Calypso in trouble

findley jeffrey
Finley Jeffrey aka calypsonian Scholar

by Devonson La Mothe

No matter what arguments are advanced by Scholar and his friends Godfrey Augustine and Randal Robinson, to defend the calypso “Sitherhal” from its critics, one thing I am certain of, neither the Mighty Gabby nor Chalkdust nor Valentino, would sing a calypso like this one.

A comparison of “Sitherhal” with classic social commentaries such as Chalkdust’s “White People Laughing at We”, “Three Blind Mice” “Ah Fraid Karl”; Gabby’s “Jack” and “West Indian” Politicians”; Sparrow’s ‘steel Beam” and “London Bridge is Falling Down; and Valentino’s “Calypso in Trouble”, would reveal that it is very much of an inferior quality to them.

For instance, despite the fact that it has a good melody for pan, unlike the other calypsoes, it lacks lyrical complexity and durability, it is hard to identify what noble sentiments, Scholar is attempting to promote, and there isn’t much in the calypso to teach anybody anything. So, I am still wondering what it is about this song that is so brilliant, as suggested by Augustine and Robinson, apparently the world’s most brilliant experts of satire.

Recently, many of our politicians and calypsonians have become quite preoccupied about the legacy that they will leave behind them. I am unable to see how singing a calypso like this one would help to enhance the legacy of Scholar. Greatness in calypso is not only about winning local competitions; it is about promoting a people’s dreams and hopes and aspirations, lyrical durability, and being able to capture not only the local imagination but the regional and global as well. In the 1970s I was proud when I met Nigerians abroad who were fans of the Mighty Sparrow, which proved that he was truly the calypso king of the world. Our calypsonians more and more must sing on regional and global themes.

What was Scholar being critical of in this calypso, which he and his friends are trying to convince us is greater by far than any calypso ever sung anywhere in the world? Was it the supposed sexual orientation of an individual, or the fiasco surrounding our inability to have a “Panorama” competition last year? Scholar is trying to suggest that is the latter. If that is so, an honest and objective analysis of the contents of the calypso, indicates that there is a certain lack of balance in it, for its lyrics is more biased towards the first intention than the second one, so what has emerged is a scandalous public exposure of something, which was supposed to be someone’s secret.

Scholar says that none of his other calypsoes is as good as “Sitherhal”, a claim which many people regard as a dangerous flight from reality. Such arguments to defend the calypso by him and his defenders are so ridiculous, that they deserve to be ridiculed, which often is an important act of satire.

Calypso in Grenada is indeed in trouble as shown by the performance of 2 of our greatest crown winners in the last 25 years. To begin with, we have Scholar, who continues his self-constriction by too regularly singing calypsoes on local themes. This means too many of his calypsoes are only locally relevant. Then we have Ajamu, who is a commendable musician and one of our most versatile entertainers, who, over 60% of the time have created calypsoes only about himself, rather than on local, regional or global themes. The last good calypsoes sung by a Grenadian on global themes was over 2 decades ago. These include Wizard’s “IMF” and “The Berlin Wall” and the Praying Mantis” “Free South Africa.”

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