Trinidad and Tobago


When you parang the right houses

January 02, 2001

GIVEN my collection of experiences this past month, I felt sincerely sorry for calypsonian Ninja, from first hearing “Ah Parang de Wrong House”, which became one of the season’s radio hits.

Poor young man, I thought, calypso king at Carib Brewery many times over, graduated to Calypso Spektakula, and still not able to garner a more dependable group of friends.

And I looked out for him on so many occasions, thinking he might be attempting to gain entry just next door, albeit erroneously, when a wonderful time was being had just a fence away.

Even with a winning song, he never made it to major music store retail outlets, so everyone wishing to have a personal copy of the piece had to resort to pavement pirates.

And it would have worked so well, because for reasons that remain unclear, this year’s Christmas hospitality seemed more effusive than ever. Nor was it only available at family homes. Kicking off the month, there was Relator live at the House of Angostura on December 7, followed up nicely by Starlite Distributors’ dinner party on the following night at the Ramkissoon’s residence in Macoya.

December 10 offered two bites of the Christmas cherry, with the CCN Brunch at La Joya, which advertised a closing time of 6 p.m. But except for those of us who had to attend the Fun Raiser with Roy Cape and the Kaiso All Stars at the Queen’s Park Oval, very few employees took that particular deadline seriously.

Of course, liquor and liming are frowned upon during the conduct of a general election, but from half an hour after the polls closed on December 11, there was the all-inclusive fish broth and pelau lime at Martin’s on the Boulevard. The next night was the WEFM party at Club Coconuts which, some stragglers stretched to a time way past midnight.

Relator was appearing live again on December 13, this time at Jenny’s on the Boulevard, which pulled the crowd. With his luck, Ninja must have gone to the Mas Camp Pub, where it is normally safe to expect a large crowd on any Wednesday. However, that night, a Cro Cro show had to be cancelled, due to poor patronage. He could also have gone to the Pelican Pub, where the parang was in full flight up to way past 1 a.m.

Perhaps he just went to the Camp prematurely, because on December 14, the house was full, as Lord Superior launched his comeback CD, a show which also featured Relator, Valentino, Blakie, Boogsie Sharpe and Black Stalin.

The Friday of that week saw more live action at the Rituals Music Yard and to top off the week, Owen Serrette celebrated his 60th birthday in fine style on Saturday night at his Petit Valley home.

A Sunday brunch hosted by Hilton Trinidad on December 17 was another of those events that was scheduled to finish at a given time (2 p.m. but went until sundown, aided and abetted by general manager, Ali Khan, and marketing manager, Gita Mohammed.

Christmas week (as a whole fortnight was labeled this year) offered a double-header on December 20, with the Trinidad Broadcasting Company’s end of year jam at the Clubhouse, Queen’s Park Savannah, followed by the launch of Square One’s new CD at Pier 1.

The next night the Harvard Harps hosted a great lime at their Harvard Club panyard, attracting long standing members like Lawford Dupres, Curtis Pierre and Ken “Grundig” Brathwaite to the almond tree for sumptuous fare.

Martin’s on the Boulevard, in an annual ritual of sacrifice, also threw open its bar and kitchen to selected regulars and for once, closed the cash register.

St Clair Thompson and Cherrie held theirs on Saturday and the de Leon’s (ibn Llama and Michelle) were fully accommodating to family and a few friends on Christmas Eve night, a lime that offered great conversation from the likes of Winston Maynard and Lance Selman.

Why, Ninja could have come to our family gathering on Christmas morning, which again this year took the form of an elaborate champagne breakfast at the home of Brian and Gillian Mc Nish, a feast that extended well past my annual date for pre-lunch drinks at the Serrette home.

Christmas night, though, presented one of the most unique events of the season. It occurred during the annual visit with the Plummer family at Arlene’s Diamond Vale home, which took place after a tasting of Claudia Calliste’s pepper-shrimp.

At the Plummer lime, sister and singer Denyse was holding fort, when we heard African drumming coming up the street. It turned out that the group was on a house-to-house parang.

Boxing Day took us to San Fernando, with appropriate stops along the way, most notably a whistle-wetter at the Freeport home of Giddeon Jackman, who had flagged us down on the highway and extended an impromptu invitation with the simple line: “I am going home. You know what to do.” That day-long journey, frequently punctuated by sips (thank heavens I wasn’t driving), also took us to a sorrel and peas plantation, where we tasted a native liquor preparation.

Then it was off to the Esperance/Phillipine Main Road home of Dennis Williams, a landscape artist, whose Christmas décor brings curious spectators from miles away to view his artificial snow, which covers his home from laden rooftop to trees and the front lawn.

Williams, in true Trini fashion, immediately introduced his family and treated us to cutters of curried goat and slices of ham, explaining that although he was of Indian descent, he was neither Muslim nor Hindu, so his eating habits were liberal. His brother offered home-made spirits and threatened to whip up some dhalpuri, but it was getting too late.

You see, Ninja, Boxing Night is the time for proceeding to Arima for the annual birthday and anniversary party of Andy Johnson and wife Charlene and this year being their tenth, it was not to be missed. And Charlene having marked her birthday on Christmas Eve, the mood was enhanced.

Even on Eid ul Fitr; Ninja would have been in good company, as we made our way to the first rehearsal of Kitchener’s Calypso Revue. He could have stayed with the convoy, when we headed east for a lime at the Pamberi panyard, before a visit to the home of Roy Augustus and wife Lena, where a most timely fish broth was in the offing.

Having missed my traditional Christmas Night visit to the home of George and Dawn Ng Wai, I fitted in a short lime on the way to Ingrid Lashley’s annual open house. There, they also spoke of Ninja. And at the Lashley home, he could have actually performed as again this year, the lime featured live music from Len “Boogsie” Sharpe, Pelham Goddard on keyboard and Gerald “Slam” Charles on upright bass.

On Thursday, Robert Giuseppi played patriarch for the family’s annual dinner, a lime that included long-standing friends like Vat 19 Anyhowers’ founder Andre McIntyre and the Pollard and McKell boys. Then it was off to the Upper Level Club for the public premiere of a new album by Traffik.

Actually, the experience at Upper Level was the low point of the season, with the crowded party, wet floor, disgruntled cashier and other inhospitable factors dulling my enjoyment of the band’s presentation.

To be fair to Traffik though, their spirited presentation did manage to overwhelm the house with a number of new songs and, of course, their interpretation of Shadow’s “Yuh Lookin’ for Horn”; a musical appreciation of what material girls will do.

Shame on you, Ninja, for missing out on all of this. But there is a bright side. “Ah Parang the Wrong House” is truly a great song and one that will last for many more Christmases.


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