Acclaimed Saint Lucian Tenor Has Died (Toni Nicholas)

•September 28, 2013 • Leave a Comment

Acclaimed Saint Lucian Tenor Has Died

A Discussion of Race Remains Relevant in St. Lucia

•September 6, 2013 • Leave a Comment

A Discussion of Race Remains Relevant in St. Lucia

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It is neither surprising nor new for local politicians to evoke references to blackness and colonialism as a means to rouse  voters. The most recent manifestation of this is the SLP’s response first to the entry of Allen Chastanet into elective politics in 2010 and further with his recent election as leader of the opposition United Workers Party (UWP). There has not been a shortage of such imagery by both parties for many decades now even up till the most recent election which the SLP dubbed Liberation Day. What has generally been absent is the willingness to seriously engage the effects of this history as well as its implications in the present.

As deserving of criticism as this opportunistic and selective use to this history is, that which has been forthcoming so far has been equally superficial and present more evidence of the problem of our relationship to this past than it provides any useful perspective. In an article republished from 2010 Mr. Rick Wayne presents his take on a statement made by Mr. Phillip J Pierre, deputy leader of the SLP then in opposition. The statement by Mr. Pierre raised concern over Mr. Chastanet who in his view is the “poster boy” for the “economic class” wanting to enter the political realm as “they have decided that too many black young people are becoming educated and are controlling the political levers”. This statement became the subject of a BBC Caribbean report under the title “Race in St. Lucian Politics” following which Mr. Pierre was grilled to identify who he was referring to when he made reference to the “economic class” and to identify their colour and “ethnicity”(according to the BBC reporter).

Mr. Rick Wayne in his article entitled “How Black is Black Enough to Govern St. Lucia” goes on to make the outrageous though subtle comparisons of Mr. Pierre to Adolf Hitler. It seems totally lost on Mr. Wayne that there was a very real institutionalized relationship between race and class in St. Lucia as with other plantation colonies which were established and run based on racist ideology and white privilege; that being so, there is nothing farfetched about making a connection between race and class. Beyond the direct economic benefit accrued by plantation owners, the privilege accorded whiteness in societies such as ours would have generally benefitted whites relative to blacks and Indians whether or not these whites participated in the ownership of plantations.

To return to Mr. Pierre’s statement however it is easy to see the root of his frustration and that of his party. Given where their ambitions lie both parties have directed the population to look for their liberation primarily in elective politics and the personal economic or academic achievements of a relative few; generally superficial changes for the general populace. The pervasive and ingrained prejudices of the society from our racist colonial past were deemphasized and brought to the foreground only when deemed useful for rallying support. Despite economic and academic achievement, many continue to demonstrate the attachment to Eurocentric biases in beauty standards, views of history and elsewhere. Therefore simply achieving economic success or excelling in largely Eurocentric education proves grossly inadequate in addressing fundamental issues of our society and people’s liberation of themselves.

The reality is that our society is still very much influenced by its racist foundations. Whereas the overt expressions have receded, as they did in most areas of the world, many of these prejudices continue to persist in the society through internalized biases of the general population and in the institutions developed as part and parcel of the colonial project. While much focus is placed on countries like Jamaica for the problem of bleaching, colourism (discrimination within the race  based on complexion and other physical features) and the associated privileging of lighter skin, remains as rampant in our society as there and among Africans and other non-white people throughout the world whether colonized directly by Europeans or by their media. There is a tendency, especially among those who benefit from these biases(but also among the darker skinned who don’t), to dismiss the relevance of engaging them seriously or even superficially as in this case. The rare occasions where issues such as these are raised they are dismissed or trivialized and ridiculed.

Stemming from the false notion that Africans are indebted to Europeans for so-called civilization, medicine, science, religion and other areas, many of our leaders continue to seek solutions to our issues primarily from Europe and European dominated countries. As Europe refuses to acknowledge, apologize and make reparations for their enslavement and exploitations of Africans, they continue to deal with our countries with the notion that we are merely unfortunate countries in need of their charity. This of course is echoed by our leaders. It is only recently after the issue of reparations was raised before CARICOM that our government shows any interest in the issue after years of ignoring ones like Ras Wisely and others of the Rastafari community who championed this cause.

Our media largely takes their cue from American media and therefore, apart from failing to provide much useful programming which can encourage useful discussion regarding such issues and a more accurate view of history, actually perpetuates many of the stereotypes which perpetuate white and light skinned privilege. Much of the news of the wider world in our media are merely echoes of the interpretation and perspective of the Western media and their perceived interest.

Despite this persons remain instinctively aware and personally experience the vestiges of our racist colonial past and its present day consequences although many remain unconscious of many of the historical connections. It is because of this that politicians can get mileage from using such references. Persons should seek to become more consciously aware of this history and its present day manifestations so that politicians do not get a pass with the distortion, superficiality and lip service they occasionally give these issues. There are many things which need to be reasoned out within our society which will permit persons to recognize their potential to truly liberate themselves and to address the issues which pervade our society. This cannot be done without examining not only the recent history of colonialism and the wider issue of white and light skin privilege (likewise male privilege) but by examining the more ancient origins of the ideas and circumstances which shape our lives on a personal and collective level. Persons also need to understand what accounts for the differences in physical features among persons as well as the origin of differences in ideas of beauty, ideas of God and religion, language and culture. As ideas of superiority and inferiority are often linked with apparent success and greatness it will also be important for persons to understand the factors which account for such apparent differences both in the past and present as well.

While politicians seek to make cheap mileage on very serious issues and the media cowers from engaging these issues seriously, there is much persons could do to get better informed. Websites such as www.raceandhistory.com, www.amonhotep.com are useful resources on world history and the origin and impact of our various differences. In addition there are many scholars, some of whose material can be found on the internet in various formats. Dr. Theophile Obenga and Dr. Cheikh Anta Diop from the African continent as well as Dr. Yosef ben Jochannan, Dr. John Henrik Clarke, Dr. Ivan Van Sertima and Dr. Marimba Ani from the Caribbean and United States are some useful sources. There are also some European scholars who are also useful in this regard such as Merlin Stone, Dr. Martin Bernal and Basil Davidson, the latter of which produced a number of books on the continent as well as a useful documentary series available on youtube.

Originally published in the St Lucia Voice Newspaper:

http://www.thevoiceslu.com/let_and_op/2013/september/05_09_13/A_Discussion.htm

Some slight editing has been done to this version.

(What?) are we celebrating on Mother’s Day?

•May 12, 2013 • Leave a Comment

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We are taught in our society that female’s value come’s primarily from what value they have to others and accord them status accordingly whether Mrs. or Mother. They are romanticized in these roles of Mother and Wife even while their efforts are abused by those they serve. They are praised for not making time for themselves and the burden is heavier on them for shaping children into what society desires(which in our society can often include a lot of nonsense). They occasions set aside to reward and glorify these roles are thrown up as contrary evidence in the face of a society which thrives on male privilege and patriarchy.

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Males can sometimes complain that Father’s Day is not given as much regard as Mother’s Day and can adopt a victim stance not realizing the major difference between the experience males and females within our society. As soon as males reach physical maturity they are given the title of Mr. Women are expected the ‘title of respect’ upon becoming someone’s wife. The wider society then elevates her above the female who is unmarried especially if the unmarried female has children or has related with various females. Children are expected to develop some regard and respect for their mother for being mother. Therefore in addressing situations of overt disrespect to females persons will quickly reach for the “what if it was your mother(or sister)”. It is not sufficient that she is a person worthy of respect on account of that.

It is probably in a context such as this of male privilege that such events like “Mother’s Day” (and little tokens of recognition to females such as flowers gifts etc. for being a good mother or wife) take such importance.

Latter Day religions such as Christianity play a big part in the narrow idea we have of women and it shaped to a significant extent the values, laws etc of our society. It has removed the feminine from the Godhead and reduced her importance to being only derivative of her motherhood of Yahshua/Jesus etc. The expression of the feminine was experienced in a much wider sense in other traditions where the feminine was accepted and respected in the higher levels of their concept of God.

In societies where we so narrowly define women’s potential it cannot be easy to understand much less relate to females in a wider sense much less in the fullness of Womanhood. Further as males, how could we develop our Manhood in the wider sense without a wider understanding of and relation to the feminine.

it is easy to congratulate ourselves as we shower praise on our mothers about how they overworked themselves even while we fail to see how we perpetuate the patriarchal ideas which had them overworking themselves and enduring abuse and feeling proud about it. Mother’s Day might be a good time to better inform ourselves about how these narrow and romanticized views of women have come about and to reason out a less constricted understanding of femininity.

Here are a articles addressing attitudes to the idea of motherhood and the history of Mother’s Day.

http://www.ebony.com/life/more-than-a-mother-why-woman-and-mom-arent-synonymous-opinion-498#axzz2T5MVYCSv – More Than a Mother: Why ‘Woman’ and ‘Mom’ Aren’t Synonymous[OPINION]

http://www.mothersdaycelebration.com/mothers-day-history.html –  Mother’s Day History

http://www.history.com/news/why-the-founder-of-mothers-day-turned-against-it – Why the founder of Mother’s Day turned against it

Here are a few useful books as well

When God was  Woman – Merlin Stone

The Way of All Women – M. Esther Harding

Woman’s Mysteries – M. Esther Harding

The Women’s Encyclopaedia of Myths and Secrets – Barbara G. Walker

Male Daughters, Female Husbands: Gender and Sex in an African Society – Ifi Amadiume

Invention of Women: making an African Sense of Western Gender Discourses – Oyeronke Oyewumi

 

 

I’ll Be King of Hearts: An Interview with Regis “Robbie” Calixte

•April 4, 2013 • Leave a Comment

 

In August of 2010 iandiyanola sat down with Robbie at his mother’s Grass Street home and we spoke about a range of things including his early days and his movements in music from his earliest days with Big Six and later on to his Calypso Career and his work with Reasons Orchestra. Enjoy.

Early Life

This is the house on Grass Street where Robbie spent some of his childhood years.

                                                               This is the Grass Street residence where Robbie
spent part of his childhood.

IandIyanola: So what I want you to do, just tell me your name, your given name as well as your calypso name and then we can take it from there… you know… when you were born…stuff like that and then your growing up

Robbie:Ok. Well my name is Regis Rob Calixte and my twin – I’m a twin – his name was Robbie so after he died two years six months my mom and dad start calling me Robbie. So this is why I choose my calypso name. Everybody used to call me Robbie, so I choose my Calypso name as Robbie.

IandIyanola: True. So when where you born?

Robbie: Well actually I was born in 1962… June the sixteenth 1962

IandIyanola: And if you could just give me a little background about …your know.. your growing up and then we can take it into how you got into the calypso and everything.

Robbie: Well my growing up, I grew up almost Waterworks Road with my mum, six of us – well my twin died two years six months, I grew up. I attended the R. C School. I did some extra courses and we grew up as a music family. When my mum used to kinda go out, we used to stay there, beat drums, my brother used to blow the brass, I used to always be the singer. We used to just make noise in the house. And then along there was (Augustin)“Pan” Andrew – that’s Buffalo father – he had Big Six3 . Well he had his bandroom lower down Water Works road and that’s the same place which I live(d). And there’s a young guy Gaylee(?) everyday he used to be in the bandroom. So I used to go there, sing with him, play the guitar, play the drums, sing … One time he say Big Six wanted a singer. So he tell Mr. Pan “Robbie could sing. That guy is a good singer”, then Mr. Pan took me and from that time I started singing, I played with Big Six. As a matter of .. we would go all the way to Dennery for ten dollars, all Piaye for ten dollars and that’s where I really start off with Big Six.

IandIyanola: But how old were you when you started with Big Six?

Robbie: When I started with Big Six, I must have…may be around seventeen years.

IandIyanola: Ok and then you said you had six of you. That’s inclusive of your twin brother?

Robbie: Seven. He would make seven.

IandIyanola: And then where were you in terms of age with regard to the others.

Robbie: Well i was the third. Third in my mothers.

IandIyanola: Boys and girls?

Robbie: Well my mum have two girls, four boys. In all she had five boys which was my twin. But six of us is alive. The four boys and the two girls is alive.

Regis Robbie Calixte

Regis Robbie Calixte

Starting Out In Music

IandIyanola: So you would have started singing long before you got into Calypso. What was y’all repertoire like with Pan Andrew and Big Six.

Robbie: Oh Pan Andrew… I used to sing a lot of Reggaes and Calypso. And one ting I remember Pan Andrew telling me. He always used to usually…”Oh man always monologue” like whilst the brass blowing “talk to the people””how you feeling, put your han’ in de air”…(inaudible- 12:09) And thats what..trust what make me who I am today. I love too – up to last night I work with my band, and I like to talk to the people “wave your hand” “how you doing?”. That instil in me. Monologuing, that was the name.

IandIyanola: Now, coming into the Calypso competitively. When did that happen for you?

Robbie: Well actually after Pan, Big six. I left Big six and I joined the Reasons Orchestra. Well I first sang my first year with Big Six. Pan Andrew wrote a song for me “But de PM like it so”5. That was my first year…that was around…1989….either 1989…No 1980 somewhere around the time there. Yeah and then after that then I moved to Reasons. Then backing up different bands, Calypso, Queen Shows, then I enter in the Calypso Arena. My first time was Jah-T(Trevor Anthony) wrote for me, “We doh want no Castles in the sky” and “I doh wanna be no hero”. That time I was singing with Reasons. And from that year, I started singing calypso until today.

IandIyanola: So you have always had a double side in a sense where you were singing the competitive but you also had another aspect of the music. Ok so it has been Big Six…

Robbie:Big Six and I transform into Reasons.

IandIyanola: When did you move to Reasons?

Robbie: As soon as I left Big Six, I move into Reasons one time.

IandIyanola: You did how long with Big Six really?

Robbie: I did maybe around four years with Big Six.

IandIyanola: And what other bands have you sang with since then?

Robbie: Well after Reasons. After I left Reasons, I moved to Magic Circle. Arthur Tisson. I sing with him for a while, we went to Jamaica for a while. Then I move, I went to England for six months. After I came back, his other band Raw Elements – the singer left and go on the ship, so he send me to sing with Raw Elements and up to a day like today I’m with Raw Elements.

IandIyanola: Now if you could just take me through your time, singing competitively – I know you took a break for some time. So if you could just go through that with me, as far as you can remember.

Robbie: Now I remember when I first joined Reasons. We moved to New York for the first time. A group of guys took us to New York for the first time. We went there and we record “We Rule de Party”. We record that song and “Ruff Neck party”1 — two songs there. And from that time, every year we used to go to New York. And after that since I joined Reasons, I was the one that get Reasons to blow off. After we record, everybody got to know that was a band to record with. We used to play Queen show, Calypso finals, Jouvè, everything we used to play. Then we got couple gigs going to England every year. We’ve been to Germany, (inaudible) Scotland, St. Croix – we used to be St. Croix like every week. Even Martinique.. – they had election, every weekend we would be in Martinique. And after that, Reasons, we travel all over and being with Reasons I decided well I’ll really take to the Calypso serious and then after  “Castles in the sky”, “No Heroes”, I came back the following year with “Dead Heroes society” and “Field of dreams” where everybody that I would have won the crown. Then after – The following year I came out with “I won’t stop singing Calypso” – I still consider(footnote to clarify meaning in St. Lucian context) they had rob me. The following year came back with “Wave your rag to the queen of hearts, wave your rag to the king of hearts”. And I love entertainment. I love music and I love to do it and this is why I am still into music.

IandIyanola: …So after “Queen( King) of hearts” you took a break after that?

Robbie: No. I took a break in 1999.

IandIyanola: For how long?

Robbie: just two years. I came back in 2001. I came back with my hit song “I’m gonna make it”.  I took two years break, I went to the States. I took a break and I came back with that mash up song “I’m gonna make it” 2001.

 IandIyanola: If you could give me some of the names of the guys you played with both in Big Six and Reasons Orchestra

Robbie: Well in Big Six I played with.. Mr. Pan Andrew(deceased)

IandIyanola: He played piano?

Robbie: He played Piano. I worked with Lambert. He was the drummer. Kelly was blowing the trumpet. Also Girard –he died a couple days ago –he was in the police band blowing….Mathurin used to blow the trombone. Julian was the bassman. And from that when I moved to reasons we had Difé on trumpet, Corny on Trumpet, WE had Difé on Trombone, we had Dylan on Sax, Piper used to blow the Alto-Sax, We had Angus Payne on the keyboards, we had Coco on the drums, myself and Davis was the two lead singers of the band, and then we had Allton playing the bass. And then we had Pat the engineer …they was actually the owners of reasons. Pat and Piper.

IandIyanola: Before we go back into your calypso.. if you could tell me about some of the other bands that you were aware of in St. Lucia ‘cause I think that is another area that is under documented.  From the time of Big Six or even when you were growing up.

Robbie: When I (was) growing up. I knew of “Indies” …”Purple Haze”“Songs(Sounds??) Together”, “Merry Makers”, “Rebirth Seven”“Quavers” was also there, …. –“Lakansyèl” was “Purple Haze”. Big Six was no longer around that time after I left. Because by the time I left, Reasons (sic Big Six) had break out(broken up)….Because Buffalo(Andrew Odlum) and myself we had a band “Songsplash” (Soundsplash??). Buffalo, myself…we had little Alfred playing (with) “Songsplash”. So “Big Six” never arise again after that.

IandIyanola: And then those that were contemporary with Reasons….What bands you had around?

Robbie: At the time of Reasons, they had Songs Together….Quavers. Tru Tones was around when Reasons still was there. Lakansyèl and them was not around. It was basically Reasons, Quavers, Tru TonesMerry Makers were still around. These were the leading bands when Reasons was around.

IandIyanola: But continuing in the time of Reasons there were some younger bands coming up like Rhythm Krazy

Robbie: You are right. During the time of Reasons you had Rhythm Krazy Band, that was a very popular band. It was a young school children’s band. Rhythm Krazy. Apex was another band, another people’s band. There’s another one also….

IandIyanola: So your entire career in terms of how you earn your livelihood is through music?

Robbie: Through music. And trust me buddy, practically everything I have is (through) music. Very thing I have acquired is (through) music. And up to a day like today, I’m still in music.

“Right now they have a system in St. Lucia where, they put one rhythm and people singing on that. That’s not helping the music, that’s bringing the music back”

IandIyanola: What do you think about the development of Calypso in St. Lucia? Are you satisfied with it? What do you think can be done to improve it?

Robbie: Honestly I think a lot of things could be done to improve the Calypso…Right now they have a system in St. Lucia where, they put one rhythm and people singing on that. That’s not helping the music, that’s bringing the music backward. I mean its better everybody come out with their own melody and their own music. But I think the Calypso it has grown through the years. But I think a lot more could develop by government giving the musicians more concessions to bring in equipment so we will have better studios. You will have more bands too if you have free concessions on equipment.

IandIyanola: What has been your recording history? ..in terms of recording your music. Earlier on your mentioned recording with Rhythm Krazy(sic) Reasons. What other things have you recorded?

Robbie: Well after Reasons, after I left reasons, I have released four CDs of my own. Up to this year I’m releasing to songs of my own “I cry with you” and “Blood on their hands”. SO, from the time I left Reasons I have produced four CDs of my own: “Back on Track”, “Heroes: Best of Robbie”, “I’m gonna make it” and “Bèl Nou Bèl”.

IandIyanola: And you sing both in the Kwéyòl and English

Robbie: Kwéyòl and English.

IandIyanola: And I remember you did, on your album with your various hits, you had a Country and Western version of one of your songs

Robbie: Heroes: Best of Robbie. I had “I’m Gonna make it” in Country and Western.

IandIyanola: As a final question, I want to ask you. In terms of the calypso scene here- ‘cause we know its largely a competitive thing – who are some of the calypsonians you admire…that you think are important voices in calypso.

Robbie: Good Question. Off the hook, I love Educator. Through the years he has always been there every year and the other guy that bring a new breath into calypso is Invader. I love Invader. Pep is another good Calypsonian. Morgie. You know Morgie is very controversial. But these four guys stand out to me. Ashanti was my King. I mean. He and I was in together in the revival of Calypso. He is still a guy I admire. But these five guys I really admire.

IandIyanola: What do you think is the role of Calypso in the society? .. For you personally and also generally.

Robbie: For me the role of calypso in the society supposed to be bringing out the lie to the people. What people want to say you say it for them. The thing that happening through the years, the suffering,  the slavery of black people. I think that is  (what) the art form calypso carries and covers. That letting the people know –you saying what the people cannot say.

IandIyanola: And in your music now, what are the things that you try to bring out. What are the kinds of themes that you generally like to approach.

Robbie: I love social commentary. A lot of people know me for that. Social Commentary. I think in 2003, I asked “Who is the Prime Minister?”… I had “Barking Dogs”, “Sorry Sir John”, “I taking them out”, “Inquiring Minds want to know”, “ I Want to be like Jesus”,  “Dead Heroes Society”, “I won’t stop singing Calypso”, “Blood on their hand”, “I Cry with you”. I love social commentary. I love it. I have a passion for social commentary. And the other thing about St. Lucians…from the time they know me, they always know Robbie for social commentary. And always singing serious songs.

IandIyanola: And anything you would like to say finally about Calypso here?

Robbie: Well Calypso in St. Lucia is, like I said, growing and as a matter of fact I think St. Lucia is giving all the other Caribbean islands licks in social commentary, from my heart. For social commentary, I think we on top of the Caribbean. Whereas before Trinidad was the main stage for calypso, right now I think St. Lucia is in the top in social commentary.

•January 28, 2013 • Leave a Comment

Interesting article on the word tribe and its use.

Phenderson Djèlí Clark

South-Africa-Tribes-–-South-African-Culture“The idea of tribes was brought to Africa for several reasons…. It was easier to place people into categories based on perceived divisions of ethnicity than it was to try to understand the multi-layered, fluid identities that prevailed…. colonial authorities found that placing people into “tribes” with “chiefs” was an effective way of creating a political order.”–John Reader

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Must we swallow every thing political | St. Lucia Voice News

•December 23, 2012 • Leave a Comment

Must we swallow every thing political | St. Lucia Voice News.

I don’t know how appropriate the title of this article is but the writer opens with a discussion of VAT and the apathy of the reading public en route to pointing out those figures of our history which he think are both important and not well known enough.

Mary Francis- “But now, what is there to feed the mind to make it have a social conscience” | St. Lucia Voice News

•November 9, 2012 • Leave a Comment

Mary Francis- “But now, what is there to feed the mind to make it have a social conscience” | St. Lucia Voice News.

Local Lawyer Mary Francis spokes generally about her growing up and experience as a lawyer associated with human rights as well as her thoughts on the nature of the times.