Tobago

Tobago
Horizon at Sandy Point

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Music from Hell?

I was planning to forget calypso
To go and plant peas in Tobago
But I am afraid I can't make de grade
Every night I lying in my bed
Ah hearing a bassman in meh head
pom pom pi ti pom poom
pom pom pi ti pom poom
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n3O-jgw_V3Q

A generation ago (1974), the Shadow (Winston Bailey), in a long black trench coat and hat low to shade his eyes, threatened to leave the carnival calypso arena. He performed his original signature prance, the bassman from hell dance, and the rest is history. So much has flowed from Shadow and his bassman muse since then. Good thing he stayed to give us greats like I come out to play; Pay de devil; Dingolay; and Poverty is hell!

In 2011, we hear the similarly tortured Iwer George rebuking his muse:

Ah planning to stop singing soca
And go and live in Grenada
Start to sing some jab jab songs
Eat lambie and drink mih rum
Every night ah lie down in my bed
Ah jabjab singing in meh head
He say allyuh allyuh allyuh
Allyuh Trini people - ah say come to meh
Come to meh...
Stop! Move! Away from meh...
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8d64J0WqDJ4&feature=related

Shadow chose Tobago where his memories of a carefree childhood were made. It's not surprising that Point Fortin born Iwer looks to Grenada, the likely ancestral home, as it was for many who came and settled in Point to work in the oil industry. And perhaps there is something in the nexus of Point Fortin and Grenada and Calypso to be investigated - Sparrow came from Grenada; SuperBlue, Duke, Iwer and others from Point Fortin (via Grenadian ancestry?) on a southwest promontory of Trinidad.

Iwer's pain is poignant because - like Shadow's in his day - he feels disenfranchised in the soca community; like de judges against him. Hopefully, he too will come to understand that the competition is less relevant than the music; that even public acclaim can be fickle or fashionable; that it is only the jabjab in his head that will be the true and faithful friend. Ent!

Blue Devil from Point Fortin Borough Day

Small glossary:
Soca: genre of calypso that favours faster beats, danceable music for the road
Jabjab: (diable) devil mas
Lambie: conch
Bassman: person who plays the bass pans

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