This is not my normal write, but surely within my right. And perhaps, it may be unusual for someone who typically scripts political, to enter into the grand stand of calypso music. More so, a commentary from an "Indo Trinidadian" on soca is perhaps as rare as good governance in T&T. But wait, let me not go political here.
This is merely a view on what I perceive as the most infectious piece of soca within my recent memory. The Savannah Grass by Kees Dieffenthaller and the band Kes is musically captivating and beguiling. The almost transcendent blend captures T&T’s Carnival in song and mirrors the history of not just that art form, but the cultural identity of a vibrant people who have all walked on the grass.
The song carries far greater meaning than which pounds into the obvious ear. The Savannah to which Kes refers represents all that we are. It is a place where we meet, walk, and talk. It is a place to run and have fun. It is the view from the exotic Hilton hotel poolside, but yet a place to savour a more islandic coconut water. And it is a sight which touches upon the passion, pulse and heartbeat of a nation.
But it is not just that iconic Savannah which the song so skilfully plays into metaphorical use. T&T is a place of savannahs. We all grew up close to one. The cricketers, footballers, athletes all took first stage in a ‘savannah’. And every school in our country has its own savannah which offers welcome leisure after the toil of the classroom.
That is why Kes’ call to come down from the mountain unto the savannah is culturally resplendent and defines a nation which must recognise the 'grassroots' from which it germinated. There is splendid nostalgia in the song, a longing towards freedom and unrestrained bliss. It is not a call to "move to the left, wine to the ground, get something and wave or to rant, rave, and misbehave". Much more, it is a skillful marriage of our exquisite Carnival with the natural beauty of the Savannah and is subliminally poetic of who we are, where we have been and surely where we must cross in our march for victory.
Kees Dieffenthaller has himself admitted that "this song is about culture. It was made for all the people who work sleepless nights to make Carnival what it is and it was made for you to reclaim your power and freedom of choice". His was an open call for a review of the method used in judging the prestigious title of "road march".
And indeed, the time has come when Carnival enthusiasts must demand an examination of the manner in which this title is judged. It is a contradiction and paradox for Carnival to represent cultural liberty and expression, yet large band leaders and disc jockeys can dictate which song is played when, where and how many times.
As the season approaches its crescendo, Savannah Grass continues to grow, sprouting in homes, buses, taxis, and fetes. It has already seemingly won the title of 'radio march' and 'party march'. And it’s incubation, germination, and spread is sure to hit our streets on Carnival Monday and Tuesday.