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Vincy Carnival: sights, sounds and “wutlis” lyrics



Editor: It’s Vincy Carnival time again. For the past few weeks, the local media – print and electronic – have been inundated with stories, commentaries and photographs of the various activities that make Vincy Mas, one of the greatest spectacles on earth.{{more}} The radio stations have been giving much air play to the local calypsos making the rounds at the various calypso tents. It is the one time of the year that Diasporic Vincies are recognised and appreciated as equal citizens. The New York Calypso Tent will be judged like any other tent on the rock. Vincentians will visit their beloved homeland in thousands, many as masqueraders and revellers.

It’s the time of the year that old and young get caught up in our rich Vincy culture. Calypsonians, masqueraders and organisers must be very conscious of the lasting influence the sights and sounds of Vincy Carnival have on our society. Our calypso lyrics, the costumes, the gyrating in the fetes and on the streets must all be presented decently.

A FaceBook friend “messaged” me a letter from the Searchlight Newspaper written by Jennifer Richardson and an Editorial from the same newspaper. Both pieces called on women to speak out against “explicit” calypsos. The sender of the FB message demanded to hear from me – “a long-time calypsonian and social activist” on these two articles.

In my brief reply, I agreed with both Richardson and the Editor on this issue. Although I love to listen to suggestive calypsos, I am diametrically opposed to the “smut” contained in so-called suggestive lyrics. Most of them are downright explicit… plain ‘wutlisness’ that should never be condoned, encouraged or commercially supported. The radio stations should not play these calypsos – in most cases jam and wine music – and the public should not purchase these ‘wutlis’ party songs. Calypsonians and Soca bards should be forced to clean up their acts and give our children the chance to grow up in a clean social environment.

As a calypsonian for over four decades, by conscious choice, I have always stayed away from such lyrics. I never needed them to win any of the nine calypso titles under my belt. My calypsos are all social and political commentaries, from “Soufriere Ah Boil” to “Rise Up Against Apartheid” to “Clean Up Campaign” to “Wilson’s Cuts” to “Mas In Winnipeg”… I use my calypsos to be an advocate/activist for human rights. I sing against apartheid in South Africa and racism everywhere; politics in SVG and Canada; discrimination against women, the aged and minorities.

This is not to say that I do not enjoy creative, suggestive calypsos. Of course I do. But, as my late brother – Mighty Rey – always preached, we have to look after the youths. The future of our nation depends on their future.

But smutty, wutlis calypsos during the carnival season, is just one of the many problems that ail our society. So, while we are rising up and speaking out against calypsonians with wutlis lyrics, let us, at the same time, rise up and speak out against all the other practices harmful to our youths in particular and our nation in general. Let us also speak out against fornication, adultery, parents who permit their young teenage daughters to have affairs with older men for a few dollars more, spousal abuse, corruption, unproductive workers, political arrogance, crime and violence, etc. Like the wutlis calypsos, they all contribute to a decadent and unproductive nation. Like the wutlis calypsos, they leave a lasting negative impression on our youths and society. Yes, let’s rise up and speak out!!

A happy Vincy Carnival 2011 to all.

Wade Kojo Williams, Sr.

Note: Wade Kojo Williams, Sr. is a citizen of St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Canada. He lives in Canada.