On Wednesday evening July 22, Hot Button Issue’ s guest was 2015 calypso monarch King Walleigh.
When host Timothy Poleon asked the three time kaiso monarch whether calypso is dying, he did not hesitate to respond candidly: “They are trying to kill it, it aint dying.” That was the answer I was also bawling out at my TV screen.
Unfortunately our airwaves, our DJs play more obscene and filthy content than they would play Lucian kaiso. Radio stations play our kaiso mostly during the season, as if an endorsement that this is when it is most relevant. Like King Walleigh contended, this is a brainwashed mentality. Our calypso is a library of our stories, and our musical storytellers must be permitted avenues to commune with their communities. The preference for promoting the foreign and local musical excrement should never be given privilege over our qualitative creative local production. Afterall, how do we express ‘de true Saint Lucian spirit’? Hopefully not merely by consuming Bounty Rum. It is far more significant to be hearing King Walleigh’s “Invoke de Lucian Spirit”, “Tjenn Kweyol Vivan”, “Koudmen”, than Bounty Killer and the rest whose purpose is to promote evil and demote national pride and consciousness.In the introduction to his book “Kaiso and Society,” Hollis Urban Lester Liverpool (the great Chalkdust), penned the words of Kelvin Pope – Mighty Duke:
What is calypso?
It is a feeling which comes from deep within,
A tale of joy or one of suffering.
It’s an editorial in song
Of the life that we undergo,
That and only that, I know
Is true calypso.
The calypsonian is rooted in our historical narrative, as Chalkdust observed: “following the tracks of the chantwel.” Therefore it is not going to be easy to kill them or it. We need an awakening in our media establishment, to use the communicative avenues to give lucid expression to ourselves. Dr. Hilliard made this poignant observation: “If there is a major illness among African American [I want to say specifically Saint Lucian] people it is that we unceasingly honor and utilize our culture less. All great nations and people do the opposite.” So those who plot calypso’s demise and others who unconsciously participate know that – “poul ka gwate telman, i touve zo manman’y.”
After all these years calypso organization and management continue to experience challenges. This year’s Calypso final, amidst the obstacles, was a very good one. I witnessed calypsonians in competitive mood, investing their creativity and energy to satisfy the audience. When Q-Pid opened with “Criminal Victim” I heard the chit chat: “and dey say de calypso aint ready.” Ti Carro didn’t make it any easier for the non-believers. “Kwapo” – wow, I like! The theatre was alive. Some will propagate that things could have been better – that’s true – but this effort must be applauded in the context of the struggle to preserve our cultural expression.
Every time a government reconstitutes ministries it reveals a particular inclination and direction of the administration. The Saint Lucia Labour Party demonstrated that through the creation of the Creative Industries wing of the Ministry some shift in focus was mandatory. It is relevant for this infrastructure to work towards putting the best possible framework to help avoid calypso seeming a perennial ailment. We must invest the time and resources to set the best conditions for calypso’s continued growth and development. I think it is partly this lack of thrust and commensurate undertakings that have affected this brilliant observation in Minelle’s rendition: “In dis country, What you see is not what you see/You cyan trust de best in society, cause everybody fooling everybody.”
I would like to think that the creation of the Ministry of Creative Industries is not another gimmick but a genuine paradigm shift to elevate our creative and cultural engagements to respectable and progressive altitude worthy of our Saint Lucian spirit.
We also need consistency in the publication of the Folk Research Centre’s calypso magazine, Lucian Kaiso. In the 1992 edition it was clearly stated “Lucian Kaiso will be published annually.”
In conclusion, I give thanks to the Creative Principle for the life, energy and contribution of all participants in the kingdom of calypso and may calypso and our dedicated calypsonians live long.
Written by Stevaco Joseph.