A Heart-Centred Apocalypse

The sun is going down
And I try to follow
Blood is spilled in the sky
As we watch the day die
Making room for tomorrow

Me and my friends
Riding to the world’s end
I don’t know if or when
I’m ever going to see you again
World’s End,
Kin Sound System

Not that I ever thought that I was going to wake up to the Rapture. But I’m kind of glad that the doomsdayers got a giant apocalyptic meggie. We all breathe sighs of relief that the Mayans were wrong. And not that the ones who got it wrong were the anthropologists who tried to piece together meaning in the aftermath of the destruction of a civilisation by the barbarism of colonisation disguised as the saving of pagan souls.

In the aftermath of the non-coming of the apocalypse is another opportunity for us to pour scorn on the ideas of indigenous peoples. Of first nations whose world views we have decimated as much as we have the people. And plundered one or two tidbits relevant to our lives and left aside the rest. We are suspicious of all that old-world obeah. We are terrified of anything that doesn’t have its own themed half hour on CNN.

These days we only trust the obeah that is mainstream and sanctioned by the legitimate western authorities. The obeah that is television. And the Internet. These sorts of western obeahs are okay. We are suspicious of our own. The way that it messes with your mind and makes you alien to your own intuition. And let other people use it for their own advantage.

Like legal and illegal quarries plundering mountains in the Northern Range, because we forget those hills were once sacred to people who were here long before we ever dreamed of a place to call Trinidad. The obeah of development and modernity is a serious thing. And our gods look nothing like us and we worship them anyway.

Whether or not the world ends, I guess, is a moot point. The point is, we don’t need a misinterpreted Mayan prophecy to tell us that we urgently need cataclysmic change on this planet. We need to rethink our evolution in the most urgent of ways. We need to bring to an end a lot of the things that make the quality of life for the majority of the world’s inhabitants unacceptable because of the greed of a few.

We need to reconsider our complicity in the destruction of the planet in the quest for advancement that leads to nowhere. Hollywood has programmed us for a spectacular ending of explosions and Bruce Willis and his band of intrepid soldiers who will save the Earth, or rather America, from certain destruction.

We’re not looking for the explosions in our brains. We’re unaware of the changes in the animals and plants. It’s not our business to end time. We’ve put a limited perspective on what it means and have no understanding of its extent. It’s our business, however, to engage fully in all the suns and moons we spend in this present consciousness ensuring that we experience ourselves and our communities.

We owe it to no one but ourselves to be the best humans we could possibly be. The apocalypse has to be one of destruction of the walls that we have built between us. The end has to come in the form of lasting solutions to poverty and domestic violence and… I see you rolling your eyes at my hippy gibberish. I see you shrugging your shoulders with the resignation of those who think they are powerless.

But this is end times for being frightened to speak our truths for fear of ridicule. Maybe apocalypse myths are just ancient ways of getting us to live every moment we have on Earth to the fullest. To be true to our higher selves, to seek beauty. We look back at the Mayans as illiterate savages. But we are the ones who read without understanding. Who have access to information and fail to act.

We are the ones who weep real tears for children who die in a mass killing in America. And post pictures of a president who cries for his own and sends drones to kill the children of others. We are the real savages who have accepted a civilisation that celebrates its barbarity. That destroys the earth and then blames god for natural disasters.

There needs to be an end to these times. Desperately. There needs to be an end to the blindness to inner light. No one is going to land from another planet and save us. A heart-centred apocalypse that kills fear with love. We need to save our own selves from ourselves and create new calendars for a time that uplifts the whole of humanity.

Published in Trinidad Guardian December 22, 2012

A prophet falls

Hard drugs won’t do
You’re just behaving like they want you to
Arrogance is much different from ignorance
And I know you feel the same way too
Many live this life without having a clue
No reason why they are so sad and blue
Places to go so much things to do
Not a moment to reflect on the cycle of life

—Hills and Valleys, Buju Banton

You remember where you were when you heard Buju Banton for the first time? You were probably about 10 or so and not really that conscious of the world around you. Michael Jackson was still the coolest man in the world but then there were these things called maxi-taxis. It was probably Boom Bye Bye that you heard first. Back when homophobia wasn’t something that made sense to you. Back then there was no Facebook, no BBM, no million and one radio stations playing more ads than music for a captive young audience and agencies hiring big stars to make ads for them so that soon you can’t tell the difference between the product and the music. But these days everything and everybody are for sale.

Back in those days there was just Chinese Laundry doing a legitimate piracy service to a nation of young people desperate for a new sound. And dancehall was it. It defined our generation and everyone else, except maybe Super Cat and Shabba, fades into the background in the shadow of Buju Banton. If no one else, Buju Banton was the one who helped us figure it out. He danced between social commentary and slackness. He transformed himself into a thoughtful prophet. All the time he made us dance. He made us feel beautiful. He made us sure that we were searching. For something more and something better. Even if it was just to be able to out-butterfly your best friends. Truth be told I always loved Buju more than Sizzla. Sizzla who started off over-zealous and earnest. Sizzla who had the talk but not the walk and who fell so far from grace that now it is hard to believe that anything he ever said was true.

We always knew who Buju was. Smart man, lover, badjohn, poet. He was everything without being preachy. He asked the questions we asked about our own ghettoes. You could feel the grit of Kingston garrisons in the gravelled edge of his voice, in the way he could find himself inside a riddim like it was his skin and you were the sweat on it. You could see cockpit country and imagine that Buju was being true to his Maroon roots. Bad for spite. An escape artist. An unchainable spirit. And then you see a picture of him in shackles. And you want to vomit. You convince yourself that it’s not really happening. You convince yourself that Buju of all people could not be so stupid. The trickster allowed himself to be tricked? It’s not possible.

You could forgive Buju anything. His sexism. His homophobia. His love of “brownin” in a time when the use of skin bleaching creams in Jamaica started to skyrocket. You could forgive him all these things. But not the colossal stupidity of falling into Babylon’s trap. You listen again to his lyrics and realise that like any good prophet he has sung of his own downfall. Seen it and put his bittersweet defeat into the music that you love so much. But you can’t hear it because you are dancing and like Bob says when music hits you feel no pain. Because you are dancing to forget the pain. You are imagining that you are really a butterfly and your body can transcend the prisons of racism and unloving, and self-loathing. You escape this mental slavery and Buju is the Maroon stealing you away to some hidden bush town.

But every prophet falls. The disappointment is deep. I really wasn’t looking for you there nah, Buju. I don’t think I will recover from this star tabanca, like I still can’t get over the death of Michael Jackson. Buju Banton gets ten years. Ten years in jail. The truth is I still can’t begin to process what he did. I try to convince myself that he didn’t do it. That he’s innocent. But the evidence is damning. The verdict is guilty and Buju is going to jail. And if he’s guilty he deserves to go to jail. Notwithstanding a more intelligent discussion about the drug trade and how the desire for something synthetic and illegal bears no connection to the value of a plant that for centuries was used by indigenous people to heal themselves. And now because we know better and we’re civilised, we use it to destroy ourselves.

Notwithstanding a more reasonable stance on the drug trade and how a war against it has been used to recolonise people. How somebody still letting the cocaine pass and sometimes you need someone to made an example of. Notwithstanding an understanding of good drugs and bad drugs and tobacco being okay and rum till all of us die. These days you can’t watch five minutes of television without being bombarded by an ad about some drug, for which the side effects are a long list of illnesses that sound far worse than what you’re suffering from. These days you can’t go anywhere without meeting someone who is addicted to some over-the-counter pain killer, knocking back boxes of their favourite NSAIDs.
But Buju is going to jail for 10 years and if you do the crime you do the time. In shackles now, real physical ones to match the ones on our minds. Real physical ones to remind us that we really aren’t free. What a nightmare when you wake up to realise that the one to offer a place for escape is in prison too.

Farewell to the King

Heartbreak enemy despise
Eternal
Love shines in my eyes
So let love take us through the hours
I won’t be complaining
’Cause your love is alright, alright
—Don’t Stop Til You Get Enough Michael Jackson

The first man any of us were in love with, notwithstanding Amitabh Bachchan on a Sunday afternoon. And now that they say he is gone I remember the eighties and long for that innocence again. When my big sister Didi was the coolest person alive. Because she could do the moonwalk and to add insult to injury allowed me with my annoying six-year-old self to lime with her and all her cool friends, not least of all, the boyfriend whose name was, oh sweet Lord, Michael. When Thriller came out and we listened to that record for hours and staged concerts in our living room for a scandalised George Lamming who had, to our own disgust, not yet heard of this marvel called Michael Jackson.
Back then, before the pederasty, before the plastic surgery, before Jacko became wacko, we loved him like a brother. Like a part of the family. He sang for us, for every black child wanting to be great. Wanting to be more than just skin and hair and nose. When those things became tangible talent, superstardom to take to you to moon and back, to soar endlessly. I laughed til I cried years later when Didi was in London and sent me a letter detailing her fainting as he came onstage at Wembley. By then he was thinner and whiter and stranger but still a star. Still worthy of causing my otherwise sensible sister to faint from the sheer emotional exertion of being so close to greatness. He was too great for this Earth. And so he became the joke, the freak show that we all are desperate to avoid. The non-belonging artist on the moon, far out in orbit, trying to get his fans to take the trip with him. No one is that amazing we try to tell ourselves. No one can be so great.
He soars higher still, but we decline the journey preferring to lose ourselves in the driving sex-soaked bass of dancehall and the frustrated realism of hip hop. None can deny though, not Sizzla, not Public Enemy, not Method Man, that the King is the King. His time is gone now, a sacrifice at the feet of superstar gods who demand the ultimate price for such genius. Madness haunts any who dare to fly so high. His face melted like Icarus wings and none of us held out our hands to catch him. And it occurs to me that the thing we robbed him of is the thing he represents the most to all of us. He gave us the happy childhood he never had, haunted as he was by genius madness and demands for those less talented for him to reach never-before-seen heights of superstardom.
He gifted us a less difficult time. A less complicated time when you could be in love with a superstar. When you could dance away your troubles. Back then when you didn’t know every awful gory detail of his life, you couldn’t hear the pain in his wailing. You couldn’t hear the loneliness in his high fragile voice. You could just see the moonwalk as a dance and not a man retreating to some far far place where none of the people who exploited his immense talent could reach him. I mourn not just a singer. I mourn a symbol of my own struggle to know and love myself. How many black people wished they had that Jackson money to change their faces into something that might be more beautiful by someone else’s standards.
How many want to rub out their reflections so that the nightmares do not stare back when they look into the mirror. How many fight demons every day. His heart broke because we didn’t believe in him anymore and I am sure he stopped believing too. Part of me wants to believe that he is not dead. Because he was meant to be immortal. He was meant to transcend this physical place because the Earth was far too puny a place for him. The King is not mere flesh that withers on the bone. The King is pure electricity now. Existing in our nerve endings, infectious and divine. The King stops time and space to make people forget their troubles and dance. Forget their sorrows and dance. Like the first time you heard Billie Jean and wondered what manner of man could make their spirit want to jump out of their skins, just so?
It is the power of music. In that moment of moonwalk nothing else matters. He walks on the moon alone. He trods the superstar road alone. He dies alone. Unrecognisable by those who came to know themselves through his music. Far more than any of us have wished for ourselves. Far more than any of us could have dreamed for him.

Songs and Memories

Been doing a lot of backing up and adding and deleting tonight. Listening to favourite songs and some songs I haven’t listened to in ages. Brings back really wonderful memories of my life and times, trodding through creation, meeting some wonderful people and maintaining ties with some lovely old friends. Some songs I can’t listen to anymore because they are so full of memories…some of them bring back a time when life was less complicated. But I am thankful for them all. I guess I’m documenting them in the unfortunate event that I forget how much these pieces of music and the times and the places and the people mean to me.

Billie Jean – Michael Jackson Early 1980′s George Lamming was staying at our house, working on something or another. My sister had just got a copy of the Thriller album and we set about playing it over and over. Uncle George declares to our great shock and horror ‘Who is this Jackson person?’ So of course we had to put on a whole concert for him, including Didi doing the moonwalk across the living room. At the end of the song, Uncle George declares ‘This is a funny sort of house’.

Inglan is a Bitch – Linton Kwesi Johnson – 1987 London The mother took me to an LKJ concert in London somewhere. I don’t remember the details because I slept through most of it, but at some point in the night I remember waking up to see this little black guy prancing around the stage singing in the roughest, loveliest voice I’ve ever heard ‘Hinglan is a beeetch’. Been in love with him ever since.

Everybody Wants to Rule the World – Tears for Fears – 1986 Watford. I was standing at the bus stop outside Woolworths with my sisters on the way to school. I was standing there minding my own business when this woman comes up and punches me in the face. Dry so!! Buss my lip and everyting. Not pleasant. This is the song that was playing on the radio when the Babylon came to question me about the woman after school.

Natty Dread – Bob Marley and the Wailers May 2000 Kingston. Went down to Trench Town to do some volunteer work at a community centre. They didn’t cater for the vegetarians so we wandered across the street looking for a vendor. Happened to wander straight into the yard where Bob used to live with his mother and Bunny Wailer. We sat in the shade of giant ganja trees and reasoned with rasta elders who gave us fruits and coconut water to eat. Bliss!

He Loves Me – Jill Scott – Winter 2003 England – Road Trip to Stone Henge with my very good sister friends Tonni, Tamara, BinghiNya and Gab. Nya was driving us to Bath and then she started to sing this song. I am so very thankful to have these womyn in my life!!

Here and Now- Andre Tanker – Winter 2003, China. I didn’t find out that Andre died a whole three days after… That day Tonni and I took a trip to the sea off Qinhuangdao. It was cold and the water grey. But it was good to be by the sea and I was glad to have a moment to whisper my goodbyes into the waves.

Fools Die – Peter Tosh- New Years Day 2004 London. Passed out at Skateboard Pete’s New Years Party, woke up at 6 am and this is the song Svenn was playing. A melancholy way to start a bizarre year that I was very glad to see the end of!

Shanti Om – Lord Shorty – Jouvay 2004 Trinidad We were just coming out of the Savannah. I think Shel Shok was the DJ. The sun was just coming up and they drop this song! Ooooh gouud…I was never so happy to be home as in that moment. By Ash Wednesday I was cured of that, though.

Natural Roots – Jah Shaka – Summer 2004 Me and Empress Jo in Finsbury Park at an all day Dub festival. The house in Turnpike Lane with the Hairy Fairies and food and reasonings and energy balls and falling asleep standing up in all night Jah Shaka dances in the Rocket in Holloway. The N29! D&G ginger beers and the best 24 hour snack shop in Trafalgar Square. Primrose Hill and vegan Thai buffet paradise for stoners. Sundays in Spitalfields market. Cheesy reggae Saturday nights in Camden! And that lovely Ethiopian bredrin, Yohannes was his name?

Water No Get Enemy – Fela Anikulapo Kuti – Autumn 2004 London – Svenn used to play this song at least twice a day. I don’t know why it became such an anthem for us, given that we were living in the middle of Chelsea with Ralph Lauren as our corner store, ha! Walking down to King’s Road we would spontaneously start singing the song together. Our merriment was frequently cut short by a burst of running to catch the Number 19.

One Day – Mungal featuring 3 Canal – New Years Day 2005 London – Me, Kassie and Nya talking about all our hopes and dreams and fears on the brink of a new day.

Zion – Maximus Dan – Summer 2005 – I was living in Zürich and getting rather fat. So every morning I would go for a run in a vineyard near the lake. It was mostly uphill and I would never really think I could make it. But just as I got to the top of the hill this song would come on and I would practically fly down the hill towards home, smiling maniacally with my hair flapping about in the breeze. Needless to say the neighbours stared at me like I just landed from another planet….

Anisiedad – Daisy Voisin Christmas 2005 Trinidad. I hadn’t been home since my grandmother died in 2003. The mother was in the kitchen making black cake and then this song came on and it made me think of my Ida and the fact that she was the original black cakist. That I would never again have the pleasure of her boofs, her smiles, her sarcasm, her pakchoi and rice! I hadn’t had a chance to cry for her in almost two years of travelling, working, loving, moving again, running away and trying to figure out where home was. But then Daisy came on and I got a full appreciation of all that I was missing and all that I had missed.

Live Good – Burning Spear- Carnival 2006 Chatham …the first time I went down to Chatham and met the women of the community and was so impressed by the concern and commitment that I was motivated to get involved in their struggle against Alcoa. When the meeting was finished we ate with them and then Samantha, the 8 year old daughter of our hosts, took my hand and walked with me around her yard. She pointed out all the different trees: mango, pomerac, zaboca, fig. And then she looked me in the eye and said ‘if Alcoa comes I not going to have this anymore’. Part of the reason I never went back to Switzerland…

Ee wa Obakoso – Ella Andall – Summer 2007 Iceland – We were driving up to Husavik right at the northernmost point of Iceland. At about 1 am it was still light and my anarchist friends decided that that was a good time to go check out a crater. It was so windy and cold I ran all the way. Got to the top out of breath with the wind howling in my ears and the crater’s gravel crunching under my hiking boots. I don’t know if I was crying because I was so cold or because I was so overwhelmed to be where I was for the reason that I was there. I had never felt so far from home and yet so close to myself. The wind blew my tears away and then everything got very still.

Naturally – Slow Train – Rainy Season 2008, Trinidad. Me and Kassie, joined by Jacob on a road trip to Toco. We practically wore a hole into that cd replaying that song speeding through the north coast.

Even After All- Finley Quaye- Many Many Nights 2008 The Republic. After party cleaning up. Svenn bepping on the day bed. Sheli listening to every note. Keshav singing and washing dishes. Makeda cooking, again. Me playing ten last songs. Daddy O recounting Amel’s birth. Lemongrass and ginger tea, chocolate tea and pongkin choka. Enamel cups and loud laughter.

Okay I’m going to stop there before this gets too cheesy….

A Sunday evening reason to love the internet.

It’s Sunday evening and because it’s raining I decide to fight my way through nineteen hundred unread email messages. To lighten the load I’m listening to Don Drummond, like I sometimes do when I’m feeling nostalgic for Kingston and my adventurous youth there. Suddenly the mother bursts into the room. Where you get that song? That’s not the original!! I’m like what, lady?

She insists that African Beat is not an original, and I mildly protest but this woman has a sickeningly amazing memory.

The mother recalls paying their neighbour the slightly more affluent teacher her few pennies for him to play the radio loud enough for her to hear, because her own mother couldn’t afford a radio. This is 1954 so she is less than ten years old at the time. I Google it and I discover that it was a German composer called Bert Kaempfert who did the original Afrikaan Beat which was then re-done ska style by the brilliant and short lived Kingston genius Drummond.

Anyway I get busy and soon I’ve downloaded the Kaempfert. The mother is covered in goosebumps and close to tears. She hasn’t heard this song in fifty or so years and she remembers every nuance of the music. She then starts recalling other songs she hasn’t heard in years. And soon I’m downloading like mad Les Baxter’s Poor People of Paris and Edith Piaf and the mother is waxing nostalgic for easier times, poorer times, family times in Santa Cruz.

The more I think about it, the more I realize that a lot of the music I enjoy now was introduced to me when I was small. Sundays were blast out the sound system days and the mother played everything from Beethoven to Ralph Macdonald to Buddy Miles. When I spent time with the male parental unit he was big on the jazz tip and Lucky Dube and of course Beethoven (he once called me long distance to tell me that he was reading a book that said that the old Ludwig died in the middle of a storm – at the moment of his death he raised himself off the bed and shook his clenched fist at the thundering heavens. ‘Dat is Shango self!’ was the father’s comment).

Anyway, it felt good to be able to provide such a service, given that the mother is an unapologetic techno peasant, it was like magic for her watching me find a piece of her history. But I am also struck by how much about this woman that I’ve known all my life I still don’t know

And also how much of my life now that I take for granted.

So Ashé Ogun for the internet. It’s trickier than Anansi but it’s always possible to learn something.

Perfect submission, perfect delight,
visions of rapture now burst on my sight;
angels descending bring from above
echoes of mercy, whispers of love

Blessed Assurance, Fanny Crosby

It took me a few bars to identify the song. It took the other Phase II fans a while to catch on too. I guess it’s not the kind of song that you identify immediately, unless you are poto l’eglise or remember some older relative singing this sad sweet dirge of a hymn.

The young people had drifted away to Renegades or one of the loud bars lining that sacredly profane stretch of St James being celebrated by We Beat.

And even though I am an avowed pagan hippy type, I couldn’t help myself getting caught up in the nostalgia. I raised my own voice and hands in song even though I wanted to laugh at this sure sign that I am officially neither young nor cool. Our voices rose above the humidity, while I tried to reach through my brain’s cobwebs for the words to the song, substituting liberally with lavwey scats.

On Saturday night, or maybe it was already Sunday morning, I revelled in that moment of sweetness when nothing matters but keeping your feet dragging rhythmically on the asphalt, stepping out of beat, only to skip over a pothole or a piper scouring between our feet for beer bottles.

In that moment you can’t imagine how you ever wanted to leave this magically bizarre wonderful place where on a random Saturday night, or maybe Sunday morning, the streets can turn into a big party and rum-drinking retired matador women could pull off with startling dignity and piety singing in the same warbly old-lady voice of my grandmother.

I looked around at the faces around me—older faces, rich and poor faces, Indian, African, European faces. All sweating in the St James at midnight humidity. A man with his hands in the air turned to me and said Trinidad needs more of this. And I’m not sure if he meant the sweetness of the music that Phase II was giving us or the prayer we were singing into the night air.

Back at home, I couldn’t sleep and for once it wasn’t the now increasingly frequent and much louder crash of suicidal mangoes hitting the galvanise roof. The words of the hymn and the image of all those people and the echo of their voices stayed with me.

At dawn I was heading over the north coast to Blanchisseuse and then into the mountains to a bend in the Marianne River where Uncle Raviji’s Kendra were hosting this year’s edition of the Ganga Dhaaraa festival.

I sat on a rock high on incense and sleep deprivation. And endless old ladies like tiny Indian versions of my own grandmother, passed me by whispering pleasantly surprised Sita Rams, pressing various bits of fruits from their offerings to their Ganga Mai, who bears an astounding metaphysical resemblance to the Oshun of my own ancestors.

I walked through the river thankful for a different kind of sacred space, without the profanities of electric lights and pipers but perhaps with less of a chance of redemption. Because only the converted, the saved and the sanctified venture into the river and offer the fruits and flowers of their labours.

Blessed Assurance keeps playing in my head. I imagine if the man from the night before were here, he would say the same thing. Trinidad needs more of this. More silent days by the river. More cool water poured over our hot tempers. More offerings to the gods of our ancestors. If the technocrats at the EMA were to leave their air-conditioned offices in St Clair and seek out their reflections in the Marianne River, then maybe my grandchildren will be able to come to Marianne River and ponder their place in the world.

I imagine that while the peace of Marianne River with the sun making just the right pattern of light and leaves on your shoulders is where we find our peace, the heat of St James is where we find our humanity. St James is where we have a glimpse of another world being possible. Where Phase II can take us higher than a Bournes Road crack ball and help us transcend the emptiness and ugliness of city-ness.

Truthfully, I haven’t the attention span to be religious. Nor do I have the musical inclination to be a pannist.

And the blessed assurance of living in Trinidad is that you have a chance to experience and participate if you so choose. No boundaries except in your own head. And you can find yourself and your Trinidad in the most diverse of places. To sing your own story and write your own song. And praise your gods of music and rivers and sky wherever you please.

Shomari gets a joropo lesson

I’ve been spending the weekend with the mother, on account of her recent self-inflicted while cooking knife adventures. Last night, after the pain killers kicked in she turned up the music. This being the only time of the year that she’s not blasting jazz, she put on one of those restored but still scratchy sounding albums of ‘no teet’ parang. The nephs were there too, dancing around the living room with her, thoroughly enjoying her high spirits, the first time for the week. It’s also a reassurance for them that there will in fact be black cake, sweetbread and sundry other sweetnesses. Usually I’m quite cynical about Christmas, but for some reason I’m enjoying this year’s preparations.

One for Uncle Ellis

I heard the news about Uncle Ellis on Thursday and it struck me again how these people always choose to go in the Carnival season.
It’s as if the other jumbies get restless around that time.  They miss them, the old talk, the jam sessions, the lime.
I only ever knew Uncle Ellis from a distance. From back in the days when I was new to this media thing and his nephew Tony gave me a bligh on his WEFM station.
They came with the territory, Uncle Ellis and his brother Aldwyn who we all called Pa Chow. A soca man and a mas man.
Days playing mas with Minshall.  Pa Chow building kings.  Uncle Ellis steering Charlie’s Roots to be one of those cutting edge kind of bands that you can’t put your finger on just what so different or so special about them.
In a country where we like to put people in boxes, where African people must sing and dance and Chinee people must mind shop and Syrian people must sell clort and Indian must plant garden, Uncle Ellis stood out.
Plenty talk about soca mafia.  Two generations of talk about who sell out to the Chinee.  And I shake my head and laugh because if you don’t know your value who is going to know if for you?
Before soca mafia there were artists dying in poverty.  There were steelband clashes.  There was Spoiler drinking himself to death and pan men losing their minds on coke.
Before Uncle Ellis there was this crippling self-doubt about who we are what talents we have to offer the world.
Now we don’t have young people wanting to be soca artists anymore.  Now we want to be stars.  We want to ride a rhythm and wave a rag play in some nice all inclusives up town.  Do a video and get big up on Synergy and Tempo.  Push a big Lexus like Iwer, pull down some warm advertising dollars.
And I wonder what Uncle Ellis could have done about it.  What his nephew Tony could still do.  If there is anything that can be done.
I wonder if anybody from the Ministry of Culture ever asked Uncle Ellis what he would have wanted in a Performing Arts Academy.
Another Carnival coming on faster than 160 beats per minute. And the same Carnival questions there, unanswered.  The same problems there, unresolved.
And Uncle Ellis gone to the big Carnival of the sky.  He’s managing a band starring Kitchy and Uncle Andre and John Isaacs.  Maestro’s there too and Roaring Lion.  Uncle Ellis holding reasonings with Brian Honore who I see coming with a dreader than dread Smelter Robber mas. Shorty I is trying his best to get them to behave in the Lord’s house.  Clive Bradley is conducting.
I regret that I didn’t think to record some of those late night studio sessions when Blakie or Rudder who pass through.  I regret I didn’t get to ask all the questions that now keep me awake.
I fear that we are losing all these wise people, without first hearing their stories.  Just sit and listen to them for hours and hours.  If we really are serious about forging a civilization, then we do ourselves a disservice by letting Uncle Ellis go before we have a chance to absorb some of his wisdom.
Uncle Ellis gone and I mourn the passing of yet another historian, teacher, keeper of our stories.