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Prang for Parang
Prime Minister Colm Imbert—and I never thought I’d write that firetrucking phrase, let me tell you, I would have quicker bet on American President Ralph Nader or Pope Richard Dawkins or Teenager of the Year Mick Jagger or Nobel Peace prizewinner Bashar al-Assad—mainly because I never thought I’d be taller than a prime minister, even a temporary or acting one—but Prime Minister (Acting, Short) Imbert this week disclosed that the PNM government he leads (for a ten-days, while our own primus inter canines malos is on tour, off leash) will be drastically cutting state spending on Christmas parties and bonuses with the HDC, as managed by the UNC, spending $3 million on its Christmas party last year—they saw fit to hire a carol-singer named Machel Montano—there was clearly a need and one of the first casualties of the cost-cutting has been parang.
It’s an ill wind that blows nobody any good and I’m personally deeply grateful for the vast reduction of the number of people drinking Scotch well and singing Spanish badly between now and Boxing Day. All my life, I’ve done my endeavour best to like parang but it was like Reeva Steenkamp trying to see the good side of her killer. I’d rather take the accusation of being unpatriotic on the chin than subject my ears to a single verse and chorus from most paranderos (apart from my own extended family member, Chris Ras Cas’ group, of course, which I treat as the exception that proves the rule).
Now I don’t mind parang as a concept: in our neo-slave societies, I’m almost always for anything that encourages liberality, particularly if it leads to drinking and singing, jointly and/or severally, but I do insist that, if we are going to be drinking and singing, there should be some songs involved every now and then. Every parang party I ever went to and arrived at stone cold sober seemed to consist of one song, sung over-and-over, to the same melody. Here, to the tune of—well, you know the tune, there’s just the one—is every parang song ever written (and parang “songwriters” can toss parang songs off like priests do acolytes because no one understands a word of what they’re singing, and no one cares that they don’t, because the only analytical thinking ever brought to bear on anything connected to parang is how to unscrew the cap of the rum bottle if the thread gets crossed): “Tu mama, Lucy/ Y tu papa, Juicy/ Soy marinero, no soy capitan/ Los libros, acqui/ Hermanos Castries/ Angostura y cataflam/ Fidel Castro video/ Manana ergo/ Chicago soprano calor/ paella por mi amor/Y el burger for me/ Panadol idiocy / But them bound to pay we/ Aha, now is time for/ Aieeeeeeeeeee!”
I apprehend that the formula occasionally gives rise to great songs, particularly in its bastardised forms—Crazy’s “Parang Soca”, Scrunter’s Ah Want a Piece of Pork, almost anything by Daisy Voisin—but that could be said for any genre: vapid American teenybopper pop music managed to eventually bubble up, somehow, both Sugar, Sugar and Mmmmm-Bop and dancehall produced Green Bay Killings and What Police Can Do, chutney, something we like to think of as a form of music, may have produced only a great chorus so far —“If you drink rum, you go dead/ If you don’t drink rum, you go dead/ Might as well drink rum/ And dead”—but, given time, even that shallowest of grooves might generate an instance of depth.
Our parang, like our Cabinet, produces only occasional ripples of brilliance in vast oceans of stupidity. How many hordes of sweating fat men posing in suits must we put up with to get one who rolls up his shirtsleeves and actually gets to work?
Which leads to thoughts of the now-late Kamaluddin Mohammed, a former PNM Cabinet Minister, whom we lost this week, and about whom no one has, at my own time of writing, said a bad thing. It’s a foible of our species that we speak well of people the moment they die who, up to their last breath, we were ripping to pieces.
Expect, then, some very nice words to be written, soon, about two out of three of the contenders in tomorrow’s election of the political leader of the United National Congress.
We think of what passes amongst Trinidadians around elections as politics, in the same way we think of parang as music, but, in both cases, if analysed even superficially, very little of it actually makes any sense at all, and the most successful of its proponents are the ones who can produce the shallowest offerings for the consumption, without any assessment—which is to say, the swallowing whole—of the widest group. Listening to one of the contenders, who had enough money to buy live coverage of a speech on radio on Tuesday night —it was hard to tell whether the opposition addressed was from the same political party: a UNC opponent was no different from a PNM one.
And this, it appears, is what we choose, as a people.
The only satisfaction to be had is in the thinking that, by this time Sunday, there will be two fewer people spouting gibberish that everyone cheers but no one understands.
- BC Pires es un hijo de put a hand, Lord, pero what you go do? And is aware, Denis Solomon & Judy Raymond, that “first amongst bad dogs” is not translated that way
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