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July 15, 2022
Banning calypsos in SVG is repugnant to our Caribbean Civilization

EDITOR: In deciding not to allow the broadcast on VC3 of Zion-I’s calypso “Hypocrites”, Anthony Dennie of the Carnival Development Corporation, VC3 and Star Radio is hiding under the metaphorical ‘judicial counter’, instead of progressively promoting the CULTURE of this land Hairouna. What a shame!

Several years ago, the Mighty Chalkdust; a veteran, popular and extraordinarily successful Trinidadian calypsonian, told an interviewer that the then
late Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, Dr. Eric ‘Doc’ Williams, summoned him to his official residence in Port of Spain on Ash Wednesday.

He was quite anxious about the invite as he travelled in the government car for his audience with the Prime Minister. Nervous, since he had sung about the ‘Doc.’ and his government on the Calypso Monarch section of the Dimanche Gras show, days before, while the ‘Doc’ sat in the front row of the audience at the Queen’s Park Savannah, Port of Spain.

During the meeting, Dr. Williams told him how much he loved what he was doing for the Calypso art form and followed up by musing “I don’t know what they are humbugging the young man for.” The Prime Minister went on to encourage him to change his ambition from becoming a scientist to a historian instead. Dr.
Hollis ‘Chalkdust’ Liverpool took the ‘Doc’s’ advice seriously and became a historian like Dr Williams. Furthermore, he promised the Young Teacher/Calypsonian, that his party, the PNM (Peoples National Movement), would introduce legislation in Parliament to free up civil servants; including teachers, and other calypsonians from facing penalties, sanctions, etc., should they sing anti-Government calypsos and other controversial songs at Carnival or other times. The Prime Minister delivered on his promise. So, that law of exemption for all cultural artists is a significant legacy of the PNM.

Similarly, calypsonians in St Vincent and the Grenadines need that type of encouragement andenvironment to propagate their art form. Such proposal(s) should be supported by our political leaders. Why does the Government through VC3 continue to practice cultural colonialism in this post colonial era? It is high time Governments in this Hairouna stop BANNING but lengthen the cultural radius of the art form. These initiatives would create greater flexibility and exemption from legal action for the messengers of the masses in our society.

According to Dr Tye Salandy, a sociologist at UWI (St. Augustine), writing in his blog, September 2, 2019, on the Digital Media outlet WIRED: “The best of these Caribbean has come from the seditious nature of the people. The most powerful aspects of our Caribbean culture (think Kweyol, Reggae, Calypso and Steelband) and the most important advances” our Small Island Developing States (SIDS) “have ever made have come from this spirit of resistance.”
So, “it is the inherent right of” the Vincentian people to communicate diverse opinions, “to question authority” when necessary “and to challenge unjust laws.”

I have grown up reading the likes of ‘Bassy’ Alexander, Dr. Adrian Fraser, Renwick Rose and ‘Blazer’ Williams, progressives all. Hence am confident they are baffled with this BANNING issue.

Let me quote the de facto Calypso King of the World, the Mighty Sparrow, “The people of a country shouldn’t fraid to talk their mind/if you guilty here is straight to jail without a fine/Betrayal of the people’s trust, to me is much more dangerous/Than what they talking ‘bout.”

Also, those among us old enough to remember the ‘brouhaha’ Chalkdust’s 1972 classic “Ah Fraid Karl”, produced by Vincentian the late Granville Straker, caused. The political governing class, led by then Attorney General of Trinidad and Tobago, the late Karl Hudson Phillip, attempted to ban it, but that effort of suppressing calypso was met with widespread opposition from the masses, and the attempt failed.

Not airing calypsos on National Media platform(s) is repugnant to our Caribbean Civilization, at this post Independence period…PERIOD!

It is HYPOCRITICAL considering Gonsalves’ utterances; behaviour during the Cato and Mitchell Governments of yesteryear. So, in this age of the World Wide Web (www) and its supporting cast, how come Anthony Dennie did not receive the text, containing the historical precedent?

In conclusion, what I would recommend to Prime Minister Gonsalves, is that he invites “Zion-I” to his office or residence, apologize for the clumsy manner in which the VC3 manager Dennie censured his 2022 calypso, and undertake, like Dr Williams did in the ‘Cathedral of Calypso,’ to upgrade the laws to better protect our calypsonians from malicious lawsuits.

If we are really serious about propagating culture in this post-independence era, and in particular the calypso art form, let us be positive and innovative about it. After all, it is ‘we ting’—- and we need to pass the ‘tradition’ of the Calypso on to the next generation intact.

So, it is time to step up Comrade Gonsalves, remove all ambiguities, and show the Vincentian citizenry that banning calypsos is repugnant to our Caribbean Civilization.

Frank Monty Clarke