January 31, 2001 By Keith Smith

None of the above

AS I wrote to Kareem Muhammad aka World Cup aka Wayne Gittens in Brooklyn yesterday, what he has to do in listening to this “Vintage” album Chalkdust is caressing us with is to hold on to his wife Aliyah and dance in the way that people in our generation used to do before w , quite mistakenly, passed the dance floor on to his children’s generation who promptly abandoned the sweetness of melody for Lord knows what, boys and girls jerkily hip-hopping away! from each other.

Kareema, Khadidra and Kaliyah, I told him, would probably roll on their living-room ground laughing, beholding their parents doing something as old-fashioned as holding on and dancing, but if he remembered how to move smoothly as we used to, boys leading girls, our clique fashioning their steps after the long sensual strides shown off by Herman aka Ushkay Thomas, they’d probably be drawn in to the romantic scene, dim lights, rum-and-Coke and all.

Be sure, I advised him, to pay attention to the band choruses, willingly allowing his moves to the manipulated by the genius that is Frankie McIntosh, the man making magic on the keyboards, notes pirouetting as if he was pecking them off a guitar, preening picoplats in the softness of the evening’s light. I didn’t have to tell him because ’Cup is one of the bright ones that the lyrics worked on their own (so many calypsoes unable to stand the scrutiny of the printed page) but I had to tell him, because he does not know the particular fraternity as I do, that it is clear that the present political actions of his teacher and calypso friends remain stuck in his craw. In “The Tent is the Thing”, for example, “Chalkie” castigates Gypsy for allowing himself to be lured into the UNC and GB for professionally serving it, the insistence being that it’s the calypsonian not the game-playing politician who best serves the people. The former Director of Culture now History Professor of the University of the Virgin Islands clings to his independence of the political parties on the national stage, the former NJACian intoning:

Anywhere I pass in town
I hearing the same old song
How come you ent go, Chalkie,
For election like Gypsy?
You could be a Minister
You could take charge of Culture
You could be like Sudama
Driving million-dollar car
You went university and get big PhD
Why not use your education to help we
Do like the great Attila the Hun in history
He won his seat, Election 1950

Ah tell them flat
Chalkie not in that
I’m no door mat
For them Red House rats
I am not siding with Panday nor Manning
I’m not for NJAC
To hell with PNM and UNC
I am for PPP
The Poor People’s Party
Is them I represent
And the kaiso tent is mih Parliament

I does tell all mih critics
Red House politicians sick
Deceitful to each other
And all of them congosah
But the kaiso tent, my friend
Engages time-honoured men
Like the illustrious Kitchener
Stalin the philosopher
Some like the Mighty Shadow does deal
with poverty
Pink Panther and Aloes are the two macos of society
Some like the lion-hearted Cro Cro sing fearlessly
Others like Delamo stand for truth and honesty

Car, house and loot
Ah doh give a hoot
I prefer truth and men of repute
I don’t favour fish, fowl or iguana
I am for fairness and justice
Going up for election cyar bring me this
I am for people
Black, white, yellow, purple
Race I don’t compliment
And the kaiso tent is mih Parliament

If I should do like Gypsy
I will join the family
Of no loyalty and bacchanal
And turn-coat jest like Kamal
For when Gypsy cause the uproar
And went through the UNC door
Town say his action break the law
And like Griffith he cross the floor
So I prefer to stay in the kaiso body only
Rather than join a political party
With kaiso the nation becomes my constituency
And no Dhanraj Singh can come here and wine on me

So the PPP already chose me
Honourably to serve this country
In my chamber
Tommy is the Speaker
And the Opposition
Is all them harbingers of corruption
So doh confuse me with Gypsy or GB
Jack ent pay me a cent
And the kaiso tent is my Parliament

“Who Pass the Test”, the album’s first cut sets the political tone, “Caribbean at War” sees the region pitted against a range of destructive multinational forces and rides on what I find to be the sweetest in an album of sweet melodies, “Kitch 2001” is the obligatory pan tune and Cut Four as I wrote Kareem, is more for Brooklyners or Trini-Brooklyn travellers than for us, Chalkie telling the story of a homesick woman moving from Harlem to Brooklyn and being homesick no longer since she “bounce up” the Korean Store: Aloes... rachet...baccano...hog plum...pommecytere and smoke herring...alum to keep you like a virgin...chataigne to blow out your intestines...Bajan salt-fish and salt nuts....yuh getting cold Carib and Solo...tell Smiley in Carenage for me...Sapatay fish reach New York City.

Friends, I tell you this, five times a kaiso king, “Chalkie” bids fair to add a sixth.

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