by Arley Gill
It has happened before! The first was a boy from the same parish, who was given the name Slinger Francisco by his parents, but known to the world as the “Mighty Sparrow’’. He was born in the small village of Grand Roy on 9 July 1935; he moved to Trinidad in 1937 when he was already a boy who was talking a lot.
This other boy was born in a small town called Gouyave, approximately 5 miles from Grand Roy; Gouyave being the town of the parish known as St John. His parents called him Hollis Mapp and he was born on 4 June 1984. The world now knows him as “Mr Killa’’.
In the days of Sparrow there were calypso competitions; at that time, soca competitions were unheard of. Sparrow won his first Trinidad Calypso King title in 1956 and went on to win seven more; he also won 8 Road March titles.
Another Grenadian of Sparrow’s era was known to the calypso world as the “Mighty Bomber’’. His parents called him Clifton Ryan. He moved to Trinidad in 1956 and won the calypso crown in 1964.
In those early days of Sparrow and Bomber, Grenada was still a colony. However, throughout the colonial era, there was heavy migration from Grenada to Trinidad. In fact, since King Carlos of Spain in 1783 declared the “Cedula of population for Trinidad” Grenada was the main contributor to the country’s population. Trinidad population was approximately 3,000 in 1783; by 1797, when the British conquered Trinidad, the population was about 14,000. Grenada contributed significantly then, as it has done throughout history.
Grenadians provided the backbone of the labour force on the oil fields of Trinidad and Grenada gave Trinidad its greatest trade union leader, one Tubal Uriah Buzz Butler. These migrant Grenadians made a serious offering to the development of Trinidad and Tobago and in no way could be considered foreigners. As well, Tobago once was considered to be part of the Windward Islands by the British. Another Grenadian, William Munro, arguably has been the entrepreneurial leader of the calypso industry in Trinidad. It is he that established Caribbean Prestige Promotions and the International Soca Monarch (ISM). Munro, a Grenadian living in Trinidad, had the vision of Caribbean soca artistes competing on one stage.
I say all this to say that Grenada and Trinidad and Tobago have a deep and rich relationship that is deserving of a description other than foreigners, both ways. The late great Patrick Manning would not want his countrymen referring to Grenadians as foreigners and vice versa.
Now, Trinidad is the Mecca for carnival, calypso and soca music in the English-speaking Caribbean. There can be no doubt about that! Having the largest population in the Eastern Caribbean, the strongest economy, and robust carnival traditions, make Trinidad the centre stage, almost by nature. For years, Trinidadians have given the Caribbean some of our best music, our steelband art-form, costume bands, and the best fêtes. Trinidad, in many respects, is one of the foundations of Caribbean culture; and, for that, Caribbean civilization owes T&T a debt of gratitude.
Indeed, it is a remarkable achievement for a young outstanding Grenadian to be the first non-national of Trinidad to win the ISM power soca. Barbadian Biggie Irie won the groovy title some years ago.
Mr Killa produced a world-class performance at the “Fantastic Friday’’ finals. He was focused and he ticked all the essential boxes in the judging criteria. The creativity of using the boat was a good way to bring the performance to an end. However, to those who would have followed Killa’s soca monarch presentations over his career, it was classic Killa, with the warriors and the speech as an introduction. Well done!
For many years, after the Barbadians enjoyed the “Bajan invasion’’ led by Edwin Yearwood and Alison Hinds, I always dreamt of Grenada doing something similar. You see, it’s okay for an artiste to have a song that is doing well; but when you have four, five artistes with heavy rotation in Trinidad, you know that something is working. Grenada’s Jab Jab rhythm received its biggest advertisement!
I followed Mr Legz from his days in secondary school to now; did similarly with V’ghn. I assessed Lil Natty’s performances as a junior calypsonian many moons ago. His partnership with Thunda has brought them tremendous success. And Mandella Linkz, with his infectious and well-written song, has put Grenada firmly on the map. We are justifiably proud of them all and are grateful for their contributions.
The ball now is in the court of the leaders of culture in Grenada to maximise on the benefits of our soca artistes who were in T&T. This year, 2019, can be a watershed year for our carnival. But, our cultural leaders ought not to sit back and believe that further benefits will just happen.
It seems as though Grenada just cannot stop winning in carnival across the region. The father of Marisol John – the 2019 Carnival Queen in the Commonwealth of Dominica – is Grenadian. Congratulations to her!