By Hudson George
I love all Caribbean music but there is a time when music that relates to carnival must be protected and given air play during the various carnivals in the Caribbean and North America. Secondly, there are too many young people working on FM radio stations throughout the Caribbean who do not know the history and the purpose of genres of music that is traditional to carnival celebration. Now that Barbados is openly trying to protect soca and calypso music in that country’s carnival, it should be a good example for the other Eastern Caribbean countries that celebrate a national carnival yearly to follow suit.
|Hudson George has a BA in Social Science from York University, Toronto, Canada. He has been writing since his early teenage years and now contributes letters and articles to a number of Caribbean newspapers|
Calypso, soca, zouk, jab jab, bouyon, cadance and merengue is music that is associated with carnivals in the Caribbean but, over the years, some younger folks are trying to inject other genres of music into traditional carnival because they tend to embrace popular music that is foreign to their traditional culture through social media such as Facebook and twitter. In addition to that, it seems as though young people in the Eastern Caribbean are suffering from a social inferiority complex and for that reason they are always trying to identify themselves with music that comes from bigger countries. And the music they are trying to gravitate to most likely will destroy the rich traditions of carnival.
Personally, I like all kinds of music but I believe each genre of music has a culture associated with it.
In Dominica, there is a Creole Festival that showcases music and culture related to Creole lifestyle.
And over the years, Dominica Creole Festival is growing into an event that continues to attract worldwide attention. However, in Grenada, French patois is dying but the Creole culture in terms of music is very much alive, but it seems as though, if Grenadians are not careful, our Creole music such as jab jab will be affected by music promoters who are interested in importing foreign culture into the August carnival because they want to capitalise on the flow of cash money that circulates during the carnival season. Music promoters of that sort do not care about the jab jab music culture, their interest is to make money and, whatever music that is popular outside of Grenada, they will import it during carnival celebration.
Based on some research I made about Grenada culture and the changes I experienced so far in our Grenadian culture, I think that, in all the countries in the Eastern Caribbean, Grenada has lost a lot of rich traditional cultures that were supposed to be protected and remain vibrant within society. There are many factors that affected traditional culture in Grenada, such as the invasion of new Christian denominations, the Rastafarian movement, the differences in social class, tribal politics, migration, popular DJs who promote foreign music content and persons employed over the years within the ministry of culture who do not know anything about culture.
In Grenada, one of the scarcest commodities to find in Grenada is an organised musical band, even though Grenada has some of the best musicians in the Eastern Caribbean. On the other hand Grenada has the most organised political parties in the Eastern Caribbean. Therefore, it is easier to be entertained by politicians for different political parties than to enjoy a night of dancing to some sweet Caribbean music from a live Grenadian band. However, it is amazing to know that Grenada has one of the best music bands, which is the police band, and Grenadians like to boast about how good the police band can play.
Although there is a decline in some traditional culture in Grenada, another surprising thing is Grenada has the most calypsonians per person in the Caribbean, and some of those calypsonians are top class in terms of quality composition and singing talent. Most of them have songs records on CDs, but there is no organised industry to promote and market the music as commodities, as in the way it is done in Trinidad and Tobago and Barbados. Unfortunately, it appears as though those top class calypsonians are more interested in competing for the big money on the night of the monarch title competition, than focusing on creating a good music industry to sell their music outside of Grenada.
In addition, Grenada’s former minister of culture, Mr Arley, wrote an article titled, “’Groove’ Is Calypso Best Chance of Going International like Reggae” published by Grenada Barnacle on June 20, 2013. The article is very interesting and Mr Gill made some good points in terms of explaining the contribution Grenada and the other Eastern Caribbean countries made in the creation and evolution of calypso music. Gill quotes: “Calypso originated in the Eastern Caribbean. And, although Trinidad is now the Mecca – and the greatest depository of the music – T &T cannot lay claim to it solely. The smaller neighbouring islands, including Grenada, have an identical history and can trace the early origins of calypso in their own countries.”
However, if our Grenadian music promoters had the same knowledge and consciousness as Arley Gill, during our carnival seasons or what we sometimes refer to as the buildup of carnival, they as promoters would show some respect to calypso music and avoid staging entertainment shows that are not related to Grenada’s carnival and carnival events in the Eastern Caribbean. And even though some of these music promoters are not educated as Arley Gill, they cannot deny the fact that they know clearly well that calypso is the oldest musical art-form in the Eastern Caribbean.
However, some of them are so cunning and crafty, they seem to be playing smart and trying to fool the youths by making their entertainment events look as though they are creating entertainment competitions, whereby soca and calypso versus reggae and dance hall music. However, their main interest is not to promote calypso and soca but, to avoid antagonising local calypso and soca lovers, they disguise the events.
In addition, Arley Gill explained the early role of Grenadian calypsonians in the history of carnival. As he quotes: “For instance, Pierre Begorrat from Grenada was one of the earliest notable exponents of the art-form and he migrated to Trinidad. The early exodus of Pierre Begorrat set a pattern in which Trinidad became the beneficiary of many of the finest calypsonians of Grenadian birth or background including the Mighty Sparrow – Calypso King of the World.”
As Grenadians and Eastern Caribbean citizens, it is our duty to protect and promote calypso and soca music. We must not be misled by outside forces and abandon our rich historical and traditional culture. As Mr Gill correctly explained, calypso is not the music of Trinidad alone. Calypso is the music of the Eastern Caribbean. He is so correct. And if we go back in to the history of plantation life in the Caribbean, calypso was the music sung by African slaves on the plantations throughout the Eastern Caribbean, long before Trinidad had its first slave plantation.
However, it is very important for us as citizens in the Eastern Caribbean to protect the historical traditions of carnival and I must applaud Barbados Crop Over organisers for taking the lead in preserving the calypso and soca music art-form during the carnival season. And after carnival is over, as Eastern Caribbean people we must go back to our liberal ways of living and accommodate all the other genres of music to be part of entertainment within society.
However, we are supposed to be a conscious, civilised people, who respect all cultures, but we will never succumb to cultural genocide and cultural imperialism. Therefore, it is very important for our music promoters to know that they are not promoting culture when they bring in foreign artistes with foreign musical content, because national culture is different from foreign entertainment.