edge

The Arima Kid - Pt II

You were doing something serious and important?

But of course!

Yet it was trivialized?

[Interrupting] Everybody, everybody, everybody!

Was that not painful?

Very painful. Even my closest connections, some of my immediate family and other people would say, “Listen, man, why you don’t do something serious?” But it give opportunity! I remember we went to Cedros and there was a man with a funny face. They called him “Ugly”. He was making faces at me from the audience. People were saying, “Move from here!” But I put him on [camera] and asked him, “How you going?” And he made his funny face. He got a job just from that, what we called DEWD or Public Works. He became a personality, more than a clown. He became “Mr Ugly” instead of just “Ugly”. So it [Scouting for Talent] did so much for so many.

Is the satisfaction greater than the frustration of banging your head against a wall your whole life?

[Without a pause] I’m a glutton for punishment. The point is, I had a purpose and I had to do it. Before I did Scouting, there was a small group– Cicely Ford, Sonny Chin Aleong, Mona Baptiste – who were the stars and all this [other] group of us gathered at Radio Trinidad backyard couldn’t get in. And I went to Joe’s Place, where CNMG has their office today, a Portuguese man who was very kind to people, you drink your little mauby and rock[cake] and that survive you, and I saw all these people, Lloyd Boucher and others, who were good but didn’t get a chance. And I said, “Forget me, give them a chance”. I used to do a little show before movies, a local cabaret, and I was able to make a second tier of entertainers that didn’t get a chance at the first level.

To be fair to your critics, often, perhaps too often, the standard was not high?

Not really but in every group there is a star. I got people like Aldwyn Albineau who was willing to give of his time and sometime his own house and piano to come and take direction; because people singing and don’t know what was a chord! They might start in A and end up in P. [Chuckles] People who resented this dropped by the wayside. We tried to clean the act up to give them the idea of what was expected. There was a man called The Singing Postman – what a range! But [not singing clearly] he wouldn’t conform! Because he singing at weddings and nobody never tell him ‘bout vowels, who the Hell am I to tell him? And of course the judging was very difficult. I always said to people, “I make the decision to put you on but the judges decide whether you win.” But of course I got the blame!

Would you have a contestant on Scouting if someone else hosted the show?

No, I don’t think so. I felt I had more service to give organizing than being part thereof.

Do we as a country still have racial problems?

This is a very technical one and I want to answer it in a certain amount of honesty. If I say no, I will satisfy a lot of people that say we don’t but the result of the last election proves that is not so. The supposedly more intelligent people who formed party with upper crust Africans, whites, yellows if you like and upper crust Indians didn’t make it; because the average down to Earth African picked the party that won and the down to Earth Indians picked the party that came second. So when you look at it, whether you like it or not, we still have a racial divide.

How do you feel about the country?

When I think of all the murders, I couldn’t possibly feel good; all the mayhem on the roads: two people meet at a junction and the man who want to go, a young man, with his arm outside the car swerves in front of you although he know. We who have more regard for our own lives and theirs, too, we could give up our rights and let them run. Because if we don’t, there shall be more and more. At all levels of society, manners have been broken down.

What would you like to see in the new year?

Less road accidents; or none at all if possible. Less arrogance among our citizens. When you hear what a man get killed for, it’s stupid. It makes the value of life so little. I would like to see a more civil society, the society I used to belong to, that had a religious connotation. Some more home training, more regard for our neighbours. When I go to people’s homes now, I get worried. My grandmother loved me. She gave me the feeling the whole world was my playground. I had so much liberty! But I knew my place! When people came home, I knew I had to say, “Hello, Morning, call them Mister or Miss and find my place in the back! Now children are in the middle, they climbing all over everybody, they putting down things and I say, if at this point you cannot get him…. If you let your love get complicated with your duty, trouble take us! Not necessarily licks. If you hold a child hand and say “No! NO!” with a stern face, it’s a psychological way of training your child. No, no and a screaming NO. Now, if after that, a little touch of the whip, slap of the hands wouldn’t hurt.