Editorial: More than sun, sea and sand

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The Mighty Chalkdust (a teacher by profession) sang a classic calypso called SEAWATER AND SAND in the 1980’s. In it he decried what he saw as the petty and selfish inter-island rivalries and narrow parochialism, and the chest-beating about which island nation has more of which or what, because it did not add up to a hill of beans.
For example, the good teacher says that, “It’s time you Trinidadians understand / That all de oil you have in your island / Is just a drop in the Arabian ocean . . .” With all the putting down and belittling of each other, the vainglorious and unbecoming patting of ourselves on our backs, Chalkdust postulates that on a worldwide level, and in the overall scheme of things, all we really have to offer in abundance is seawater and sand.
Now, it is not often that we disagree with our teachers. Indeed, back in the day, very few of us dared contradict a teacher for fear of detention, or worse, suspension. In this case, however, we beg to unabashedly disagree with the good teacher. There is no self-loathing here in us! No inferiority complex! We are proud to say that we here in the Caribbean have a great deal more to offer the world than just sun, seawater and sand. This was never more evident than this past November 29 when the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) placed reggae music on its World Heritage List in the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity category. To that we say, Bravo! It is a most worthy honour!
We certainly wish to congratulate Jamaicans on this most wondrous achievement and hail the recognition of music that began as ska then evolved into rock steady, rockers (KEEP UP THE ROCKERS by Tapa Zukie), reggae (DAT, RAM GOAT LIVER by Pluto Shervington), conscious reggae (FIGHT ON, CRYSTAL BALL by Peter Tosh, SITTING AND WATCHING by DENNIS BROWN and ONE LOVE by Bob Marley), dancehall (CYARN DUN by Shabba Ranks) and lovers rock, (WILDFIRE by Dennis Brown). Of course the most remarkable aspect of reggae is that it grew out of the ghettoes and shantytowns of the island. It seems out of the misery and deprivation of the ghettoes can come much that is beautiful! Seems that the ghettoes are the crucibles that will bring forth the creativity that speaks to our frustrations and hopes and aspirations, and, yes, “calms the savage breast/beast!” The ghettoes of the Caribbean are the font, the wellspring of our inner musical, artistic and cultural genius. Let no man despise the denizens of the ghettoes like Point in Antigua and Trenchtown in Jamaica.
Noteworthily, in conferring the distinction and honour on reggae music, a UNESCO representative declared, “[Reggae music] is at once cerebral, socio-political, sensual and spiritual . . . It has [contributed] to international discourse on issues of injustice, resistance, love and humanity.” Quite a mouthful there! And certainly much more than sun, seawater and sand! (Merengue music and dance from the Dominican Republic, and dances from Cuba are also a part of the World Heritage List).
And there is more. We suggest that calypso music, another cry from the soul that speaks to “issues of injustice, resistance, (POWER AND AUTHORITY and NOBODY GO RUN ME by Short Shirt), love and humanity”, should also be added to the UNESCO World Heritage List. So too the steel pan (the Tangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity category), and steel pan music (the Intangible category). These are treasures, our gifts to the world, and they ought to be recognised and cherished. Add the mocko jumbies, john bulls, highlanders, iron bands, string bands, limbo dancing, fire-eating and j’ouvert, and it is clear that our cultural heritage is rich, deep, diverse and fascinating.
We certainly hope that Chalkdust has had a change of heart, because we here in the Caribbean certainly have much more than seawater and sand to offer the world.

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