Calypso and parenting in TnT
By Dr. Kwame Nantambu
March 25, 2006
While it is quite evident to all and sundry that TnT has been plunged
into the quagmire/doldrums/abyss of social/moral/human/familial chaos and
decadence, unfortunately this blight seems to have contaminated the
nation's traditional artform called calypso.
In its original manifesto, the Mission Statement of calypso was to
entertain, educate, inflict picong, "pong", "blaze", mammaguy and ridicule
politicians, politicize the masses, comment on national societal
ills/mistreatment/discrimination and international issues, interject
smut/humor, inter alia.
In those days, calypso not only adhered to its original Mission Statement
but was also well-received by the patrons at every venue, including the
fiesta at Skinner Park and National Calypso Monarch competition during
In those days, calypso was calypso and after a rendition, the audience
would shout: "Kaiso, Kaiso." Wine, jam and jump and wave had not yet come
to the fore. Indeed, the hallmark of calypso was profound, meaningful and
sensible lyrics, imaginative storyline, poetic format and presentation
plus interesting topics.
In those days, Jesus was a taboo lyric for every calypsonian. The
inclusion of the word Jesus in a calypso was regarded as being
antithetical to the artform--- and correctly so.
Jesus was seen as sacrosanct and the "sacred cow" neither to be
calypsosized nor tampered with. The fusion of calypso and religion,
including use of lyrics such as God and/or Jesus, was a
well-established/accepted/practiced "no no" among members of the
In those days, a calypso kept the audience alive. The patrons were in
stitches. Calypso attendance was a joyous, entertaining and unforgettable
experience, interrupted by encores.
Such a true, traditional calypso experience brought the concept of "call
and response" to its all-inclusive, musical-cultural-interactive zenith.
Today, however, the artform of calypso has detoured from its original
Mission Statement. More specifically, calypso has now adopted a
proselytizing Mission that is wrapped up in the swaddling, religious
lyrics of "God", "Jesus" and "Father."
Some calypsos at the past fiesta at Skinner Park were perfectly suited
as entertainment at a wake or grave site for a deceased. They were not
only blatantly dull and boring but also numb the very intrinsic, lively
inner spirit of carnival and its participants. They were a massive
Calypsos should seek to invoke life among the living; they should not
invoke sleep and drowsiness among the living. Furthermore, calypsos should
not be used to invoke the spirit of God to save people. That's the
responsibility of a religious, God-fearing, ordained person--- not the
calypsonian. Calypso is primarily for entertainment, et cetera, et cetera,
et cetera; it is not for evangelization--- however well-intended.
Calypsonians are basically entertainers; they are not Evangelists,
Pastors, Priests nor soul-savers. As such, the lyrics in their songs must
not reflect those religious, moral and notable callings in life. There
must be a clear divide between calypso as a secular artform versus any
other ecclesiastical artform.
These two artforms are not synonymous nor comparable nor interchangeable
nor substitutable. This reality is already evidenced by the fact that
quite a number of calypsonians have since left this musical artform and
have decided to resign their life's calling to write lyrics, sing songs
and give thanks and praises to their Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ in
church--- not in a tent or calypso competition.
Indeed, there is a valid distinction between a hymn to praise Lord Jesus
and a calypso to entertain patrons. This distinction does not need any
clarification. Ergo, the onus is on "Dem judges" and the Trinbago Unified
Calypsonians' Organisation (TUCO) to prevent the clear and present
danger of mixing these two musical artforms.
Jesus' rightful place is in church, the home, school and gospel songs; it
is definitely not in calypso. That is a colossal misfit. Jesus is
regarded by countless Trinbagonians as the "Saviour of the world". No
calypsonian is worthy of such a title--- and must never come close. Jesus
is an immortal God; a calypsonian is a mortal man.
Patrons pray to God; they do not pray to any calypsonian.
As a corollary, there seems to be the most ridiculous and preposterous
notion that is being bandied in TnT to suggest that children should
participate in playing steel pan because such activity imbues discipline
This is Euro-centric thinking and reasoning at its insane zenith.
The fact of the matter is that discipline of children does not and must
not begin or originate in any school's steel pan room or pan yard. The
stark reality is that discipline of children must begin or originate in
the home. It must begin there and no other place.
Parents have the sole/primary responsibility to discipline their children
at home. This is not the responsibility of the steel pan tuner/arranger
at school or in the pan yard. It is also not the responsibility of the
school teacher or guidance counselor.
A bass-drum did not have sex with a double-second steel pan and they
gave birth to a child. A man (husband) and a woman (wife) are the human
beings who had sex and gave birth to a child.
Ergo, these are the logical human beings/parents who must step up to the
plate and nurture, care for, bring up and discipline their child at
home. The child was born at home (assumed), surrounded by human beings;
he/she was not born in a pan yard surrounded by inhuman steel pans.
In this regard, parents must be the role models of their children. Steel
pan tuners/arrangers/leaders must not be such role models. They are all
well-respected and revered people in each community in TnT and they
should be looked-up to by children. They cannot and must not take the
place of parents.
By suggesting that children are disciplined in a steel pan
arena/environment strongly, but sadly, implies that TnT parents are
woefully neglecting their original parental responsibility to their
It also suggests that the home is no longer a place in which children
can be reared. In TnT, children now reside or in some cases survive, in a
house-a building- not in a home. Parents must realize that there is a vast
difference between a house and a home. There is indiscipline/mayhem/chaos
/disrespect in a house, while there is
discipline/tranquility/order/respect in a home.
Indeed, the onus of the abdication of parental responsibility must not
be put on the shoulders of members of the steel pan fraternity nor school
This onus must not also rest on the shoulders of TV cartoons which are now
used as a substitute for parental nurturing. The scary reality is that
these young children internalize the violent acts they see in these
cartoons, unknowingly and innocently lodge them in their subconscious mind
and then their conscious mind automatically spits them out when they
become young people. And this external spit is what TnT's society calls
violent indiscipline. These young people are no longer seen as innocent.
They are now the "victims of society."
Another factor that must be borne in mind is whether children can bring
up and/or discipline children. This is the societal reality in TnT today.
Discipline like charity begins at home. It does not begin at school or in
the steel pan yard. According to the deceased Afrikan-American comedian,
Richard Pryor: "If you see an ugly child in the street, go home and look
at the parents."
In other words, if a student (a child) is cursing in school then the
school's guidance counselor only needs to go and look at the student's
home environment. Indiscipline is learned behaviour. That child/student
did not curse when the doctor slapped him/her on the bottom when he/she
was born. That child/student learnt to curse via his/her home/community
environment. That child did not hear curse/obscene words for the first
time in school nor in the steel pan yard. The home was the instigator of
first resort for that child to curse.
The fact of the matter is that this genre of indiscipline behaviour must
be nipped at the outset at home by the child's parents when the child
is still an innocent, obedient child. Parents cannot wait until their
children are attending secondary school and then suddenly realize
they have a discipline problem which school teachers/counselors and steel
pan tuners must now cure/solve. Real life does not work that way.
It is far too late at this point in time in the child's life.
Parents are the ones who allow/permit unruly, indiscipline behaviour from
their children. In the beginning, such behaviour appears to be cute ,
acceptable and even applauded by parents and every one. However, loving
parents ( and they are all loving) do not seem to know when to draw the
line and at what age to draw that line. Parents cannot allow a child to
disrespect them until he/she is ten-twelve years old and then expect
that child to go into a school setting and respect an adult- a
teacher-who looks like his/her parents. Real life just does not work that
The child cannot not distinguish between the adult at home whom he/she
has disrespected for years and the adult-teacher- whom he/she must now
suddenly respect. Respect must begin at home for all adults.
As such, parents must be the primary people to solve or deal with the
problem of indiscipline among our children in TnT. The secondary
responsibility lies with the school and steel pan personnel.
The fact of the matter is that indiscipline begins at home; it only ends
up in school. Therefore, common sense seems to suggest that the beginning
of its end must begin at home.
Indiscipline in school is only the effect or end- result of indiscipline
at home ; home is the endemic cause.
A school teacher or steel pan turner can only compliment and/or supplement
the discipline a child brings from home. These professionals are not home
What is needed in TnT is the revitalization/reactivation of long-held
home values and the concept of the extended family way of life. This
family structure once existed in TnT. There was discipline among school
children in those good-old days . It was taken for granted.
Trinbagonians used to live out the Afrikan concept of "it takes a
village to raise a child" without even knowing it.
In those days, parents accepted their parental responsibility. Children
were regarded as "gifts from the Creator".
However, since parents have neglected/abdicated/abandoned their parental responsibility, the discipline of children in TnT now has to be outsourced.
In the final analysis, parents are the building blocs in a child's life;
school teachers/guidance counselors, steel pan personnel, family members,
friends, community people are only the support beams.
Dr. Kwame Nantambu is a part-time lecturer at Cipriani College of Labour
and Co-operative Studies and University of the West Indies.
Nantambu's Homepage / Trinicenter Home