The greatest among us!!!

It is true that the late Trinidadian leader, Mr. Patrick Manning, was noteworthy for his dedication to Caribbean regionalism.

However, the best tribute, I have heard paid to him was by his fellow countryman, Dr. Selwyn Ryan.  On the occasion of the 50th anniversary of Trinidad’s independence four years ago, Dr. Ryan named Mr. Manning among the fifty greatest Trinidadians of the first fifty years of nationhood.

Among the things Dr.  Ryan credited Manning for was the modernising of the Trinidadian taxation system, the rebuilding of the Trinidadian economy in the 1990s  and the rebuilding of his People’s National Movement (PNM) party after the 1986 election fiasco.

If it is true that Manning modernised Trinidad’s taxation system, then it seems that our too insular island politicians may have some things to learn from the Trinidadians, as we would have things to learn from the other islands.

For instance, our present taxation system urgently needs some fine-tuning to increase its efficiency as far as tax collection is concerned.  Also, not too long ago, the Barbados government launched its Youth in Agriculture programme.  A similar programme is vital for our economic development but our amazing politicians, who apparently believe that agriculture is only a second level economic pursuit, have so far shown that they are not capable of having the vision of the Barbadians.

It should now be clear to every Grenadian that Agriculture is not only planting and harvesting cocoa, nutmegs and bananas.  Agriculture includes the rearing of poultry, cows, sheep, goats, etc.  Also, useful links could be made between agriculture and fishing, so why to date are we hardly seeing Imanis in these productive endeavours?

Grenadians will be interested to know who were some of the other persons, who appeared on Dr. Ryan’s list. At the top of the list was educator, pioneer, nation builder Dr. Eric Williams.

Other persons included were Brian Lara, C.L.R. James, Basdeo Panday and Ram Kirpilani, who once had a business here in Grenada and high on Dr. Ryan’s list were the Calypsonians Sparrow and Kitchener, which should not surprise anybody.

Dr Ryan had this to say about the two much-celebrated calypsonians.

“Both men helped to magnify Williams. They were also the men who sang the songs to which we, of that era, danced and jumped…..in doing so they helped to jell us into a people.”

Most of us, reading these words, know that Kitchener and Sparrow were not only relevant to Trinidad.  They were regional personalities, who impacted on the entire Caribbean, contributing more to regionalism than many Caribbean politicians.

As the Mighty Chalkdust (Hollis Liverpool) demonstrated two years ago at a U.W.I. lecture at the Trade Centre, Sparrow and Kitchener were part of a group of calypsonians who made a vital contribution to Caribbean political and cultural nationalism.




Truths like these should be particularly relevant to us in this season of calypso and carnival.

So Grenada’s calpsonians cannot continue to sell themselves and our
nation short.  The tribute Dr. Ryan paid to Sparrow and Kitchener affirms the calypsonian’s importance for community and nation building.

Part of their significance lie in their functions as both entertainers and critics of our political and social landscape.

And as I see it, no calypsonian is complete who does not have the effective social or political commentary as part of his repertoire.

In the age in which we are living, the critical faculty is proving to be more important than the storytelling faculty.

Calypso and steel band used to be a revelation of the genius of Caribbean people, but today with the rise of Soca and Jab (Diable), this seems to be no longer true.

Indeed, what these artistes without art, are revealing, is waste of potential, lack of discipline, bad manners and even our mental derangement.  We must wonder to what extent this is due to the drug culture that at the present is engulfing our society.

There is nothing wrong with original rhythms such as Jab and Soca, but the artists need to become aware, that they have an important mission to promote our hopes and political and economic aspirations in their songs.  This must be expressed in their lyrics.

Lewd songs about snake in crocus bags could never in thousand years achieve this.  Artistes must reveal that they are capable of reflecting on the fortunes of the country after the carnival is over, as observed in the famous calypso, “After the carnival over”, by Black Wizard.

And who are the people we would include if we are asked to list the twenty greatest Grenadians since Independence.  This certainly would not be a list of dottish people.

Would we include the eminent jurist, Sir Archibald Nedd?  Would we include Merle Collins, the lady from Hermitage in St. Patrick’s, whose novel ‘Angel’ is being studied in universities in the West Indies and North America?

Would we also include the Mighty Sparrow?  Would we include Porcupine Head, Tallpree, the artiste who paved the way for Grenadian Soca artists to make it big on the Trinidad and Tobago stage?

Devonson LaMothe

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