Just back from four performances in Grand Cayman, I spent what was truly an exhilarating evening doing what I would have to describe as a “musical presentation” to a great audience at Moray House dealing with my contention of “No Music Like Calypso”. With my long-time Guyanese keyboard accompanist Oliver Basdeo, we spent an hour laying down some examples to prove my point – that in the popular music field around the world, the Caribbean is the only area where our popular music, traditionally, has been one of presenting a variety of subjects, including sensitive ones, and also employing humour consistently in our songs. No other country has been able to achieve that. Considering American hit songs of the last 40 years, for example, one cannot recall a single example of a comedic song, or a song of sociological turmoil, on the charts. By comparison, in that same period, we have had songs on every subject under the sun on Caribbean radio stations as a matter of course. It is a remarkable distinction.
Consider, for example, the Trinidadian calypsonian Gypsy and his song about the Eric Williams government in his country with the hard-hitting “Sinking Ship” referring to Dr. Williams teetering regime. Or the song by the Bajan maestro the Mighty Gabby challenging the right of Bajans to use any beach in Barbados. And notice, too, that traditionally, such potentially explosive subjects across the region have become subjects for calypsonians, time and again, and, particularly, that no adverse reactions came from the establishment with these commentaries. It was accepted as part of our culture; a remarkable situation when one considers how such things would be treated in other countries. Apart from the banning of certain songs for explicit sexual references, that “hands off” position on our popular calypsos is part of the “no other” position I am taking…..