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The calypsonians have spoken

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14.JUL.06

EDITOR: I want to congratulate Grantley “Ipa” Constance for winning the Calypso Monarch title for Vincy Carnival 2006. Ipa’s song in the second round of the Calypso Monarch Competition titled “Can’t treat calypso like that” encapsulates the challenges social, commentary calypso faces, despite its significant contributions over all these decades.

As usual, this year 2006 Calypsonians have spoken and have given their views about very important issues taking place in our country, the Caribbean region and the world. The National Calypso Monarch Competition is a national resource ready for positive deployment now, more than ever.{{more}}

In our society there are many people who play the important role of helping us to reflect on our lives, experiences and challenges. Teachers, journalists, writers, poets, preachers, dramatists, politicians, etc. have all made their cultural contributions.

Calypsonians have been on the frontline of cultural struggle for transformation in SVG. This year they certainly have continued that tradition as was evidenced in the Calypso Monarch Finals. These Calypsonians used their art form to spread positive images and revolutionary vibes that could surely uplift this nation if they are taken seriously instead of for mere entertainment. If we continue to allow Calypso to be mistreated as Ipa has highlighted in his song, our society will be culturally poorer. Could we afford for this to happen to our society? So why not elevate calypso higher and reap all the social, economic, cultural and political benefits of this vital art form.

It should not be surprising that Calypsonians have been playing a vital role in our society. Some of us are fully aware that the art form of Calypso runs very deep in our African tradition or heritage.

Calypsonians are like African Griots who have been treading this earth for many many centuries now — bringing news, information, wisdom, insights, joy, and cultural food. Calypsonians record the events, processes, personalities in our heritage and society and give them back to us so we could be inspired, informed, educated and entertained (edutainment).

In countries of the Caribbean where Carnival is held, there is great concern about the situation carnival finds itself in. All components (calypso, mas, and pan) of the carnival are experiencing stormy times especially the calypso component. A hidden hand seems to be at play trying to downgrade and hide social commentary calypso from reaching the people. This reminds me of what happened to roots reggae music in the mid-1980s up to this day. There were forces at play seeking to stifle the revolutionary nature of roots reggae. They tried violence, robbery, discrimination and all kinds of evil ways to keep down roots reggae. But behold roots reggae is rising again because it could not be stopped. And so it is, social commentary calypso will defeat all negative forces trying to stifle it. Time will tell! I feel confident with people like Abijah around who will continue to hold his ground and he is willing to go down on the calypso boat sailing on rough seas threatened by the raging soca storm.

The calypsonians addressed longstanding issues that have been confronting our nation. We have been struggling with a political system inherited from abroad. The Calypsonians boldly spoke out against this system. For example, some of them continue to put the spotlight on the negative uses of the power of the Prime Minister, as was evident by Abijah’s song called “It would not be always so”, and Ipa’s “Can’t tell the comrade so”. Other calypsonians also addressed this theme of the centralization of power in the hands of the prime minister – an aspect rooted in the Westminster political system that was imposed on us by the colonial masters in Britain but with approval from the local ruling class at that time.

They also addressed other national and global issues confronting humanity. This was done by Brother Ebony in his song “Heaven help us all”, Dwighty’s “A prayer for understanding”, Princess Monique’s “Mother Earth”, and De Man Age’s “Education Revolution”.

Patriotism, injustices, and commitment to progressive living were on the minds of calypsonians too. For evidence of this just listen to Poorsah’s “Vincy”, De Man Age’s “Ghetto man to me heart”, Brother Ebony’s “Hands off Venezuela”, Poorsah’s “Inside Job”, Abijah’s “It would not be always so”, Princess Monique’s “Tribute to Glen Jackson”, Azara’s “The issues”, and Little Bit’s “Visions of a tourist”.

So in 2006, the Calypsonians continue to raise the cultural standards in SVG. This is why I say, “Long live social commentary calypso in St.Vincent and the Grenadines”

Maxwell Haywood

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