Apr 4, 2013

Can An Honest Politician Save Trinidad & Tobago's Culture?

The following article was written by Sandopc:

Honesty and Politics is like oil and water but what if we can find an honest politician who, after stirring the pot, can cause it all to blend in and create something never seen before. Can we find an honest politician who can harness the creativity of our people and create an environment that would allow our culture to blossom? If this could happen we could very well end up with something special that people would flock to be a part of and even put money in the pockets of our singers, musicians and every creative person who adds to the genius of Trinidad and Tobago's culture... if only?

My introduction was just a dream but now I am awake and have to ask this question, What caught your attention? Is it the juxtaposition of Honesty with politician? I know you are thinking..is there an honest politician anywhere? Particularly in TnT? Well I am sure there is or at least there could be one. It is a long and winding road to find him/her.  We often talk about sweet, sweet TnT, “we culture”, our independence and love up yuh country. But where are the visible signs of this Love? Where are the signs of this love of culture. OK, OK, OK, I know, for one or two weeks, every year, we can find it with the presence of Carnival. The culture comes out of hiding, the love comes out from the nation's bowel and we show the world ...we culture.

Screech, did I say world? Well it may be more like the TnT people living in foreign countries. The friends of these TnT people, out of curiosity, may also tune in to find out what the hype is all about. Do you think that they really get to see the creativity of Trinidadians on display? Hell no! They see Beads and bikinis, disorganized Panorama competitions, delays in Mas Presentation, endless quarrels over cash awards to the participants, incompetent judging and live streaming TV that is often interrupted by technical difficulties - just endless frustrations. That is just a short list of the headaches that compromise the selling of our culture to the World. The list of 'commess” goes on and on until the 2 weeks of feting and celebrating the festival ends and all is forgotten until next year. The next year will arrive with great anticipation and expectation for a grand festival then its  Déjà vu!

If Carnival was historically ascending to the highest highs it is now descending to its lowest level. Too many costume bands have embraced the new concept. That concept is one based on beads, bikinis; the idea is to use less to maximize their profit margin. The result is that creativity is sacrificed. No longer do we see the continuance or amplification of Saldena (Glory that was Greece), or Teddy Eustace''dancing” his spectacular costume on the stage. George Bailey portraying “Back to Africa”. Cito Velasquez playing “Fruits and Flowers”, a fancy sailor bands. The tribal bands of San Fernando with band leader Owen Hinds. People like Horace Lovelace and Jason Griffith from Belmont who produced some of the best fancy sailor mas ever!

Rumor has it that we are taking and utilizing what is considered 'the best' or most sought after of other carnivals around the world. Hence the Bikini and Beads seen on the Samba dancers of Rio de Janiero. Do they know  that the Samba dancers in the “Escola” represent a tiny portion of the 3,000 or more participants in that one band?  Do they know that no one touches the samba dancers except their respective  partners. Only the Samba dancers have the Beads and Bikini that we seem to favor. Of course it is sexy and eye-catching. Most people in Trinidad are unaware that the other participants are divided into groups, each of them depicting a story within the overall presentation? And their costumes are uniform and intricate. Think about that, it is much like what we used to see here in TnT before we went crazy and had our “sexy” costumes mass produced in Asian countries.

We have degenerated into a bikini and a beaded bra. Correct sizes optional. Some masqueraders have white sneakers, some blue, some black. Some have boots, some have flat shoes, and all are “freeing up”. Other Carnivals could appear to be too rigid for the average TnT masquerader however they still have a vision. We don't have to be rigid as the others and parade as they do. We can “free up” and still have the vision. But now, what do we have, we have an absence of any historical relationship between the costume and the presentation. Beads, bikini and two feathers. New Orleans Carnival have intricate floats and individual costumes. We can maintain our own unique style of Carnival without band leaders selling out to the $ bill. We can maintain, promote and amplify our art to the extent that we inherited from the masters. Too few band leaders are willing to do this. I applaud the few that have tried and continue to achieve that lofty goal.

So, what to do? How can this be corrected? Do we even want to correct it or build on our history?  How do we breathe life into a “culture” for more than a meaningful two week period? What if there was one Honest Politician who could dedicate himself to a project. Honest, because the project would require monies to be spent, land to purchase, buildings to erect, people to hire, and professionals to implement the vision. To do all this without falling back on the accepted way of doing business in TnT. The business of “who yuh know”, who getting a share of the money, who getting paid off, who getting a job because they are friends with the “big boys”.
A vision of creating  Academies of Performing Arts, one in the North, one in the South.  Unique schools that promote...”we culture”. An Academy where the History of Carnival, Steel Band Music, conventional Instrumental Music, techniques of Pan Construction, Management and contracts, Mas Presentation, Costume Design, Drawing, Floats and Headpiece construction, Song and Dance, creative writing courses illuminating our history, theater, along with the traditional Math, History and English courses found in regular schools.

A vision of hiring the many gifted people already involved in...”we culture”. The people who we only read about or interact with during the Carnival season. Hire and pay them on a permanent basis to teach, to inspire, to document the history and the “know how” behind these disciplines. Have visiting “Masters” on a paid one week basis to motivate and share their knowledge and experiences. An Academy where there is an Interview process and evaluation. Interview the students who wish to attend this government sponsored institute. Ensure they are dedicated to the goal of the school. Ensure they represent the School in a positive manner. Change the testing where we assign pupils Grades from First to Last. Have them earn an A.B.C.D or F in their individual subject, where they can identify the next level for improvement.  Assist them with planning a curriculum tailored with their desire and the schools' ability to meet those desires. Find an Administrator who understands and shares the vision. Does the current pan in schools satisfy this? It may aspire to achieve those goals but fall way short of the finish line.

So who are the stake-holders in this process? How about the artists and talented people who typically wait for Carnival to demonstrate their abilities only for two weeks. If we can achiever our lofty goals they have a year round  profession. The steel pan players who can instruct, should receive a salary that should help motivate them to make a more meaningful contribution to “we culture”. Then there are the dance and theater professionals who can reach young impressionable minds. The students who drop out of regular schools because they have no interest in traditional subjects and the students who have a burning desire to pursue an art form along with their regular studies. The Local steel bands who can recommend students and receive qualified returning students. Students who can read and write music. Students who now know the intricacies about Mas design and presentation. Students who can compose and perform both Soca, calypso and other musical genres. We should also get the Tourist Board involved in the process and they, in turn, can point out with pride, their involvement in the culture of sweet Trinidad and Tobago.
We can't forget the parents  who can take pride in the enrichment of their children's involvement in the arts. There will be so many shows to attend when these graduates show what they can do throughout the academic year. The same Tourist board who can then market “we culture” to the world and show them that the culture of TnT exists year round, not only the two week period of Carnival. The local TV studios who can have periodic productions of local “Auntie Kay” shows but with a professional slant. The various Businesses that can offer Internship to the senior students within the area of Fine Arts, Drawing and Architecture, or Band performances.

It may sound like a dream but it is possible! We need an honest politician to make this happen. A Politician who would not sell out. A politician who values “we culture” and is patriotic to the country and the culture. A Politician who sees the vision and not the $ sign. A politician who will tell his friends in the business world...not this time. Sorry, this piece of food is strictly for the country and our children. Are you that person? If you are or think that you know someone who can make it happen then don't sit on the side lines get involved and make it happen... you may save a nation!

Mar 30, 2013

How Yuh Goin'? Goin' Good! | Yuh Is Ah Trini

Damn right I am a Trini and one who loves the way we speak. I am so amused, at times, when I hear my fellow country citizens speak here in New York City. It simply does not sound or feel right. Sometimes I mention to them that they simply don't sound Trini anymore and they appear to be pleased that they don't! Well I am not of that pedigree, I believe that we sound awesome when we speak and especially when we use our Trini Idioms.

The way we speak is so special and the way we twist words and phrases around add to the the delight I hear when Trinidadians speak. I simply love it and always take the opportunity to try and explain what the phrase means when I see the look of confusion on the other person's face. Recently I realized that many Trinidadians can't explain some of the phrases. I know that is real because it is my experience with many Trinidadians and also because there are a few that I have to call back home to get an explanation from those in the know.

Today I am going to explain a very simple one but one that is used daily by just about every Trinidadian even those whom are so willing to shed their twang for the American style dialect. Today we are dealing with the phrase "How Yuh Goin' and the response, Going Good". Say it and then think about it. I am sure you have said it many times but never gave thought to the meaning or how another person may perceive the meaning of the phrase. This is your opportunity... say it again and verbalize it with a loud voice. Listen to yourself then say the meaning and put it in context.

Ah ha... does it mean 'how are you going' as in 'is everything OK with you'? Yes or no? Maybe it could mean 'how are you going' as in what mode of transportation that you intend to use to get from one place to another! Now you can understand why I love the way we speak - Trinidadians, my people, speak so sweetly. When you listen it is like music to a song and it rolls off our tongues and lips with such ease.

Two friends, who have not seen each other for some time, meet and great each other. One says, "How yuh going" and the other readily responds with "Going good'. Right there and them both parties smile, shake hands or embrace each other knowing that everything is just fine. The conversation may then take them to a place where they could sit and lime for a while and catch up on the things they both encountered since they last saw each other.

On the other hand we have two friends who made plans to go to an event or simply go and lime in a club, bar or fete that may be in another town that requires some form of transportation. The conversation may go like this. "How yuh going?" The response may be, "Going good" but the other person may reply, "that is good but I meant how are you going to the venue". The response may be, "Well I was hoping that I could mop ah drop with you"!

Now don't you think that the way we speak is something special?  I never, ever want to loose the way I speak regardless of what people may thing of my sentence structure - what ever! So for you bogus Trinis reading this - how yuh like meh now?

Mar 29, 2013

Sacrificial Lambs In The Society | The Lion & The Politician!

An article written by Sandopc...

"Yuh Think It Easy"... that was my previous posting on this blog and as I reflect on this religious week I realized that many decisions that we make daily are not easy at all! Taking that into consideration I pondered on something I read (about an unfortunate situation in Africa) and it dawned on me that our politicians in Trinidad and Tobago are no different from the Lion in that article. They (the politicians) think that it is very ease to dupe the public. From these thoughts the following article is presented for your reading pleasure. 

This is Holy Week for Christians all over the World; and for many it is considered a time for reflection. It is a time to reflect about thoughts of what it means to sacrifice for the greater good and, because of this reflection, rings a bell in our inner being. Christians all over the world remember, many years ago, a man laid down his life for many so that the “many” could live to see a brighter day. Obviously this was not easy for a normal man but then again Jesus, the Christ was not an ordinary man. Having said that,  I am sure his sacrifice, with his human weaknesses intact, was not an easy task. Some of us make sacrifices for

On this memorable day my reflection brought me to a safe place of reflection about our purpose on this earth. It made me think of a newspaper article I read recently. I do believe that it was a story based on fact - a true story. It was about a man and woman, both residents of South Africa who decided to have a little “get together”. For whatever reason, they walked into the bushes surrounding their village. I guess they wanted some privacy. It should become apparent that the bush in Africa is not like a walk in the park here in Trinidad. Unfortunately the couple were attacked by a Lion and at that point human instinct took control ... decisions had to be made on the fly. This, no doubt, was a life and death situation.

The man had to make a quick decision. Is is easy to conceive that he could have fought the Lion and save both lives (including his)? It is obvious that they were both scared and shocked and, because of that fear, not act and lose their lives. The story becomes a bit muddled at this point, the man ran naked back to the village. Obviously he left the woman behind. I am sure that some part of him thought... run and get help, 'yuh cud save de woman'! Let's be clear here, chivalry, self-preservation, all these thoughts brought a new life to his legs. This could be considered human instinct and the 'fright or flight' instinct took over his being. There is a term in Trinidad that is commonly used, "Boughtupcy", the kind we learn from our grand-ma tried to slow him down. In this case, 'broughtupsy' lost. What would you have done in this situation? I am very aware that this is such and unfair question to ask but think about it.  Yuh think it easy! There is so much to consider  and with your heart pounding to get out of your chest not to mention your legs touching nothing but air, you run. Yuh run like hell!

In this case the the man ran to the village and then returned with some people. They returned armed to the teeth and with guns to take care of the Lion!  However, I guess you have already guessed the outcome, the lady was already history. No one knows what happened except that she lost the battle to survive. The lion had eaten and left. She must have put up a fight but the outcome was quite obvious - she could not run as fast as the man or the Lion simply did not bother to chase him since he had an easy prey in sight.  Talk about choices. In Trinidad and Tobago, thank God, we don't have Lions devouring the people even though there are situations that feel the same. Our forests never had Lions but there are people,in the society, who act like the Lion! We have other animals and some people or politicians that act on their 'animal instincts'. In the forest we have animals like the 'Lappe, Tatoo, Agouti, Mannicou' and others. Wild meat ! With rum and callaloo on a Sunday we cud have a good lunch if they come close to attacking. We don't have to prove chivalry. We could protect the woman if we were stupid enough to take them in the bush for privacy.

Thank God, we don't have real Lions here in 'sweet TnT'. We never have to make choices that affect us like the one made by that gentleman. The decisions we make affect people around us in many ways. As an example,  take the politicians we have in Trinidad and Tobago. They never cease to surprise me and I am sure the rest of the country. In many ways they are like the Lion that devoured that hapless lady her friend left in the bushes. One gets the feeling that as soon as they get into office their thought process is like that of the Lion - waiting for a prey. The corruption is subtle in some areas but brazen in other areas of the society and government. One gets the feeling that they are constantly  trying to devour the people. In other words they are there to “eat ah food” and leave. The corruption is all over you like clinging clothes on a very humid day... nothing but pure exploitation. Total and downright ineptitude; they are fake Lions but the outcome is the same - they will devour you! To compound the situation they invite their friends to “ eat ah piece ah food” then they leave.

These fake Lions roar and try to frighten or fool the  people. I don't see or sense any sacrifice made by politicians but they continue to made their false promises. I don't see them sacrificing for the greater good. I don't see any form of reflection. All I see are families sacrificing, every day, to make a brighter day for they children. I guess it is good to be the King of the Jungle especially when the rewards fill their pockets with illegally obtained bounty!

Reflect on this day on the greater good and ensure that your shared sacrifices are for the greater good and not to fulfill your selfish desires...Yuh think it easy !!

This article came from the neurons of my friend Sandopc. It was my pleasure to bring his thoughts to you here on this blog - Santiwah.

Mar 27, 2013

Yuh Eh Know That? | Written by Sandopc | Yuh Is Ah Trini

This is a guest post from a friend who frequently visits the Wack Radio chat box. We were chatting about expressions used in the homeland one night and from that conversation he wrote the following article. Today I present the post done by a gentleman who likes to be called Sandopc.

In Trinidad and Tobago we have a unique way of saying something when we want to express how we feel about a given subject. That expression can take several forms that will surely be misunderstood by someone who is not familiar with the culture especially how we apply our triniidions while conversing with a friend, acquaintance or family member.

Non Trinidadians will be utterly confused. As an example, I have three sayings that we regularly use on a daily basis. Here they are:
  • You think he wicked (in joke)?
  • They mad like Hell
  • You eh know that ?
I know they are simple phrases but when used in conversation they take on meanings that would confuse a foreigner but make a Trini smile or sometimes cringe during the conversation. Today I only want to try and explain and poke holes in the last one. The rest of my 'Trini' friends (citizens of Trinidad and Tobago are called Trinis) can go ahead and explain the first two expressions in the post. So what do we really mean when we say... "Yuh eh know dat?" (You eh know that)? Let's 'tawk ah tawk' and discover the sweetness of one of our Trini Idioms.

In any discussion between two or more Trinidadians you will certainly hear the following expression one or more times..."You eh know that?" This common expression is used when the person speaking wants to express a personal  point of view, a general understanding of an accepted “fact”. As an example they could be engrossed in a discussion about steriods and cover the subject from A to Z after which someone would utter a statement that would cause the other to remark, "you eh know that?" It is said in such a manner that it is a statement and a question all wrapped in one tight rebuke because the topic was thoroughly discussed and did not warrant the statement made by one party in the conversation.

In short, the facts in the conversation are spoken with confidence but the statements made are said without any factual evidence. Evidence is usually written or documented somewhere or accepted from a reputable source or a qualified professional. Not in the ...you eh know that...crowd. We use the expression strictly as evidence, everybody should know that already. And this brings up another point...we trinis have a tendency of not committing anything to paper to properly document the facts or process around any generally 'accepted things'. Here is a good and very common example: “This “bush tea” good for you sickness, yuh hear, now drink de damn ting”.

Right there and then you are puzzled but cannot show that you are while thinking... How do I know that? What is the process? You sure you remember the correct dose? Like the Black Stalin said in song... what is the right temperature to “sink” a pan? What is the right thickness. Where is the document for making a pan? Of course the answer is ... 'you eh know that'! However, in this case it is a factual statement.

Sometimes when you hear the expression you stop and think... maybe I am the only one who eh know that! As a result you pretend and accept the statement without fact or even asking a question. How sweet it would be if we document the things that we all take for granted. Explain why it is and how it is and the origin of what it is. Now that would be just right - Sweet. How about a book illustrating these things and ensuring that the children have a good understanding how these terms are used. The school system should come in play and ensure that these Trini Idioms are taught and that the children can properly disciminate the statements when used in conversation.

Long ago,our people passed on acquired knowledge through word of mouth. Generally the elders would remember and pass the “history” down to the children. Today's world with an ever expanding radius takes away the closeness that we enjoyed back then. So,we know the “history” in vague terms and when we try to explain it to someone we stumble and then we say...you eh know that?

I hope that this posting was helpful and that you enjoyed reading the article. Please don't hesitate to leave your remarks via the comment feature of this blog post - Sando/Santiwah.





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