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Calypso’s Emperor Caesar hails Ralph!


Fri, Jun 25, 2010

by Dr. Richard A. Byron-Cox

I love that creative cultural troika of calypso, mas and pan that makes our Carnival such a wondrous splendor. If the festival is made analogous to a right-angle triangle, then calypso would be the right angle and hypotenuse, simultaneously anchoring and binding the whole, as is so eloquently described by our Doyen of this art form in his chef-d’œuvre “Carnival History” underlining, “The season does start with the Calysonian.”{{more}}

I am not much for “Soca” which most times lacks intellectual stimuli and sacrifices melodiousness in preference for the high-energy-make-some-noise explosion. So I revel in raw calypso, particularly those that put the government in the doghouse. This is probably because it’s my nature to protest absolute unbridled power. Maybe it comes from my understanding of the evils of our political system, which stipulates, inter alia, winner takes all. It’s possibly born of appreciation for that dehumanizing part of our history where calypso was our only voice. Or, my abhorrence of the wanton abuse this country has suffered at the hands of politicians. Whatever it is, calypsos that “cus” government resonate loudly with me.

From “Big Jobs” and “Eye Water” to “Jessie Gamble” and “Sing ley we hear”, among many others, are favorites. But Man Age is my Wordsworth. He more than any other captures my bitter resentment of the negligence and incompetence of those bigoted egotistic clowns that have run this country. “Spectacles,” ‘Dey go ban it,” “De man is a brain” and “Dem Smoking Too” are but a few on my cherished catalog of songs from this brilliant master.

With this history of venerating anti government calypsos, it might be considered something of a tectonic shift that I now support that Glenroy “Sulle” Caesar should be crowned King for his number “He Tested Positive.” Indeed Sulle could be accused of impersonating Tommy Tucker, declaring that Ralph has been examined and passed with flying colors; and I, a one-eyed thief, begging Sulle for some the gravy he got. It’s true that up to this point, Sulle, through use of his great gift of satire, deliberate ambiguity and cynicism was known to put governments and system to the swords. Compositions like “Permanent Carnival” and “Rescue We” have established him as a serious poet, bordering philosopher, willing to challenge unjust power in the name of the people. Now his is a different tune and I have joined, “backing up” his Sanky. Why? The simple answer is, like Sulle, I am concerned with what is best for this land. This composition is precisely about that.

His A+ grade is well deserved

First, we must review its contents (lyrics). A simple check of these against the facts (for as Hegel said, “Truth is concrete”), substantiates that there is not an iota of untruth in what Sulle says. Of course Frankenstein and the lab crew being exceptionally gifted at concocting evil brews, will dress up their lies and fabrications as fruits from the tree knowledge and offer this ignorance in dispute. But the facts can’t lie. Sulle covers from Ralph’s education and foreign policies to his management of the economy and upholding democracy and is forced to declare, “He tested positive.” He probes Ralph’s history, his training, his support for black struggle, his regional and international leadership, and correctly concludes that his A+ grade is well deserved. He pronounces that we are privileged as Ralph does this for the poor and the majority in SVG; here, too, I concur. This latter point is the paramount reason why Sulle wrote this song and one why, come Sunday night, he should be proclaimed His Majesty. Just as in the past, Sulle has written a calypso of truth for our country’s benefit. And truth must be told at all times, irrespective of political preference if we are to counter the fear engendered by horror stories synonymous with Frankenstein, ignorance and backwardness.

I am no calypso judge, but Sulle’s song is clear, his diction perfect while remaining Vincy, somewhat like Renwick Rose doing an extempo from the heart. I am likewise no musician, but any layman knows what he likes, what sounds good, and Sulle has a nice traditional beat and melody. But most important, this song relates living truths and bestows honor where it is due.

Of course, there are others singing Ralph’s praises. Sonny Banks has “Thank You Ralphie,” and there’s a lady’s whose title eludes me now, but with a refrain “Leave the Comrade alone.” These are sweet and catchy but focus mostly on the physical expressions and results of Ralph’s programme. No, I am not belittling these beautiful efforts, Sonny Bank’s e.g. usually have me singing along lustily. The difference is Sulle has dealt with the broad spectrum of the Ralph’s design: its philosophy, its implementation, its results, and that defining moment, its patriotic axis. Using concrete known facts he produced a political commentary epitomizing poetic artistry at its best, resulting in an amazing tapestry of words, rhythm and melody. Any fair-minded judge and jury would agree he has won his case with indisputable evidence immaculately laid out.

Oh, and as regards the anti Ralph calypsos, I confess I haven’t heard any of these. Neither have I heard Sulle’s second (from all reports, another masterpiece), not because I don’t want to, I simply haven’t had the opportunity. But even so, Sulle tests positive on melody, composition/lyrics and most important, facts. And while it’s not impossible, if there is another such case, then there can only be a tie. Further, someone could sing something assassinating Ralph’s character, but that is the politics of slime and hate as distinct from political commentary. I am no hatemonger, consequently, slime is poison to my soul. Come Sunday night, then, barring anything untoward, Sulle should be proclaimed Caesar, Emperor of the calypso world.