• Today
    September 27

  • 12:03 PM

Women in calypso from start

Sandra Sealey,

Added 24 July 2010

WE’VE LAUGHED at their stories, partied with them, heard of their physical attributes, scoffed, called them loose – the whole nine yards.But just who are these people? They are women of calypso.From as early as the 1940s and 50s and even beyond, women have been the main topics of many of the calypsos and folk songs coming out of our region.Take for instance Froggie’s (Phyllis Collymore of Barbados Festival Choir fame) Ada, whose sow pig “got away” and ended up tragically being eaten “down de gully hill”.And then there was Millie who as supposed to have gone to Brazil, but was really at the bottom of a well “wid de razor cut up she face and de wire wrap up she waist . . . .”Around this period there was the headless woman Dinah and the common class young lady with the raucous laugh who both captured the Mighty Charmer’s attention; while Desmond Burke was convinced he could not “live another day” after Sarah had left him “and gone away”. Farther afield there was the Mighty Sparrow whose “heroines” ranged from Jean and Dinah, Rosita and Clementina – who entertained the Yankee sailors, to Sandra, who made his heart grow fonder; Melda with her marriage plans, and Mr Walker’s rich but ugly daughter – to a whole host of others who were either in love with him or his physical prowess.Of course, his rival Lord Kitchener is not to be forgotten. His contributions included the mad woman who crashed the governor’s ball, Audrey (later Natahlee) and her Sugar Bum Bum, the Big Belly Woman, the dumb girl and Dorothy. Back home our calypsonians seemed even more preoccupied with the women in their lives, especially in the 1970s and 1980s when almost every writer penned some ditty about the fairer sex. Sir Don advised us to Ask Cynthia about any piece of juicy information we required. Grynner introduced us to Susie From De Country who brought everything down to town, including the pigs, dogs, chickens and the boyfriend. We also heard quite a bit of his “sister daughter Ermintha”.Michael Director Forde told us all about his “confused neighbour” Sousie and her nosiness, and Madd refused ghostly Jeannette’s offer of marriage, preferring a “woman with flesh upon she body”. Gabby, the most prolific of all, gave us Dr Cassandra, Jill of Hit It fame, Miss Barbados who was “a Canadian pappyshow”, Debra, Sandra and her medicine, Gisella from Panama, Angelina, and don’t forget Johnny’s wife Miss Prescott and his girlfriend with whom she couldn’t have Needles And Pins. And there was also Li’l Janice, who ran away from home to “lick up, brek up all day long” with Crop-Over on her mind.Staying on the domestic scene there was Ras Iley’s Inez, who was ordered to “turn off de bloody stove and come”. And who could forget when De Devil who called, “Hilda get up, fus’ bus gone up”.De Hawk was so intent on jamming that he jammed with Phyllis, Elaine, Sharon, Jane and any other woman even if he “didn’t even know their name[s]”.Not to be left out, Red Plastic Bag wondered why Maizie was kissing Santa Claus “under de mango tree” instead of “under de Christmas tree”.Adonijah chose to move away from the norm in Woman, paying tribute to the “mother of our children bearer of life, my queen my friend, my woman my wife . . . ”.  At the same time he chided other “kaisomen” for just seeing her as a sex symbol reminding them that she is “doctor, teacher, lawyer” and asking “if you sing ’bout women “jamming in a fete, how can de youth ever learn respect?”And finally, on a lighter note, with all the breast implants, weave-ons, fake eyelashes, “mock botsies” and so on, today’s women don’t want anything with the Merrymen’s Mary. She was quite a looker who succeeded in landing a husband but after the wedding, things fell apart:“After the ball was over Mary took out her glass eye,She put her false teeth in water and she hung out her hair to dry;Then she unscrewed her wooden leg and put it against the wall.Oh what had become of my Mary,After the ball? . . .”

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