STORY by RAVI BALGOBIN MAHARAJ
While he was alive, my grandfather had a hobby of collecting old vinyls of golden age music from America, Bollywood and local calypso. During my formative years, on most evenings, he would play from his vast collection, record after record of these songs that would have been part of his own childhood and teenage years, to which I became familiar through osmosis.
This is not to mention the weekends we spent travelling to Sanch, Praimsinghs and Kenny’s, when we would go in search of these classic gems. When he passed, unfortunately, my grandmother passed on his collection to one of my aunts, and honestly, it has been one of the greatest regrets in my life so far. But whenever I hear one of these songs on the radio or in passing, it still reminds me of those simpler times when they would fill up and entire afternoon.
That being said, during his interview with Khamal Georges, the Prime Minister reiterated the importance of the heritage sites that his administration has prioritised for restoration and refurbishment in the name of national pride. When pressed on the relevance and importance of these projects in light of the deteriorating national infrastructure, rising unemployment and crime, and an economy that is till just on the brink of collapse, Dr. Rowley responded by saying that the people would understand and appreciate the significance of these works, despite whatever hardships they have faced to finance the costs.
Now I won’t go into as much detail as the last time I commented on the issue, but once again I must remind you that there is absolutely no historical significance to Whitehall outside of that being applied by this Prime Minister. The building was constructed by colonial estate owners as their home, the materials used in its construction were imported from other islands, and the British only took ownership of the building after the owners abandoned it due to its dilapidation. Of course, as someone who was so determined to relocate his Trinidad office to the “historic” site, Dr. Rowley still hasn’t explained why it was necessary to construct a new residence for the Prime Minister in Tobago. Surely there are consequential buildings on that island that could have been converted to a residence instead.
The reason I am bring this up is because while working on a different project, it became apparent to me that much of the music that I was exposed to while growing up are now being lost to time, due to the outdated formats in which they were produced. If Keith Rowley really wants to talk about the legacy of Trinbagonians and the historical antiquities that need to be preserved, this music which is part of our culture should be at the top of that list. While I believe that the songs which have won in competitions such as the Calypso Monarch, Road March and Soca Monarch have been preserved, there are so many icons who may have never won any of these competitions, who are deserving of recognition for their contribution to the art, but are unknown as a result of this failing. How many children today will never hear the songs of the Growling Tiger, Roaring Lion, King Radio, Atilla the Hun, Lord Melody, Lord Pretender and the Mighty Spoiler, or even know who these persons were? I am even willing to bet that there will be some reading this who may not know who some of these people are, and to me that is a damn shame.
When T&T lost the copyright to the steel pan, it was a national disgrace and embarrassment, but we still remember the melodies that those classic composers produced. In terms of these songs however, if lost, there may be no way of recovering them. If the Prime Minister really believes in protecting our heritage therefore, he would ignore those buildings that mean nothing to our society, and instead put those resources into preserving the heritage and legacy of our earliest poets and composers.
With the technology available today, this administration is in the best position to begin the digitisation and restoration of these classics, and create a repository for their safekeeping, to ensure that this and future generations can appreciate these early artists in the same way as those who came before.
Because unlike an office building for his own personal use, these songs are more valuable and significant to our nation and its people.