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Power to the people

Remembering our cultural heroes of 1970
Friday, April 20, 2018
Lancelot Kebu Layne, pioneer of the Rapso movement.

Tomorrow marks the 48th anniversary of the April 21, 1970 State of Emergency declaration by the Eric Williams-led government in response to the Black Power Movement.

Having being spawned in far off Montreal, Canada at the Sir George Williams University, Black Power demonstrations reached a head on April 6, 1970 when a protester, Basil Davis, was killed by the police on Frederick Street. This was followed on April 13 by the resignation of ANR Robinson, Member of Parliament for Tobago East. The death of this protester led to the Movement to pick up momentum.

On April 18, sugar workers went on strike, and there was talk of a general strike. In response to this, Williams proclaimed the April 21 State of Emergency and arrested 15 Black Power leaders. Responding in turn, a portion of the Trinidad Defense Force, led by lieutenants Raffique Shah and Rex Lassalle, mutinied and took hostages at the army barracks at Teteron.

A number of our potentially upward mobile youth, including Terry “General Tuco” Thornhill, Guy Beckles and Beverly Jones, were also killed by the security forces as they assumed the role of guerrillas under the banner of the National Union of Freedom Fighters (NUFF)

On the upside, the Black Power Movement became a crucible and nursery for black resistance in the arts, and a rise of conciousness amongst T&T’s African population. I still remember religiously attending Sunday evening Black Power concerts held at the Woodbrook residence of Boboy and Rosie Adams, Belmont Community Centre, Trou Macaque in Laventille and further afield in Cocoyea Village, South Trinidad. These were served by many of the established and emerging artistes of the day like Andre Tanker, Black Stalin, rapso pioneer Lancelot Kebu Layne, poets Kwasi Senghor and Brother Book and dance choreographer the Astor Johnson.

As the 60s came to an end, calypsonians ruling the roost included the late Lord Kitchener, Mighty Sparrow, Bomber, Lord Blakie and Pretender. But, as the wave of social unrest intensified other bards stepped into the limelight, composing and performing a type of calypso unlike any heard before in T&T. These were calypsoes of resistance, songs which stimulated consciousness in a people. Among the banner-bearers were Rapso pioneer Lancelot Kebu Layne, Brother Valentino, Black Stalin, Brother Superior, Composer, Explainer, Brother Mudada, Brother Ebony, Manchild, Brother Akeil, Mighty Duke, Mighty Chalkdust, Maestro, Smiley and Rootsman.

Also in the thick of things as far as music and cultural expressions was concerned, there were other artistic warriors also fermenting the seeds of consciousness; artistes like Malik the Dread Poet, Ella Andall, Eintou Springer, Clive Alexander, Black Roots Riddum Band, Network Rapso Band, Drums of Freedom, Brother Resistance, Karega Mandela, Sister Ava, Kwasi Senghor, Brother Book, Chetswayo Murai, Brother Doughty, Errol “Stork” St Hill, Paul Keens-Douglas and the Rastafari Liberation Movement.

The dance and literary spheres were also been turned upside down, the banners of change being unfurled by the likes dancers Astor Johnson, Andre Ettienne, Carlton Francis, Cyril St Louis and Julia Edwards, and literary giants like Leroi Clarke, Earl Lovelace, Zeno Obi Constance, Michael Anthony and Louis Regis.

Today we must “sit down, rock back,” and reflect on the invaluable contributions made more than half a century ago by our icons of the arts. Sadly some of them are no longer with us, but many continue the vocation of enlightening a nation, reminding us of our sovereignty and pride as a people. 

Two winners have already been crowned for the 2018 comPANions steelband festival. At finals held last Sunday at the Curepe Scherzando pan yard, Mark Pierre of Gonzales Sheikers successfully defended the table tennis title he won in 2017. In the 7-a-side netball tournament, Republic Bank Exodus emerged as the best netballing steelband in the land.

The comPANions festival continues this evening at MTHL Starlift Pan Complex, located at Christopher Drive, Mucurapo Road, St James with All Fours and football eliminations being held.

Dates, venues and events for next weekend and May are; Saturday, April 28— Republic Bank Exodus (cricket / All Fours / Scrabble); Friday, May 11— Phase II Pan Groove (All Fours and football); Saturday, May 12— MTHL Starlift (All Fours); Friday, May 18— Shell Invaders (Draughts / Karaoke/ All Fours); Sunday, May 20— Walkathon around the Queen’s Park Savannah [tentative]; Friday May 25— Massy Trinidad All Stars (Big 8 football Knockout/All Fours & Dominoes; Saturday, May 26— Republic Bank Exodus (Big 8 cricket Knockout; and, Sunday, May 27— Debate Competition [tentative].

Steelband celebrates champion women

Come Saturday, May 12, Caribbean Steelpan Connextion (CSC) will hold its next concert series—For the Women in Steel—at Pandemonium Steel Orchestra panyard, 3 Norfolk Street, Belmont, at 8 pm.

For the Women in Steel promises to be a fun-filled evening of music, food and dance promises a diverse cast of performances that will include the international prowess of The Codrington Pan Family, The Fuh Real Band with pannist Triston Marcano as well as the distinguished gentlemen of Suave Steel.

Other featured performers include Derron Ellies whose credits include projects with Marge Blackman and the Jamoo Band, Orange Sky as well as, local parang group Los Tocadores.

Youngsters Jaime McLeod and Melanie Ramsarran (both of San Fernando) will also display their talents on pan in commemoration of Mother’s Day.

This year, CSC has decided to honour Vanessa Headley of Golden Hands Steel Orchestra and Candice Andrews-Brumant, leader of bpTT Renegades Steel Orchestra at the event. While both women scored gold at the helm of their respective National Panorama steelbands for 2018. They are also being recognised for the continued positive influence in youth development and their spirit of entrepreneurship in the local steelpan fraternity.

Tickets are available at $200 and are food inclusive. For purchases, call 374.5262.


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