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Friday, 8 February 2013

Calypso and the return of SuperBlue

The story of Carnival 2013 must be the return of SuperBlue, bouncing, of good voice and spirit and demonstrating the power to overcome adversity. Isn’t it wonderful that we can all once again be thrilled by the talents of this man? 

Thirty-three years ago, Austin Lyons came to town from Point Fortin with a chant of the Spiritual Baptist (Soca Baptist) and reminded all of the links among aspects of the cultural heritage. Thereafter, he created music for us to dance and sing into the 1990s before a tripping-out that reduced his humanity over the last ten-plus years.

Super could not have been more enthusiastically welcomed back by those who know from firsthand experience, his embodiment of the rhythm, lyrics and musicality of modern soca. Even among those who know the man only from reputation and the faded video of a dozen and more years ago, I have heard their delight to hear and see the soca superstar of a decade and a half ago.

Blue Boy was the bridge between the original soca of Shorty and the new generation of wavers, inclusive of Iwer, Machel, Bunji, Kees and all the others—many of them irritatingly tuneless and lyrically illiterate. 

Blue inherited the legacy of Kitchener; he understood what it took to create melodies and loose the spirit of De Carnival on de road. With Soca Baptist, Rebecca, Ethel and others he maintained the tradition of the leggo. And when we aspired to qualifying for the 1990 World Cup, Super was in front waving the flag On de Road to Italy for Gally and the boys. He signalled assuredly when another hero, Brian Lara, overtook the 36-year-old batting record of Sir Garry. 

With No Curfew, Super created the release-song for a nation traumatised by July 1990. It was the first and, by a long distance, the most melodious and meaningful of the wave songs of the era. It captured the spirit of the people and gave the country a new purpose to move forward. Blue Boy/SuperBlue has meant something to this country beyond Carnival and soca. The anecdotes abound of Blue’s descent into hell; now he is back.

Fantastic Friday is not only about nostalgia and love for a fallen/rising hero; it has everything: a strong storyline with good quality lyrics; an infectious and genuine melody; and the explosion of a hook line and chorus to meet today’s need for energy. But far more important than any title and purse he may win this year, it is just great to have this troubadour back among us.

However, I am afraid for him because win or lose, Austin Lyons, the man, will have to deal with the challenges that will come with either of those two imposters—victory or defeat.  Returning once again to superstar status and all that goes with it—or failing to do so —has the seeds of deep challenges.

Instinctively, Super has sensibly been avoiding the temptation to trumpet his return and what may be a desire to brag about teaching the young generation of one-liners a thing or two about melodic soca composition and performance. Success will bring hangers-on, those looking for a free ride. Not becoming the Road March King or the Soca Monarch could be a serious let-down for Lyons.

Family and those genuinely close to Super, Tuco and the Ministry of Multiculturalism should already have begun to provide protection and professional care for SuperBlue. In reality, he is facing the same challenges that Blue Boy faced when he came to town in 1980. It is a worldwide phenomenon of artistes and sports personalities who find themselves incapable of coping with the stress and trauma of fame and money.

On the calypso season 2013, there were a few calypsoes in the monarch semi-final which demonstrated what Albert Gomes had said of calypso: It tells us how we have “lived and sinned.” A few retained the rapier touch of the calypso swordsman/woman, raising a voice and inflicting painful wounds.

There were many calypsonians who qualified under the Five Rules of Calypso—by Fearless—topic, lyrics, rendition, orchestration and stage presentation. However, only a few have graduated in the art of double entendre, humour, guile and sweet melody. Neither did we hear the raw calypso of a Commander, an Unknown or a Zandolee. I was tickled pink by Panther’s use of language and the fun he had with leaders. Chalkie was bold and clever and Karene sought nicely to turn the ship into another port.

However, what was obvious were the messages sent to the Government and to all the parties and politicians in the political culture: the Prime Minister, her Attorney General, Jack Warner and company have not fooled too many, and Reshmi, Section 34 and the many other issues await credible explanations. But beyond the PP, the calypsonians were savagely blunt about the gap which exists between parties, politicians and an increasingly conscious mass.

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