Feature Address – Cocktail Reception In Honour of Calypso History Month

Feature Address By His Excellency Anthony Thomas Aquinas Carmona ORTT, SC President Of The Republic Of Trinidad And Tobago
At The Cocktail Reception In Honour of Calypso History Month
At The Anchorage, Chaguaramas
October 20, 2016

Members of the Trinbago Unified Calypsonians Organization (TUCO) Executive and Staff; Chairman, Deputy Chairman; Members of the National Carnival Commission (NCC); artists and my fellow calypsonians; all special invited guests; Members of the media-good evening, and of course it would be remiss of me if I did not mention persons like All Rounder, Contender, Brother J, persons who in fact I sang with at CDC tent many, many years ago.  And of course some of them went on in fact, together with me, to the semi-finals in Skinners Park.

I am so sorry in fact that many of you all were not at the Central Bank where NJAC, under its cultural arm, was celebrating excellence in the word of calypso.  And I say I am sorry because I cannot help but emphasize the importance of Makandal Daaga in the growth of calypso throughout this land, and throughout this region.  Because I personally feel, and I say this without reservation, that the legacy of Makandal Daaga has been given a “raw deal” in this country.  And he has been given a raw deal because we have not fully appreciated-we do not fully appreciate-that back in the seventies (70s) when the commanding heights of the economy were controlled by foreigners, he decided that enough was enough.  And I always remember his singular statement of the need for nationalization, the need to take control of our destiny, when he stated, and I quote, he said, Makandal Daaga said, “I do not want a slice of bread. I want the whole loaf.” (End of quote).

And it was his way of telling us as a people that we needed to control our destiny.  And that found its way into the calypsos of that era; calypsos that dealt with our sense of self-definition and the need for us to actualize our dreams as proud citizens of Trinidad and Tobago.  That is why I spoke about King Austin, who I referred to as” the Marvin Gaye of Trinidad and Tobago” when he sang “Progress” and “Who shall Guard the Guards”.  Because his calypsos, they were analogous to Marvin Gaye when he sang “Mercy, Mercy Me” (The Ecology), talking about the environment, and when he sang “Whats Going On”, when in fact he was dealing with the world that engaged The Vietnam War where young black men were dying for America, in Vietnam, and they didnt find and get the recognition at home-even when in fact their bodies were brought home.

He lived in an era where in fact you had persons like Valentino, like Duke, saying “Black is beautiful”, part of that whole “civil rights trust” to ensure equality for every man jack in every part of the society.  And that is why in fact I have stated, and I will state it over and over again because we need to sing about it, that all lives matter, all lives matter.

So again, I want to in fact to thank you all very much for coming here to celebrate the supremacy of calypso.  The fact that I mentioned that one day I hope (probably not in my generation) in the same way a songster, composer, a singer won the Nobel Peace Prize for literature, I hope one day that we will produce a calypsonian who will in fact be the Nobel Peace Prize winner for literature.  But we need to sing songs of power.  We need to sing songs with an international theme and motif.  We need to seek lyrics that will change what is taking place in Africa-in Traya, in the Congo, in South Sudan, off the coast of Langhudasa.  We need in fact to change the minds of terrorists, who are bombing persons all over the world and will not ask what passport youre carrying.  Because what we really need to change is not terrorism, we need to change minds-we need to change minds, and through calypso, we can change minds.  So ladies and gentlemen, do not underestimate the power that you have, the power you wield as a calypsonian.  Because your profession is an honourable profession.  Yes, you have been looked at, you have been spat on, and you have in fact been isolated and marginalized.  Those days are over.  You need to take your rightful place in this society and you need to say proudly when anyone asks you, what is your profession?  “I am a calypsonian.”

I read history.  Listen, when you read what took place in the fifties (50s), how many of you know (or knew) what happened when the West Indies beat England in that first test (in the fifties).  When you read about the magic of that moment, when in fact Lord Kitchener was at Lords-he and Pretender-and when in fact we had our own local orchestra, and that orchestra consisted of bottles and spoons and drums, and when we “lick up” England at their own game, Kitchener and all the West Indians went down to Piccadilly Square, and they were beating bottle and spoon and singing kaiso-kaiso.  And it was not restricted to persons of Trinidad and Tobago; it involved all West Indians.  And I can tell you for example, I respect reggae but reggae has nothing over calypso.  And what I could tell you, we need to ensure kaiso and reggae always remain “Ceylonese twins”.  Because we walk hand in hand.  We are stuck by the umbilical cord.

I am seeing great calypsonians-I am seeing Crazy, I am seeing Contender, I remember seeing Blue Boy.  Listen, do we really appreciate the genius of Blue Boy.  You know that song that he sang last year had four hook lines?  It aptly demonstrates the genius of the man, and when I heard the calypso of Weldon Francis and Devon Seales (and others), I know that our calypso are in right hands.  Listen, you could sing about “local thing”, you could sing about Mauve Lange and gossip and talk, but always remember when you go on that Dimanche Gras, you need to sing an international song.  Because when you go outside and you sing, people must be able to connect with what you are saying.  And when you go out there, you must be able by your song-by your content, by your lyrics, by your power, by your philosophy in your song-to be able in fact to change the world and to change the minds of those whose minds need changing.  Because when you go to the United States (US), you must be able to change the way a Trump supporter thinks.  You must be able in fact to send the message of Michelle Obama: “When they go low, we will go high.”

So ladies and gentlemen, do have a great night-have a wonderful night.  And let us celebrate the power, the magic, and the lyrical rhapsody of kaiso.  And I did not mention my good friend the Baron, the sweet soca man who likes “Spanish woman”.  So do have a great time.  Thank you very much for coming out and all Gods blessings to you all-in your careers, in your lives, in your families.

Thank you very much.