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Trinidad and Tobago shows us how to celebrate

It’s not every cultural event for which the main purpose seems to be jubilance and enjoyment.

But this was the spirit of the night at Kilburn’s Tricycle theatre on last Thursday night, in just one episode of a month-long celebration of two islands celebrating 50 years of independence: Trinidad and Tobago.

The Trinidad and Tobago Cultural Village – or ‘Trinithon’, as a friend of mine with heritage from the island put it – has transformed the modest Kilburn theatre into a mini-Port of Spain. Trinidadian delicacies burst from an indoor marketplace – an inventive use of space I’ve always thought goes to waste somewhat in the theatre’s everyday life.

But on the bill on Thursday night was a concert of musical entertainment from the island: most notably Calypso. Enter the winner of this year’s Humourous Calypso Competition: The Incredible Myron B.

Calypso is a genre one can hear so many influences within – as each number began, it was impossible not to think of a new one: Latin and Indian among the most prominent – it is often forgotten that Indians form the largest ethnicity on the country’s islands.

Myron is certainly a talented musician, dancer and comedian – and his numbers ranged from pleas of emotional passion to “Bottom in Yuh Face”, the story of unpleasant experiences in a “maxitaxi” from West to East Trinidad.

It was a real shame, however, that several other numbers were permeated by an objectification of women. However humourous this tries to be, you do have to draw the line.

We were then introduced to “special guest” Fireball, who “had a number one in France, a number one in Spain, and… a number four in Belgium.” (Here it is if you’re interested.) The pair onstage then wowed the audience with a improvised number based on crowd suggestions, such as “food!” and “Facebook!” – each was warranted a verse in a wonderfully random song.

Later on, Sheldon Blackman, son of Ras Shorty I, but a renowned musician in his own right, took to the stage with a different sound indeed. Less comic, equally lyrical: and a moving culmination in anti-drugs anthem “All My Children”, originally performed by his father. An even more powerful spectacle was the participation of the Trinidadian audience members during this song.

Songs like this demonstrate how there there exists out there an alternative to the paternalist attitude taken to the developing world by many of our Western ‘stars’. Fittingly, the UN chose it as the anthem of their anti-drugs campaign in 2000.

The upcoming programme offers more in the same spirit, and much more – with a visit from acclaimed novelist Earl Lovelace and the launch of a new poetry collection from that great chronicler of life in both Bayswater and Port of Spain – Sam Selvon. And all for free.

As internationalists, the dismantling of empire is something for all of us to celebrate. And when it can be done in such style, never mind Stratford, Kilburn is the place to lime in 2012.

http://trinbagovillage.com/

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