In the space of one week, the country has lost three icons of the arts in calypsonian The Mighty Bomber, soca parang artiste Kenny J and yesterday extempo/kaiso/jazz music pioneer, Clive ‘Zanda’ Alexander.
All three were veterans in their particular artforms who have for years given of their time and talent to Trinidad and Tobago.
Like many others in the fields of culture, their deaths have come in their seasons—Kenny J dying just as the Christmas season was coming to a close and Bomber and Zanda passing at the start of what would have been the T&T Carnival season.
Kenny J would have had one last moment to say ‘Adieu’, having, among other things, performed at the Parang With Rome concert at the Naparima Bowl amphitheatre on December 12.
Soca parang aside, the “Alexander,” “Paintbrush” and “Hush Yuh Mouth” singer also had a calypso repertoire, having placed second in the National Calypso Monarch finals with “Addicted to Sweet Soca’ and “Leave She Alone” in 1990.
In normal times, Bomber and Zanda would have been already been gearing up to play their parts in this year’s Carnival festivities, be it the calypso tents or in some of the private and public events that dominate the season.
Their passings have not gone unnoticed, particularly because of they died within the space of five days.
Bomber has for years graced the stages of cultural events dating back to the time when other giants in calypso walked the land.
He was well known for his humorous lyrics that told stories from the first verse to the last beat and is immortalised in several recordings in which masters of ceremony can be heard bellowing, “Bomber...Bomber” as the crowd called for an encore.
‘Zanda’, a self-taught musician who started making music at the age of 10 was widely regarded as the creator of the fusion of folk, jazz and calypso music.
Also a veteran in the artform, he released his first album in 1976 called ‘Clive Alexander is Here! with Dat Kinda Ting.’
His outstanding contribution to the kaiso jazz genre leaves T&T with a rich musical legacy for generations to come.
T&T owes it to these geniuses and others like them, not to let their contributions fade into distant memories over the years to come.
Fortunately, with the advent of Youtube in 2005 and other music and video content holders, revisiting their creations are made much easier today.
But we must do more to make their memories flourish in the place where they lived and performed.
We have a weak culture of passing on our cultural legacies in the education system in any major way, outside of a few tertiary education programmes in the arts.
Perhaps the time has come for the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and The Arts to consider the creation of a museum of T&T culture—a place where students, residents and foreigners can visit to learn about those who left behind their excellence in mas, steelpan, dance and music of all genres.
We have the history, the music archives, the instruments, videos, photos and much more.
Most importantly, we have the ability to capture audiences with magnificent displays.
There can be few honours that can be given to those who shaped our thinking, forged our nationhood and stimulated our emotions over the years than by giving them a chance to be remembered and taught about, for years to come.
As the old adage goes, ‘By calypso our stories are told’.
They’ve told the stories of T&T. It’s time for us to tell theirs.