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Today I'm Captain Bligh

Terry Joseph
January 23, 2002

THE well-enshrined concept of giving credit where due may be up for review, especially since ragga-soca high-priest Iwer George abrogated unto himself the authority to demand praises for his contribution to Carnival.

In the twisted tongue of his preferred musical style Iwer's current hit asks his fans for a salute and predictably, wishes their response would take the desired form of hands in the air when he sings the ruse: "Gimme a bligh in the sky."

For those who came in late, a "bligh" is today's description of overt tribute, a hail of greater import than the obsolete "high-five" or yesterday's basic "shout out" or "big-up" variety that a "homie" might send to his "peeps" (people) via conducive radio stations.

Iwer really doesn't need a bligh to boost his bank balance, given the fortune he has raked in from a lucrative career based on little more than jumping up and down. Say what you like about his music, he has done extraordinarily well both at home and abroad, with an impressive portfolio of rolling stock and real estate to show for it.

Iwer came to our attention through controversy created by his entry into the senior league with the song "Boom-Boom Time". The work captured the pervading Carnival image so accurately it angered more than a few listeners who perhaps did not wish him to interpret so starkly what we do best during the festival.

He has continued in much the same vein, peaking in bacchannal with "Bottom in the Road" a calypso that shoved the envelope, evoking irate responses from Indo-Trinidadians although for no other reason than its subject being of Asian origin.

This year, he is embroiled in yet another bout of strife, an ongoing and degenerative verbal brawl with comedienne Rachel Price, using his current hit song to muster the ragga-soca forces, while throwing picong at the portly Price. Now completely out of control, the battle has become both ugly and boring, with Price reportedly resorting to outright slander in her desperation to save face.

But let us be careful to not dignify this highly undesirable offshoot of Carnival 2002 with more media space than it has already enjoyed. In fact, as an attempt at netralising the silly squabble, I have today appointed myself Captain Bligh, to hand out a first wave of accolades to deserving persons.

Firstly, we should give Prime Minister Patrick Manning a bligh for his effort to transform next Sunday's Panorama Savannah Party into a prayer meeting. Out of all the days available on this year's calendar, Mr Manning chose January 27 as a national Day of Thanksgiving. It is difficult to believe his advisors did not recognise that date as the one on which 20,000 people will flock to the Queen's Park Savannah to hear pan music and wine. Perhaps Mr Manning wishes to lead us not into temptation.

Up for salute too is the prankster who wrote in the current edition of BWIA's inflight magazine Caribbean Beat that Brother Resistance is the founder of the rapso movment; a slap in the face for the late Lancelot Kebu Layne being peddled at high altitude to unsuspecting readers. Separate recognition is also due to whoever at NH International was responsible for extending Christmas well past Epiphany, by refusing to dismantle the "Merry Christmas" lighting display on a tower-crane at the construction site of Royal Bank's new Finance House on St Clair Avenue.

But on a serious note, there's much to praise in Carnival 2002. Our thanks go out to Andre Tanker for reviving calypso with "bin Lion", a song that combines social and political commentary with festival rhythms, while telling about the events of September 11. Indeed, it may yet rescue an otherwise limping road-march race.

A bligh is also due for Neville Jules who, at age 80, again flew home from New York for the annual festival and can be found nightly at the Neal & Massy Trinidad All Stars panyard, no doubt reminiscing about the band he founded more than six decades ago. Additional kudos accrues to Mr Jules who, for the Jouvert steelband bomb competition that bears his name, is arranging yet another song for his band.

Hats off to former national calypso monarch Singing Sandra for her song "National Pride", Divino for "Calypso History", Young Marcelle, the boy wonder who does "Kiddies Carnival" and newcomer to calypso's frontline Natalie Yorke for her magnificent pitch in rendering Len "Boogsie" Sharpe's "Do What You Want."

Pan Trinbago too must take a bow for implementing the bold step of holding Panorama auditions in the panyards, rather than bringing bands of suspect quality to a paying audience and masquerading that as the preliminary round of competition. The Laventille Rhythm Section also deserves credit for elevating rudimentary background tempo to the status of danceable recording with "North Stand", "Warriors" and "Come Alive."

Now, it is to be hoped that these few awards do not purchase the same fate as befell the original Captain William Bligh who, on April 28, 1789 was victim to mutineers on the good ship HMS Bounty and set adrift thousands of miles from land.

Carnival's street dancing, a product originated by descendants of the very slaves for whom Captain Bligh's mission sought to find cheap food (breadfruit), is ironically most deserving of this recent corruption of his name.

Clearly, it is one of the things we do best and what better reason can anyone find to give a bligh?

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