Dr. Kwame Nantambu

Roving young calypso tent shines

Posted: April 13, 2004
By Dr. Kwame Nantambu

The young calypso singers of 2004 TUCO/Sunshine Snacks "Junior Roving Calypso Tent" are a breath of fresh air for the future of this art-form called calypso.

The lyrics and messages of calypso are in the good hands of these young, serious, dedicated, talented and promising young children.

There is an African dictum that says : "It takes a village to raise a child"; indeed, the 2004 TUCO/Sunshine Snacks combination was the perfect familial village to raise TnT's future calypsonians.

The roving tent performed at eight primary schools, beginning at Patna River Estate Government School on 23 January and ending at Cunupia Government School on 11 February 2004, to audiences of about three hundred five to twelve year-olds per school.

The Masters of Ceremonies were Duane O'Connor and Pearl Charles with music provided by "Harmony with Brass."

According to Peter Pitts of Sunshine Snacks: "the TUCO/Sunshine Snacks roving calypso tent has been a cultural/musical marriage consummated nineteen years ago." It's purpose is "to help promote the art-form in the future so as not to loose interest in the junior side of carnival."

Ms. Bernice Carr, TUCO's co-ordinator in this duet, corroborates by expounding that the purpose of this musical-cultural-commercial bonding is to serve "as a stepping-stone to prepare, groom and equip these young people with the necessary, critical tools that would enable them to master their craft for the big, adult stage" as in Dimanche Gras.

During this nineteen-year period the parent company, Associated Brands Limited, has pumped approximately $10million in to the program, including a $6,000 computer for each of last year's three 1st place finalists. In addition, Sunshine Snacks covered the expenses for all school events to the tune of $150,000 in 2004.

The fact of the matter is that the holistic, cultural combination between TUCO/Sunshine Snacks through the musical performances of these young children was hard to beat this season.

If there is one central theme to the lyrics of this year's calypso tent it is : "Message to young people: Get your values straight."

According to fifteen year-old performer, Martina Chow:

"As young people, you have the power to be
whatever you want to be;
you have the power to control your own
destiny; stand up and be
strong; you are in charge of your life. The
future is in your hands; you
are the pride of this nation. You've got to
be conscious; you've got to
be serious."

And in her 2004 calypso presentation titled "Jump up in love," Ms. Chow admonishes young people, in part:
"Everyday ah hearing the same old thing
Racism controlling the whole system
Because of different skin colour
men fuss and dey fight
Hating each other, that ent right
It's time dey realize dat we're
all the same
One blood, same blood, in
everyone's veins


Race, race, we doh want no race in
de place
No hate, come together
Race, race, we doh want no race in
de place
No hate, love each other

One love, we jumping up
One love, we hugging up
One love, we freeing up
It's time to jump up in love, jump up in

However, the strong, positive lyrical vibes do not stop there.

Roderick Gordon, a seventeen year-old sixth form student, who has been singing for the past ten years but is a first-timer with the roving tent, states that he wants "to educate young people because all Blacks are not the same" and that he strives "to send a positive message as a calypsonian in song."

And in one of his 2004 presentations titled "Trini to de Bone," he opines, in part:

"Trini to de bone
Doh leave we alone
We want you to come back home
Come be we guide
De chief cornerstone
Doh leh dem say
When you spray
Is ah set ah foam
Trini to de bone
We want you to come back home."

In the words of one of the 2003 Junior Calypso Monarch finalists, eighteen year-old-sixth former, Olatunji Yearwood : "Since we are youths ourselves, we are role models to youths. I need to know more about the history and culture of TnT and to educate young people through calypso lyrics. As an entertainer, my purpose is to teach young people positive values in life."

In keeping focus on the positive values in life by young people, eleven year-old Dinessa Nelson correctly notes:

"The only way out of this
'craziness' and wasteless society
where young people are selling
their soul for silver and gold is
that people must humble themselves
and pray."

The sad reality, albeit tragedy, is that the acquisition of crass materialism and wanton, runaway vanity are the self-destructive, driving-forces behind young people's lifes today. These factors seem to be unchecked, unabated and uncontrollable.

No one in authority and/or public policy decision-making position seems to care. This is the scary part. Young people are just expendable statistics in TnT.

Nineteen year-old, three-time National Junior Calypso Monarch and winner of the 2004 adult "Social Commentary" calypso category, Karene Asche, zeroes in on these crucial problems afflicting young people in her poignant 2004 presentation titled "Fifty Cent Philosophy" in part as follows:

"He is their role model
They find him so nice
Too many of our young people
Daily take his advice
Boys all over de Ghetto
Try to dress like him
He done give dem de zeppo
'Git rich or die trying'
And just like Malcolm X
He has his own philosophy
With de self-same text
'By any means necessary'


So youths today, you know what's their motto
(Git rich or die trying)
To get dat paper, they doh bother with lotto
(Git rich or die trying)
Lock down a turf, push some cocaine
(Git rich or die trying)
Or plan to stage a big, big kidnapping
(Git rich or die trying)
Yes, youths dream of being a thug
They boost their esteem by pushing drugs
Throughout my country, it's plain to see
(We caught up in de 50 cent philosophy)
Youths take a short cut to de cemetery
(Seduced by 50 cent philosophy)."

This is true Kaiso "2 D Bone."

Truth be Told: The general concensus is that the title song "The New Mall" by the 2004 National Junior Calypso Monarch , ten year-old, Sheynnene Hazell, is nothing but a gem.

In this treatise, Ms. Hazell not only castigates and denounces the "shame" on young people for using The National Library as an amusement cum violence-sex-oriented Mall but she also pleads with and appeals to them , to use this national treasure as a place, albeit sanctuary, for disciplined study and respect for each other.

This is Kaiso "2 D Bone."

Truth be Told: As a result of his up close and personal observation and interaction with some of the young performers and adult personnel of this roving calypso tent/village over the season, this writer is compelled to conclude that the future of TnT's calypso is good, secured and assured. It is "signed, sealed and delivered" by these young people ----the calypsonians of tomorrow.

The onus is now on these young people to stay grounded and stick to their strong, positive, values-oriented-driven lyrical tradition and not be tempted by jump and wave craziness. Be strong my young people.

Truth be Told: The young performers of 2004 TUCO/Sunshine Snacks "Junior Roving Calypso Tent" have taken calypso lyrics to the next level; let us hope they stay there,ad infinitum.

Shem Hotep("I go in peace").

( Dr. Nantambu is Professor Emeritus at Kent State University, U.S.A. His e-mail address is: kwame@tstt.net.tt).

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