The Political Calypso: True Opposition in Trinidad and Tobago, 1962-1987

By Louis Regis | Go to book overview

Preface

At 0001 hours on Friday 31 August 1962, the red, white and black flag of the infant state of Trinidad and Tobago replaced the British Union Jack atop the standard on the front lawn of the Red House, the parliament building in Port of Spain, the nation's capital. Two weeks before this signal event, however, the achievement of independence had been celebrated publicly in song at the finals of the first independence Calypso King competition staged at the Town Hall, Port of Spain.

All things considered, it was fitting that the calypsonian be the herald of independence because he had long championed the national forces and movements agitating for self-rule and statehood. Over the following 25 years, and beyond, he continued commenting on happenings in the political domain, communicating his views about politics, politicians and power sharing. Twenty- five years of his song have left us a priceless archive of social history which is at once the saga of independence viewed from the perspective of the urban, largely Afro-Trinidadian underclass, and at the same time, the dynamic story of a popular folk urban song form as it developed in a volatile time.

Sadly, many nationals do not accept the calypso as the national song. Some despise it as "rum music" (to quote Stalin "Wait Dorothy" 1985); others, remarking its intimate relationship with the carnival bacchanals, divine in it the hand of the Devil; still others decry its seasonality; while there are those who dismiss it as an Afro-Creole expression. To all these objectors, the calypso cannot qualify as "The voice of the People" much more (and here the conscientious shudder) "The voice of God".

It cannot be disputed, however, that the calypso enjoys national hearing although the calypsonian does not profit from this and is hardly aware of it until, paradoxically, he is engulfed in controversy. Stalin, in an afterword to the "Caribbean Man" controversy which raged over his "Caribbean Unity" ( 1979), commented: "In one sense I was happy because we was conscious even though we wasn't getting support from certain areas, people listening who we didn't even know was listening."

-ix-

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The Political Calypso: True Opposition in Trinidad and Tobago, 1962-1987
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • List of Illustrations viii
  • Preface ix
  • Acknowledgements xiv
  • List of Abbreviations xv
  • 1 - The Calypso and Politics 1956-1962 1
  • 2 - The Model Nation 1963-1965 20
  • 3 - God Bless Our Nation 1966-1970 37
  • 4 - The Roaring Seventies 1971-1975 69
  • 5 - "I, Eric Eustace Williams" 1976-1981 121
  • 6 - "The Sinking Ship" 1982-1986 163
  • 7 - Happy Anniversary: the 25th Anniversary of Independence Calypso Monarch Competition 195
  • 8 - Ars Poetica 208
  • Conclusion 236
  • Afterword 238
  • Notes 240
  • Appendixes 257
  • Bibliography 269
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