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Featured Writer
Nicole Bland

by N. Bland

A Caribbean breeze blows over Anthologies Online.

This article sponsored by:

Nicole Bland is a 1998 Honors Graduate (accelerated program) in Film and Sociology from Smith College. Currently based on the Caribbean island of Trinidad, she balances these ventures with a full time freelance writing, web design and copywriting business. In her free time she enjoys scriptwriting, and at one point self-published a monthly zine entititled ŒKalypsoı. Nicole is also the webmaster of and station manager of Underwire, a critically acclaimed Trinidadian and Caribbean music internet radio station.


Educate Yourself
March 1999 – Kalypso

In todayıs world it has become increasingly fashionable to feign indifference and to be blasé, even ignorant, about world, national, or even domestic affairs and concerns, in the pursuit of self-comfort and material acquisition. Such narcissism and apathy has probably played its part in the decline of the secular popularity of calypso and the rise of soca. Attention was paid to last yearıs "High Mas" because it was the exception to what has become an increasingly banal norm.

I have no problem with a repetitive bassline, infectious rhythm or bawdy lyrics but I do have a problem with what is becoming an increasingly throwaway musical culture. 1997ıs tunes are anticipated, relished and then spat out as 98ıs are released (change the color of the rag, steal a melody from a different nursery rhyme). These tunes too are dismissed as Œold hatı in the wake of 99ıs releases and so on, ad infinitum. I would have no problem with this though if I felt it only affected the soca sub-genre, however I worry about the heavier fare that calypsonians have composed, deliberated upon and presented to audiences. You know, those compositions that encapsulate history first-hand as it happens. History on the visceral level. What happens to those tunes, sung in the tents one year, two years, three years, even ten, after they have been performed?

Itıs crazy when you think about it. Calypso is one of the few living musical and cultural forms that records history for people as it happens. No obscure documents, no official government releases, itıs music for the people, about the people, by the people. What a resource we have for future and current generations to learn about our future and our past, before revisionist textbooks and governments have put their spin on them! If we actually wanted to encourage critical thought in our youth we could supplement our history classes with the works of these griots who had been there as the events, we can now only read about in one-sided textbooks and observe in blurred photographs, unfolded.

Alas, because of the disposability with which we often view out cultural products after the Carnival season is forgotten, many of these recordings were either never made, lost if they were, or not rereleased after their original shelf life had expired. It is with great irony that I note that hundreds of books exist on the history of Carnival and Calypso within my collegeıs library system in Massachusetts along with CDs of kaiso from the 20ıs and 30ıs. How many of you reading this are aware that the ARChive of Contemporary Music in New York has built an extensive library and computerized database of Œlostı Calypso recordings. Or that a high school in Norway is using the lyrics of "Little Black Boy" to not only compare our dialect with Standard English but also to analyze post-colonial societal structures? Countries are using and appropriating our music to educate themselves, when will we regard it highly enough to use it to educate ourselves?

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