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Wanted: Respect for Indian Cultural Persistence
Posted: Sunday, February 13, 2005

THE EDITOR: While still glued to the gay abandon and unfettered, skimpy feminine, erotic revelry/ gyrations that increasingly distinguishes our Carnival street theatre, I perused with continuing anxiety Ms Marion O'Callaghan's Newsday Carnival Monday Commentary (Feb 7 p11.) Ms O'Callaghan must treat with local Indian cultural practices with more respect if not appreciation. She must investigate these practices carefully before making her misleading pronouncements. Massive Gosine is a Chutney Soca artiste and not Pichakaree. Pichakaree songs/lyrics are intrinsic to the local Spring Festival of Holi (Phagwa) that was pioneered by Raviji and the Kendra.

It is unfortunate that Ms O'Callaghan appears to use her column to condone, encourage and orchestrate unruly and disruptive "behind the bridge" conduct against a Chutney Soca artiste. The late Sonny Mann, cross over artiste of some repute was also pelted at the Platinum stage for singing his Chutney super-hit Lotay La as if he was trespassing on hallowed ground. Her statement that calypso "rarely comments on an entire group" is patently false. Cro Cro, Sugar Aloes etc have villified, humiliated and ridiculed the Indian community with impunity and Afro-approval and laughter. That is why Indians sought sanctuary in developing/ patronising their own chutney-soca genre. Gosine, therefore, did not establish a precedent. I ceased patronising calypso tents years ago because I paid handsomely for a Kitchener's Revue calypsonian to hear him sing that Phosforno, a lethal weedicide was Indian tonic. He also caused his audience to laugh sadistically at the high suicide rate among Trini Indians.

An excellent work of art lends itself to multiple interpretations. Accordingly Dr Mahabir enjoys a legitimate right to interpret Gosine's composition from his own literary perspective. May I state categorically that the calypso art form/steel band originated in TT. There is no need to Africanise our indigenous music to support some obscure theory of "African cultural retentions." However, the innovative and spicy soca rhythms were introduced from Nigeria by the late Ras Shorty I and Sparrow. Ms O'Callaghan uses the term cultural "retentions" in place of the more established concept of cultural persistence. It is the latter concept that permanently links current Indian diasporic traditions with original Indian civilisation.

These are qualitatively and quantitatively different from African "retentions" and long pre-dated these pseudo-retentions. O'Callaghan should be surprised to learn of the extent to which the Hindu caste system is still very much informally prevalent in Brahmin-Hindu Trinidad in marriages, politics, punditine and in social and religious orders of precedence. Bhadase, Capildeo, Stephen Maharaj and Panday belong to Brahmin stock.


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