WILD COOT: All Trinis not bad
It is about time that I apologize to my Trinidadian friends; and there are many.
In fact, there was one, now deceased, who shared digs with me in London for almost three years when I was a student. He was a true friend and ranked among the 90 per cent not corrupt. Maybe the other ten per cent gives the country a bad reputation.
There is a side to Trinidadians other than the one I have been painting; a side that also demands world attention. This side has to do with its music and creativity. There is no doubt that the development of the calypso into an art form owes its worldwide interest to the fact that Trinidadian artistes promoted it extensively.
We could hardly think of this without mentioning the two doyens of the art: Lord Kitchener and The Mighty Sparrow. Lord Kitchener is gone, and The Mighty Sparrow is now a shadow of his former self, but his captivating majestic command and influence will live for a long time.
Calypso, as a social shadowing of the political panorama of Trinidad, the Caribbean and sometimes the world, deserves more than the limited acceptance it has achieved worldwide.
In this regard, we compare it with Jamaican reggae and the popularity and worldwide success Bob Marley generated in his short life.
Lord Kitchener pushed the calypso art form for over half a century, some of the time in Europe. He has decorated the annals of history with songs capturing the life of early immigrants in England.
However the art forms that command centre stage in Trinidad and have captured the world are the steel pan, carnival, and the creative costumes that emanate in the flow. Steel band pannists were able to reproduce scores of lengthy classical music without being able to read music sheets and purely from memory.
Today, pannists learn music not only for a better understanding of music but because the competition for panorama attracts musicians who read music from all over the world.
Arrangement and production of calypso pieces have been made with dramatic effect, showcasing bands with over 100 players.
Pan and Carnival go together. The imagination is captivated by the colours and themes that a carnival featuring bands over 1 000-strong can produce. A Carnival is two days of musical magic and rapacity that leaves revellers drunk with the beat pounding in their ears and their bodies reacting to the syncopation of the music.
So, folks, Trinidad should rank in the top ten in the world for musicality and creativity. This is the diametrical opposite to the ranking for corruption. There is an aspect of their business practices that in my opinion does not go down well with Barbados, although Bajans have copied many of those practices. Bajans have to be careful of the negative ones.
Therefore to the Trinidadians who wish Barbados well and use Barbados as a haven away from mayhem and murderous chaos, I say welcome. I even have Trinidadian relatives.
As for Bajans, two things draw them to Trinidad like flies to a spider’s web; like a nail to a magnet – women and flying fish! When the Bajan hears that rhythmic Spanish-French cadence, oui, the heart and everything else does melt. The flying fish is another thing. Just as the sirens beckon with their call and beauty, so the abundance of fish lures Bajan fishermen to test fate and trawl in the Trinidad deep.
Neither problem is likely to be resolved in the near future, even with the sterling efforts of my friend Bobby.
Those who need money for the upcoming elections are still going to feel the influence of the Trinidad and Tobago dollar even as Bajans enjoy the sweetness from down south.
• Harry Russell is a banker.