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Fireman Hooper’s victory over white cultural imperialism

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Tue Jul 16, 2013

Editor: Delroy “Fireman” Hooper strikes me as much more than a high energy soca artiste. I have been reflecting recently on the significance of the lyrics from the song with which he stormed to the Soca Monarch title for the seventh time two years ago. That song was popularly known as “Animal” and Fireman sent a powerful and profound sarcastic message of rebuke to people who look down on or scoff at the behaviour of carnival enthusiasts.{{more}} The soca legend explained in an interview that he was inspired to write the song after he overheard a bystander contemptuously saying during the 2010 carnival period that the revellers were behaving like animals.

He retaliated and scored a victory with a song of defiance on behalf of soca and party animals. He gave voice to those who did not have a microphone, but who expressed their approval by following his commands to “root like a hog” and “climb up like a monkey” and “kick up like a donkey.” He used his creative and composition genius to write a song through which he could assert the supreme humanity of the so-called “wild” West Indians. He paradoxically and masterfully rejected a condescending reference by embracing it. He turned it on its head.

The champion performer seems to be in tune with the wider Caribbean reality. I believe that he was able to craft those winning lines because of his historical consciousness and social awareness. After all, the men and women dancing in the street were animals in the same way that our ancestors were animals. Frantz Fanon pointed out repeatedly in The Wretched of the Earth that native Caribbean citizens were subjected to dehumanization at the hands of European colonialists and imperialists. In the minds of those Europeans, the region’s indigenous people and the “imported” Africans and Indians were reduced to the level of superior monkeys that could therefore be treated like beasts of burden and described in zoological terms.

Fireman Hooper may have achieved unrivalled success in the Soca Monarch competition over the course of his ongoing career because he literally sings of or from our experience and generally has a remarkable ability to connect and communicate with his audience. He displays great insight and intellectual clarity in unassuming ways. Fireman used his extraordinary talent to help uplift the “bacchanalists” and the whole Caribbean by extension. He attacked the distortions of white cultural imperialism with irony, biting wit and forceful lyrics. This unlikely defender of our dignity has already secured a place in the group of outstanding Vincentian cultural exponents.

R. T. Luke V. Browne
[email protected]

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