November 30, 2002
By Bukka Rennie
One big problem we face in this society is the mass confusion that results from social commentators attempting to comment on phenomena about which they know nothing, nor about which they are prepared to spend the time examining in depth, "looking beneath the surface" as the GB calypso, sung by Prowler, intones.
The most recent case in point is the supposed study done by Dr Hari Maharaj and Akleema Ali purporting to examine the Carnival mentality of Trinidadians.
In rebuttal to all the nonsense spouted, this column will give way today to extracts of a poem titled "All Stars", written by yours truly, that won first prize at the International Book Year contest back in 1972:
...Give me the Carnival mentality any day
for otherwise the norm of life says follow the crowd
go no further than the mob
pigeon-holed by social convention
and the might of powers that be
where the biggest crime is to shine
but not with Carnival
its mentality is to walk alone
in quite isolation if need be
away from the contemptuous noise
to go where none has gone before
to achieve what none has even dreamed
give me the Carnival mentality any day
with its silent triumph and unrecognised breakaway!
...High up in de garret
at de top o' de stairway o' Maple Leaf Club
night and day, day and night
man practising Bomb in total secret
dey playing dem pans wid dey bare fingers
so de notes cyar escape
to anxious ears o' de gamblers and jamettes below
or float thru' de window
down to passing folks in de streets
where guards patrol
discouraging all rival, all strangers
looking up as if dey want to know de garret affairs...
...Each section practice at different time
when tenor men gone, den bassman come to start/
and after dat is double-second
den chelo, den guitar
and riddim apart.
No section hear what de odders doing
no one know how de whole thing go sound
excepting de Mouche-Man
selfless, faceless wanderer o' steelband creation
who have it all in he head
de only time de players hear de whole thing
is when de "bombs" drop at early dawn
when dey beat wid sticks
before de big big crowd
in de makeshift theatre
dey calling Nagib yard.
...Carnival mentality is divergent thinking
is divergent acting
is carrying on
like yuh want to
like yuh like to
like yuh must
not the sickening sameness and death of prearranged routine
the suicides of conservative cowardice.
It is reaching for the sky
aiming for the raging colours
that bend to glitter
that extend and push and stretch
despite the pain and bleeding
unto Olympian realms.
...Give me that romance any day
that reaching for rainbows beyond plebian plateaux
beyond the chatter of riffraff on the ground
the multitudes of mere mediocrity
chasing not the supposed impossibility of the variegated bend
but limiting self
to the fixed conception of exchange value and green
never to see, never to smell the true pot of Apollonian gold...
...And Jitterbug, de garret cleaner, master flag-waver
wave flag like he insane
he pass de flag thru' he legs and behind he back
he thro' it way up in de semi-darkness o' de early morn
till like it touch de stars
in ah kinda salute to de universe
it twirl, it spin, it turn and come down to rest
back in Jitter' hand
like if it move to de command o' remote control.
And Jitterbug dance
dance wid he eyes closed
leading de band wid he radar instinct
taking position from de breeze/
that blow de tears
away from he unnecessary eyes...
...Give me that Carnival mentality any day
that struggle for commitment
that pain to make, to come good
to excel beyond and above the prison walls
that jumping-up ...and up... and up
till exhaustion blind the eyes and sight shifts to the mind
trained on the light of street lamps
and the flittering flies
that rise above the shadowy gloom
contending to get closer
living only to become one
with the neon gleam.