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Hook, line and Sinckler

Matthew Farley

Hook, line and Sinckler

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And I go for it everytime, just like a heavy drinker, I go for it every time, hook, line and sinker. – Jon Brion
When a bajan who was born either in the parish of St George or St Thomas goes fishing, one waits to see how much success they have at sea. When a father is taken fishing by his children, daughters as they are, the notion of the “child being the father of the man” is perhaps apt.
On another level, while my daughters and I were grappling with hooking the bait onto the line for maximum impact, the National Cultural Foundation (NCF) was preparing a special bait perceived by some of this year’s calypsonians as intending to bowdlerize and trap them, if not extract the sting from their lyrical tail.
The overall backdrop for all of this is being provided by a sense of heightened expectation as we await the promised Chris Sinckler Budget due before the summer heat subsides. At the end of the day,
I hope my readers will swallow my bait “hook, line and sinker”.
Last Friday night, I joined two of my daughters and some of their friends in a fishing expedition on the South Coast of Barbados.
At first, like any responsible father would be, I was more concerned about their safety, rather than with our capacity to catch fish. The setting was exciting and bordering on the exotic.
Fishing in this location on weekends was nothing new, since I have been joining thousands of visitors and Barbadians alike fishing successfully in Uncle George’s fishnet as he skilfully grilled our catch into an all-inclusive seafood delightful package.
Obviously this fishing trip was different. One could put many different spins on the act of  “a father going fishing with his daughters”.
Young and beautiful as they are, I really hope that they would be successful in their fishing exploits both at sea and in life. So here was I on the jetty that, like a peninsula, extends its sturdy structure into the ocean.
Once I got over my initial fears and settled my nerves, I was able to look northward and survey the nocturnal beauty of Oistins by night as it sits on a bed of pulsating music that perhaps attracts both humans and fish, albeit in different ways.
My status changed from headmaster and from father to student. They literally stood me up and taught me three lessons. My first was how to attach the bait to the hook.
This had to be done with utmost care in order to avoid being injured by your own hook and find yourself as it were, being “bitten by your own dog”.
Then I was taught how to swing and sling the line into the sea below in such a way that it settles into the deep while awaiting its prey.
The third and perhaps most important lesson was sensing and discerning through the line in hand when a fish is biting, has bitten and is caught.
While neither my eldest daughter nor I caught any fish, we celebrated the success of my youngest, who caught two in quick succession.
As hunger crept into our night stomachs we retired to where catching fish was easier, less adventurous but more appetizing.
We left with unanimous determination that on returning next week, without any NCF mandate, we would change our lines and use different hooks.
Talking about changing lines though, this year’s festival is now not without its controversy since we are debating the fairness, in the NCF asking five calypsonians to change the lines and words in seven songs.
One well known proponent of the art form, who described a well known educator as “dumpsy” a few years ago, has charged that there is an attempt to stop calypsonians from being hard-hitting and contends that watered-down lyrics that are pre-approved by the NCF is a dangerous trend. Yet another, who lost his voice this year, laments the difficulty in writing calypsos in Barbados.  
Without appearing to be an advocate for censoring the art form and stifling creativity, I really do not feel there is any merit in allowing the artistes to say whatever they want to say about people. At the core of this issue is that most of today’s practising calypsonians lack the skill necessary for writing a “safe” calypso.
Writers who understand the real dynamics of writing and who can romance language to extract its subtle and hidden meaning will not be asked to change lines or words.
Our failure lies in our inability to teach the art of kaiso writing. If the future of this art form rests on our ability to be offensive and to “bite” people lyrically without tact, then we have a problem. Yes, protest is at the core of the calypso art form, but protest and offence are not synonyms.
In conclusion, while we listen to the Chris Sinckler plan in De Announcer’s song and await Chris Sinckler’s promised Budget, let us hope the tightening economic crisis does not force us to change, not just our lines, but our lives “hook, line and sinker”.