Dennis Jones is a Jamaican-born international economist, who has lived most of the time in the UK and USA, and latterly in Guinea, west Africa. He moved back to the Caribbean in 2007. This blog contains his observations on life on this small eastern Caribbean island, as well as views on life and issues on a broader landscape, especially the Caribbean and Africa.







**You may contact me by e-mail at livinginbarbados[at]gmail[dot]com**

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

The Best Headlines I Have Seen

I am not a great follower of Calypso. As a boy, my parents listened to Sparrow a lot and I liked the beat, but other sounds took up the space in my head. As I grew up, I really did not move in groups that were driven by Soca. It was really only after I went to the US that I met a lot of other Caribbean people who had not lived outside the region much, and many more who were from the southern islands. I then got a full dose exposure to Soca. I liked the energetic pace for dancing, but like so much music, I thought the lyrics were weak. I loved social commentary, but Soca did not seem to have much. Fast forward, I move to Barbados. My wife, a totally unreconstructed Bahamian, cannot take two breaths after the mention of the words 'Crop Over' before she starts railing about "That is not culture." Yes, dear. "It's not Junkanoo!" You're right, my honey. "Look at that. Bought costumes. They should be making them at home." Absolutely, my cup cake. There is no fury like that of a Bahamian whose culture norms have been put out of joint.

I have three sets of friends in Barbados who have tried to make up for my Calypso-Soca deficiency. There is a couple from St. Andrew, whom I met in Washington, and now live in and around Barbados. They are true limers and given have a beat will be seen tapping bottle and moving with a sultry rhythm. That one of these is amongst the region's best economists should never be held against this son of the coral. Another couple are a Bajan-Trini combo, which never lose a chance to pump up the volume and bring in friends who know how to win' up de bumper, and tap bottle, get inna conga line. They even had me win'ing up last July at some splash event. Me! I don't do water sports. Then there is the Guyanese couple, who have made Barbados their home and economic base for the past 40 years and host a great Crop Over lime each year, and always manage to arrange for a heavy downpour of rain so that we can have a great wet fete. They have tried to get me to 'chip' (or is it 'trip'?) down the road behind a truck. Nah: wife would not like that. They wanted me to put on mud. Na-ah: wife would really not LIKE THAT. They suggested that I go to a tent. Why would I do that? I loved camping, but also had some of my most traumatic holiday experiences under canvas in Europe, when wind and rain turned what was supposed to be a 'relaxing time' into total chaos. Waking up in cold water is not fun. Coming back to a camp site to see tent hanging from a telegraph pole tends to take your breath away. Tent? No way.

So, as luck makes it happen, another Bajan came up to me and said, "You have to come to Headliners, man. Tuesday....I will be performing. Social commentary." My eyes popped. Performing? What kind of performing? He's going to be the MC or something? I had just dragged this youth out to play tennis with me and a few other fogeys, and I wondered if the build up of lactic acid from not having played for 10 years had fried his brain cells. I looked at my partner and shrugged my shoulder. "Let's go together," he said. Now, this thing was getting out of control.

Conspiracies often happen while you are happily thinking that all in life is normal. An old Scottish friend, with whom I had shared a football field and a few beers, arrived in Bim a few months ago. My wife met him at a meeting and he asked after me. We spoke on the phone and played tag with messages. Three months later, we met again at a diplomatic cocktail affair to celebrate Canada Day. Smiles and a bit of reminiscence followed. "My wife's due to travel, so let's arrange to go and get slammed," I proposed to him. "Greeet edeea," he replied in that distinctive Scottish lilt. "Whe' dya wanna goh? I know nohwhe' hey." I suggested the Carib Bar, where we had once sunk a few bevvies during a Masters football tournament. But, now I had to call him and suggest he go to a Crop Over tent--and I had no idea what I was suggesting.

Arriving at Headliners, at The Plantation, I was of course floored that there was no tent at all.I had envisaged having my body and others pressed together and bound by sweat and a clash of cologne, perfume, and deodorants. Instead, I found neatly laid out chairs. This is a theatre. I looked puzzled at my Bajan bud. "Where's the tent?" I asked. "This is it," he laughingly replied. He had to soothe me with a beer. We found one of the few seats still available: the 'tent' was due to get going at 8pm and here we were at 7.30 and the place was full. I wonder about Bajans: so totally English for timeliness. But, who should be sitting directly in front of us? My Guyanese Calyspo-holics! I laughed with them and asked whether their papers were in order, or if they had had anyone knock on their door at 3am. "Oh, yeah! But we told them to just f**k off." We talked a bit about fete-ing and they again tried to get me to commit to following some truck for a bit of wuk. "I'll get back to you," I stammered.

My Scottie was late--he thinks all of the Caribbean is like Jamaica. The ushers wanted the seat I was trying to save for him.

Then up came the first act. Alvin Toppin screamed "Here on stage, with his social commentary is 'Gungadin'" [changed to name to protect the innocent] "Wuhloss!" There, dressed like Joseph in a technicolour coat and a white cap that looked like a cheap imitation from French Foreign Legion uniform, was my man. The inviter. Mike in hand. Finger in air. Giving me 'lyrics'. I folded in laughter and pride all mixed up. This boy is more talented than I realised. He could sing and he could hold the audience. I don't know what the judges are looking for, but the boy became a man and would get my vote. He was not of the same class as 'Blood', but he could hold his own.

I'll be honest, the spread of talent was clear. But, I was amazed to see one of the young elite boy tennis players, there with some of his group, doing a Kadooment song. Some of the lyricsneeded serious work for better content. Some of the delivery was less than stellar. But, everone should get a chance if they want it and have the courage to get up on the stage. So credit to them all.

I'm always glad to get more of a good thing. So, already, I am convincing friends to make a visit, and as soon as I come back from the US next week, I will be heading to the tents again.

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