Project Grenada Through the Calypsonian’s Eyes

Arley Gill

By Arley Gill

So often in a society, cultural performers articulate a vision and speak from the heart and soul of their people. Many times they are dismissed and not taken seriously. In Grenada’s case, the music of our calypsonians is appreciated and essentially has become folk songs. However, we need to digest the songs’ messages and heed their advice. I think Prime Minister Keith Mitchell was doing just like me — listening to “good, good kaiso music,” when he felt inspired to call for “Project Grenada.”

In the past I have given my full and unqualified support to the Prime Minister’s concept of “Project Grenada”. I did so because I am convinced, that it is time that our political leadership gives some serious philosophical and practical leadership in uniting the people of our country. Thus, I was excited when the PM made such a call for unity; and, more so, in some concrete ways demonstrated the unity he spoke of.

The critics couldn’t help themselves. They said I was an NNP and a Peter David lackey. They couldn’t appreciate that I simply agreed with the PM because I was of the same conviction. In Grenada if you support the government of the day you are a supporter, if you disagree then you are the opposition. When we speak of political maturity it is just lip service; we do not appreciate ‎when it genuinely takes place.

I am not one that makes apologies for my political views; far from it. However, I wish that persons would appreciate sincerity when they see it. This concept of “Project Grenada” is merely the PM’s approach. But, the substance of that concept was long expounded through our music and our calypsonians.

For example, Cecil “Flying Turkey” Belfon gave that subject extensive treatment in his calypso, “Grenada still belongs to we’’. Turkey sings as follows: “For Grenada’s sake we have no choice but to unite, and let those who dwell among us without sin cast the first stone‎. Show me a man who has not done wrong, each one want to blame his adversary and hide his own fault. Well, tell me, how long this game can go on? Where is the love and unity?”

He goes on, “The evils that were done we contemplate every day; yet the good deeds we quickly hide away‎. But if the right hand get a cancer the whole body feels to pain; so we must gather strength and start building our home again… Like crabs in a barrel we keep pulling each other down… Let us reconcile differences and try unity; it is a duty, our responsibility.”

Turkey is, in essence, saying the same things I hear the PM is saying today. He continues: “We want to rebuild the Spice Island free of dr‎ugs, war and corruption. Politicians, please I say, abandon your power play, work towards the dawning of a new day. The world economy is unhealthy and that is true; bigger nations sneeze and we catch a flu.”

I find Turkey’s words are relevant today as when his tune was sung two decades ago, with the lyrics: “Where is the love, where is the unity, we have to realize the Spice Island comes first.” It is the same thing that “Project Grenada’’ is about.

Even before Turkey, Edson “Ajamu” Mitchell OBE, had proclaimed: “Ah want to tell everybody I’m so proud of my country; doh care wherever I maybe I say Grenada belongs to me; no country in this world could do the things that my country will do for me… Grenada is such a paradise, but a lot of folks doh realize; if we learn to pull we hand, do the little we can, we could make Grenada a better land’’. Isn’t that what Project Grenada is all about?

Randy Isaac in his classic song, “Oh Grenada”, sings: “I devote my heart, my body and my soul; I stretch forth my helping hand to help you out… I will be right here by your side, with my arms around you to wipe your weeping eyes‎”. He affirms repeatedly that he will never let Grenada down. Patriotic words which, to my view, form the core commitment of the Grenadian people to their country.

Elwyn McQuilkin OBE, in his seminal work, “Oh Grenada”, brings out the resilience and the character of our people when he sings: “Now we shall know who serious ’bout struggle by those who show they could rise‎… with patriotism and dedication for our reconstruction. Oh Grenada, land of my birth, the way you suffer; oh, how it hurts; those tribulation you had to bear will make superman one to despair; but the blood of our martyrs must not be shed in vain; oh, no, we must rise and shine again’’.

So, for all these years calypsonians are singing about Project Grenada; no one said they belonged to any party. It is years of listening and digesting these wonderful calypso compositions that inspired my support for Project Grenada. If you ask me, the politicians have joined the party late. The concept of Project Grenada existed long before the PM’s announcement. He only found a simple phrase to put it all together.

This concept of all for one and one for all, clearly is not about a party or politician. It is about us, as Grenadians. Therefore, constitutional reform and the drafting of a national development plan are about us, as a people. It is so sad to see persons playing political football with these nation-building projects.

I have a suggestion for the powers that be: those songs I have quoted here must form the theme songs of these national projects. We must not wait for independence to play and sing them. In every consultation, in every meeting, these songs must be played — during and after each session; and in every tea break.

Play them, if only to remind Grenadians that patriotism and nation building cut across every political divide.

We really have to unite to build our country.

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