Taking calypso to the next level

By Dr. Kwame Nantambu
October 26, 2015

Dr. Kwame NantambuAs the Trinidad/Tobago United Calypsonians Association (TUCO) is currently celebrating “Calypso History Month”, it became supremely imperative for this writer, albeit lover of the calypso art form, to pen a few thoughts about the need to take the art form of calypso to the next ultimate international level.

Now, for the past umpteen decades and counting, the calypso genre has been posited within the local myopic confines of the Ministry of Arts and Culture.

The salient fact of the matter is that T&T calypso is now an internationally recognized cultural art form/expression. Ergo, if calypso is to emerge on the international scene/stage, it therefore becomes very imperative for the current government to take the remit of calypso and its attendant subsidiaries from under the local Ministry of Arts and Culture and posit this international exportable project under a specialized unit/section of the Ministry of Tourism cum Ministry of External Affairs.

Please, let this writer explain.

Now, when deceased international musical artiste sang all over the world, Bob Marley not only represented, presented and promoted reggae music but, most importantly, he elevated the people of Jamaica and the country of Jamaica to the international cultural/tourist bound level. Ergo, the entire world knew about Jamaica via Bob Marley’s reggae music.

The salient fact of the matter is, that’s not the case when it comes to calypso music.

For example, when T&T calypso icon Lord Superior (“Suppie”) recently returned from a “successful” tour of San Francisco, California, Los Angeles, United States of America, this writer must ask the following poignant questions: How many people in the audience knew where “Suppie” was from”? How many people at this musical event even cared? Did “Suppie” represent T&T calypso art form at its zenith? Of course he did; but who benefited as a result?

The salient fact of the matter is that “Suppie” was performing by his lonesome, period. And that’s the problem with calypso as we speak.

In other words, “Suppie” was neither promoting, presenting nor advancing the calypso art form of T&T. To put it simple in T&T cultural parlance: “Suppie” was just in Los Angeles “to put down a wuk”, period.

Indeed, what this writer is humbly proposing is that when calypsonians and T&T musical entertainers receive their visa from the US Embassy, then there should be a direct contact with some specific official/personnel at the international section/unit of the Ministry of Tourism and Ministry of External Affairs about their flight/entertainment schedule/plans and the T&T Embassy in the particular country.

Now, T&T embassy officials do not necessarily have to be at the airport to greet these T&T entertainers. Their contract personnel will be there. Trust me! However, this writer is humbly suggesting that the T&T embassy officials should give its fellow citizens an international “conform zone” outside of T&T.

In the final analysis, it is to be hoped that the new PNM government would see the vital necessity to transform/elevate the calypso fraternity from its current basement national, myopic level that it now endures and take it to the first floor of T&T’s international expressions. In this regard, Trinbagonians must heed the musical admonition of Bro. Valentino to the extent that as an international musical people, now is the time to take calypso from the local/national “friggeting tent” to the international level.

“Long Live Calypso.”

Shem Hotep (“I Go in Peace”).

Dr. Kwame Nantambu is a part-time lecturer at Cipriani College of Labour and Co-operative Studies.

5 thoughts on “Taking calypso to the next level”

  1. Suppie is not that great a calypsoian to represent.Bad choice. You need to have a Mighty Sparrow in order to promote the Calypso art form internationally or else no one will come and support you.

    Machel Montano has the package to export soca, and is currently doing this annually and making great strides.

    The only way for calypso to make it , is to compose tunes with sweet melody, not the ‘holding yuh belly and crying’ songs we continuously see at calypso finals Dimanche Gras night, that makes everyone sleepy. TT Embassy cannot help with this one

  2. Rudder took Toronto by storm because his material was excellent. He stopped traffic in Toronto with his rendition of “AMEN” outside the TV studios, in the presence of thousands. Sparrow even now sells out halls all over North America. If the material is good it will sell itself. Montano is certainly proving that. I think even Sat knows that as popular as it is, Chutney is a poor imitation of the calypso art form.

  3. The Grammy award winning song “who let the dogs out” which was PERFORMED by the Bahamian Group “Baha Men” is a calypso that they heard Anslem Douglas perform (which he wrote) & they bought the right from it from him…..it wasn’t even changed…at all….it’s the exact same song. Calypso was world renowned since the 1900’s butttt it’s recognition was ‘dispersed’ as generally caribbean & never OFFICIALLY marketed in recent decades. E.g. A popular song from the 40’s i believe “Rum & Coca-Cola” was entirely stolen from a Trinidadian calypso singer & song by a white group which to this day is known as a famous hit representative of America in that era. It was common for this music theft without any recognition whatsoever from white musicians because the law was on their side back then.

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