singing two songs of mine this year—Traffic Light Politics and Changes—could make a comparison between Chalkdust and I as composers.
“He claimed that Chalkdust would have done a more skilful job at composing the song. I am particularly disappointed in Aloes and his comments.” Also contacted yesterday, Trinbago Unified Calypsonians Organisation (Tuco) president Lutalo “Bro Resistance” Masimba, who also heads the Kaiso House calypso tent at the Queen’s Park Savannah, admitted to not having assessed the song as yet, but defended a tent’s right to select songs that would not offend the public.
“I haven’t been able to assess the song. The management of a tent has the right to select songs that will enhance its programme and build the capacity of the song to entertain an audience. It is the responsibility of a tent’s management to reject any song that it deems would be unsavoury or unpleasant to patrons.”