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A political melody

Terry Joseph
December 05, 2001

With the increased frequency of elections since 1995, a brisk market is evolving for calypsonians who can at short notice successfully peddle custom-made songs, cut on the bias of a selected party and tailored to fit the body politic.

Sage counsel cautions against premature appraisal of any creativity-inducing stimulant, but among early negative yield from this entirely market-driven niche has been a type of calypso that substitutes unfettered opponent-bashing for probity; literally a "battery-included" product that relegates writing craft to the status of a distraction.

Dr Hollis Liverpool (aka calypsonian Chalkdust) may have been just a tad stern on fellow artiste M'ba, but he is unassailably accurate in his analysis of the overall situation. To be identifiable as an official calypso mouthpiece for any one political party is only achievable at the sacrifice of integrity as political commentator at large. Previous examples abound.

In the same fray, some genuine masterpieces of political-commentary calypso have also suffered collateral damage, among them Gypsy's "Sinking Ship". Penned to target the incumbent, his song was suddenly rendered worthless to both sides of the political divide, when its composer/performer became part of the Government.

With lyrics dedicated to the anthology of a collapsing regime, the ruling party would hardly wish to remind us of "Sinking Ship". And given Gypsy's political allegiance, challengers were wary of using the piece until fellow calypsonian Cro Cro's deliberate damblay swung melody and mission against the composer and by osmosis, the party he represents. Unflattering as the result may be, Gypsy should therefore thank Cro Cro for helping to re-float so valuable a song.

No such luck attended the unfortunate trashing of Lord Shorty's classic "Money Eh No Problem", originally another anti-PNM calypso, now pushed beyond resurrection by a politically expedient remake. Aimed at the same target, the new arrow is bereft of even a basic point.

Perhaps calypsonians who wish to cash in on the political moment should spare us the cannibalisation of more serious songs and take a cue from the tone of political speeches instead which, I feel certain, would drive them toward more humorous works.

Among the stalwarts in that league was Lord Melody, whose songs seem to lend themselves to equally humorous adaptation, when unfathomable occasions confront us.

And in a political scenario where each side accuses all others of selling bad goods, what came swiftly to mind was a song by Melody called "The Peddlars", which could have been reworked thusly:


Beware of politicians this round
Don't care how sweet these people sound
Politicians like video these days
Some does "rewind", some could "erase"
Whether in Rienzi or Woodford Square
They will say what they think the crowd wants to hear
If you interested in keeping your sanity
Shut your ears to all the inanity.


They expose rice-deal, nice-deal, jobs for the boys
Next side say is only "noise"
InnCogen, Airport, Desalination
They say don't bother 'bout corruption
They kill Sumairsingh and hold Dhanraj Singh
And Jagdeo Singh get a jail
But Ramesh say if his team get in
He arresting all o' dem tail

Chorus Two:

Ramesh withdraw support, can't take no more
He just ups and crossed the floor
With Maraj, Sudama (like Baksh wasn't sure)
UNC call them "The Gang of Four"
Suddenly we hear is Three Musketeer'
The fourth man going up in South
Today they here, then tomorrow they there
Yuh can't trust dem fellas mouth

Chorus Three:

They have whitewash, white lie, all kinda tricks
And calling that "politics"
Promising cash for everybody
Like it have no limit in the treasury
Pensioner, doctor, teacher and cop
Everybody pay going up
But before I get to put in my plea
Up comes the DPP


Where you get this? Where you get that?
A US cheque and Kensington flat
Election is not dollars alone
The hospital is a fresh war zone
Crime going up, yuh can't get it to stop
As you promise since '95
We don't know if we will be here Monday
But we go vote if we still alive

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