weeks gone already? I cyar believe that. If I was a quipper
Id roll out something about time flying whilst having
fun, but since Im a serious-minded cronkuero and
a Jewish Creole to boot, Ill put the ever hastening
passage of time down to a typically overloaded Big Fug
schedule. Lets try to start at the beginning at
least, as Ive no idea how far well get.
Im going to raise the curtain at the Barbican, that
morgue-like monstrosity that passes as one of Londons
major cultural centres. Anyway, on the night in question,
all the usual zombies had been run out by Dirty Jims
Swizzle Club. The T&T Tourism department should really
consider this showcase of classic calypso and entirely
impromptu extempo as a permanent Trini roadshow, if it
is at all serious about developing a cultural export industry.
Despite the limitations (the more senior performers including
Bomber, Terror and Syl Dopson are now past the rigours
of touring) the combined efforts of Sparrow, Calypso Rose,
Lord Superior and Relator afforded a packed house one
of the best Barbican concerts Ive attended over
the past four years.
Of course the madam and I arrived late; this was only
to be expected as the madam, being a true Trini, wanted
to look her Yummy Mummy best. Rushing through the vault
of the Barbican mausoleum, I caught a glimpse of Relator
on an overhead screen. I was happy to note he was mid-way
through the Kitch classic Nora Nora (Why dont you
leave Lord Kitchener/I want to go back to Trinidad and
see me grandmother).
By the time the ushers waved us in, he was into Matilda
and then delighted the crowd when he digressed from the
set list to sing Gavaskar, in response to a request yelled
from the upper gallery. Without missing a beat Relator
demonstrated both his consummate professionalism and extempo
talent, calling out the chord progression for Tony Voisin,
guitar stalwart of Charlies Roots fame, and delivering
the lyrics with all the swagger of a victorious cricketer.
Having segued into extempo mode Relator took the challenge
to the audiencecalling out for topics (the World
Cup, Ghanas defeat of the USA, Jack Warner, George
Bush) that he and Superior (in London bowler hat) traded
By intermission time Dirty Jims had the crowd in
their pocket and opening the second set Calypso Rose had
the house on its feet in carnival style for Were
Going Down San Fernando. Rose played it jammette style,
giving front row Brits fatigue (Is this yuh husban?
yuh mean sort of, hes a sort of man?
Hmmm.) and then raising up she dan dan at the sort
of man before launching herself into the audience for
Fire In Me Wire.
I cant recall the staid Barbican cooking with such
gas, and Rose knew exactly how to raise the pressure for
Sparrows introduction. Birdie was at his inflammatory,
bawdy best. He began deceptively with the innocuous Memories,
before trying out a risqué joke about a conversation
with Tiger Woods (I thought you put the club in
the hole not the ball. I en playin wit no white balls.)
and then went for pure subversion by singing Congo Man,
which elicited a sharp intake of respectable breath from
those who felt the Birdie might be offending the politically
correct. All too quickly the show was done with Sa Sa
Yey, but what a perfect cameo of Trini culture it had
Superior, sartorially correct in his London bowler.
Some reviewers have noted that the excellent DVD made
of Dirty Jims Swizzle Club, is the Trini answer
to Cubas phenomenally successful Buena Vista Social
Club (a venture that has produced a steady stream of World
music classics, launched solo careers for artistes in
their 80s and 90s and brought Cuban music and culture
to the world).
My suggestion that the Tourism department utilise Dirty
Jims is based on the recognition that Dirty Jims
achieves what a whole library of cultural history cant
match: a live nostalgic vision of Trinidad, cut with some
rampant raunchy anti-colonialism; creating a virtual island
reality, enshrining songs of the past that will live on
and have already entered popular mythology, regardless
of the current political, social or any other reality.
Barbican audiences are connoisseurs of global culture.They
are not easily impressed. The audience at Dirty Jims
was totally captivated, amused, provoked, engaged and
queued after the show to buy CDs. There is always much
ol talk about we culture and we ting.
Dirty Jims is all of that and is out there already.
This is an opportunity to put T&T on a map, which
outstrips all development plans and talk of the Singapore
paradigm. Lets hope the Ministries of Tourism, Culture,
Development and Finance realise the golden egg they dont
even have to hatch.