Thursday, 20 January 2011

On Lionel Belasco, or The Politicization of Culture in Trinidad and Tobago

Attorney General, Sen. The Hon. Anand Ramlogan has shown his ignorance of Trinidad and Tobago culture. In making a claim that there was a misuse and abuse of public funds by the PNM via UTT in the purchase of 10 Bosendorfer grand pianos, including the Special Edition Johann Strauss model, (inspired by the instrument on which the great master wrote his compositions, and ultimately placed by former Prime Minister Manning at the Diplomatic Centre for recitals,) the following exchange of words were recorded by the Parliament Channel [
I await, like Colm Imbert to date, Hansard publication.Ed.: Link to Hansard.]:
Sen. The Hon. Anand Ramlogan: "...for those of us who are accustomed to the steel pan, the Dohlak and the Maghera and the “riddim” section; for those of us who are accustomed to listening local cultural music, the Bosendorfer Piano is the Rolls Royce among pianos in the world...My learned friend from Port of Spain North/St Ann's West [Patricia McIntosh, MP] is saying: “What is wrong with the piano?” I say nothing is wrong with the piano, but the day you could play a good calypso or chutney on it come back and talk to me...I want to see my learned friend take a piano and sit down and play a good chutney or a good kaiso on it...all we know 'bout it is ah lil' Bob Marley music, ah lil' kaiso, calypso and chutney. That is what we listen to, but this grand piano...We consider this to be a most shameful and disgraceful wastage of public funds...There was absolutely no need in a country that boasts of an indigenous culture that is proud of its calypso heritage and the steelpan. There is no need for a country like this to purchase 10 grand pianos." [My emphasis.]
—January 12, 2011. Anand Ramlogan, Attorney General. Parliamentary Debates (Hansard). (Port of Spain: House of Representatives): pages 382-384.

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Etienne Charles & Folklore: Jazz…with a West Indian Accent

© 2010, Maria Nunes
“...Etienne Charles exhibits both an authentic preservation of the music of his native culture of Trinidad as a composer and bandleader, while broadening our scope of understanding through the collaborative sound of American jazz as it meets new colors, new textures, and new motifs across the world. It will certainly bring more of our public into the jazz audience”
Marcus Roberts, world-renowned jazz pianist and recording artist.
On a large stage in front of large crowd by a sandy beach, Etienne Charles delivered the first part of his prodigal return to Trinidad and Tobago. A hot night for hot jazz. The listener's mind is relaxed in the Tobago air, but alert enough to discern excellence at the "Experience." The posture says, "I come back home", the sound says, "I reachin'."

The attitude is there: the stingy brim fedora on his head, like the porkpie hat of Lester Young or the Sinatra fedora in the '50s, acts as a crown, a signpost and symbol of differing superiority, a trademark. He is jazz with a West Indian accent. Meanwhile, there exists a cabal of whiners claiming jazz in Trinidad and Tobago, musicians really, but only complaining. Periodic performances never in juxtaposition with excellence hence the stasis of the third world is their burden. Etienne is on another plane(t?) literally and figuratively.