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We Come Like Salt
MY FAVOURITE MUSICIAN of all time remains Jimi Hendrix, the man who exploded the electric guitar and my teenaged consciousness without drugs of any kind (at least for me). My favourite musician in my teenaged years was Alice Cooper, who backed up his shock-rock Marilyn Manson-before-Marilyn Manson persona with excellent lyrics and some good – sometimes some great – rock music.
Turns out they both had Trinidad connections.
Jimi Hendrix’ best friend in Greenwich Village might have been Mike Quashie, the Limbo King, from Trinidad, whose Brooklyn apartment was known as, “Jimi’s Hideaway”. Jimi took the Shango headtie that defined his look from Quashie. (The “headtie” definition in the Shorter Oxford Dictionary begins, “noun, West Indian”.)
Alice Cooper, in an interview I saw somewhere (my memory gives me the documentary, Super Dooper Alice Cooper, but I might have to give it back), tells of living in a Los Angeles apartment above a Trinidadian panman, whom the early, deal-less Alice Cooper band asked to play on a song.
Think, too, about the most recognisable movie signature music in history (at least since the death of most of the generation that watched The Good, the Bad & the Ugly on the big screen). In 1961, the English composer, Monty Norman, devised, for sitar, a musical lick intended for a musical stage adaption of VS Naipaul’s then bestselling novel, A House for Mr Biswas. The musical never got off the ground but, the next year, Norman wrote the soundtrack foåçr Dr No, the first James Bond spy thriller; that magical “ding-da-ling-ling-ding-dinga-dinga-ding-da-ling-ding” theme, then, was meant for Mr Biswas!
Moving to the left, as it were, consider the man generally credited with inventing the modern sin of the child soldier in Africa. Liberia’s Charles Taylor’s personal bodyguard, the Small Boys Unit, comprised eight-, nine-, ten- and 11-year-olds, all of whom had killed more men than they had years on the planet. Taylor warped them this way because they were the only ones he could trust; any male older than “teenager” in Liberia might have murdered him if they got close enough to him to do it.
Charles Taylor had a small boy of his own, a son in Boston, USA, Charles Taylor, Jnr. Junior’s mother was from a family that emigrated from Trinidad. Charles Taylor, Jnr, went into the family business with his dad and, after the Liberian Civil War, to escape prosecution for war crimes, Junior moved to… wait for it… Trinidad. (He’s now in a US prison.)
Truly, Trinis come like salt: we in everything!
And the national aspiration is to shake the world on its axis, not in the minor (and, to me, irritating,) way that the insipid modern version of Carnival might already have done.
Think, now, of the Mighty Sparrow’s magnificent 1981 song, Steel Beam (We Like It So), composed as an appeal to the people Sparrow saw as imbecilic enough to vote for the People’s National Movement, and not the Organisation for National Reconstruction (whose party symbol was a steel beam). “All I asking is that you play close attention to/ Problems we all face from dawn to dawn/ You’re intelligent I think and should face issues/ But/ Behaving like a moron/ Cussing me for where I born/ Agriculture is in a state/ Planning is inadequate/.. Public transportation is an abomination/.. Hospital ent have no linen/ Is brown paper they using/.. The Northern and Southern idol/ The two kingpins of bobol,” sang Sparrow, “We know!” shrieked his chorus back at him, “We like it so!”
This week, contemplating, as they crash and burn (hopefully), the two most stupid, pointless, destructive, divisive phenomena of my life – Donald Trump in the White House and Brexit – I made another Trini connection; and wondered whether we may already have swung the world around to our approach.
Give me a single advantage, I say to the Brexit brainless, of gratuitously chucking yourself out of the biggest single market in the world.
Tell me, I say to the Trump twits, how a man with five children by three different women, a man who pays sex workers to hush up his business dealings with them, could represent traditional Christian values?
Explain, I say to both camps, how the most privileged, immature, selfish, elitist man in the country can be the champion of the downtrodden?
We know, they shriek, neck muscles bulging with rage, we like it so!
We come like salt, in truth.
But we rub it in our own wounds.
BC Pires is the Liming King