Jamille Broome writes a weekly column for the Newsday.
When it comes to musical creativity filled with double entendre and sexual innuendo, calypso and soca music is in a league of its own. Our music is more than just entertainment, it’s like having our own secret coded language that only our filthy, smutty minds can decipher... and I love every word of it! Whether or not I feel offended by the lyrics, I first admire the ingenuity because it illustrates a person’s artistic ability, and that is exactly how I feel about Nermal Gosein’s song about a mother counting vegetables in her garden.
Understandably, there is uproar by those who have interpreted the lyrics of the song in a way that is offensive, obscene and disrespectful towards the Prime Minister. Then there are others who are members of the People’s National Movement (PNM) Women’s League who have somehow concocted an interpretation in their minds to say that the song is offensive to all women. Eh? That’s some stretch, innit? Maybe we’re listening to different lyrics, but I heard a song about counting vegetables; a person’s warped interpretation is their own, and Gosein has no control over that.
From my legal perspective, every person has a constitutional right to express their views and opinions in any way they see fit; nothing and no one is off limits as long as the language used does not incite violence, engender hatred or is simply defamatory. Regardless of how insulted one feels by Gosein’s insinuation, a song about a mother counting vegetables in a garden does none of those things.
Naturally, this debate is split down both racial and political lines; PNM supporters are overcome with rage because this Indo-Trinidadian has supposedly “insulted” their Afro-Trinidadian supreme leader, whilst supporters of the United National Congress want the song as their ringtones. And political independents like me are in the middle laughing at the deplorables on both sides.
There are calls now to ban Gosein from entering the Chutney Soca Monarch competition in 2018, and that, my friends, is a slippery legal slope that will ultimately result in a very hard fall. But if we even venture down that road, is the next step to ban citizens from using the internet to post the same obscene, offensive and disrespectful comments on social media? Will Christians be clamouring for our beautifully vulgar soca music to be pulled from the airwaves? This is not North Korea, China or Russia where people are murdered or victimised for criticising the country’s leadership and I pray that we don’t end up there. Freedom of expression, whilst not absolute, is a constitutionally enshrined inalienable right, whether we like it or not.
I find it so ironic that there is more outcry over a silly song that can be interpreted as an insult to the Prime Minister when violent dancehall music glorifying murder and criminality gets a free pass. So that explicitly violent rubbish from Jamaican dancehall artistes is fine, but we draw the line at innocuous colloquial bacchanal? Amazing!
Speaking of which, I would love to hear the views of these sanctimonious hypocrites on many of the other soca and calypso songs that I’m sure they sing along to. Every Christmas season we are reminded of Kenny J’s intention to “put something in yuh mouth” and get a brush, whilst this year Rome told us how much he loves to eat Annie’s pone. Sparrow told us some amazing stories about the sweetness of saltfish and the Congo Man who regrettably never had white meat; Karla Gonzalez begged us not to “bowl her too hard”; Machel inspired us to hold on to big trucks; and Preacher spent his time begging to suck on a woman’s julie mango before he gave her two sapodillas and a nine-inch banana.
Offensive, obscene and disrespectful are objective terms that hinge on various personality traits and individual belief systems, but somehow PNM supporters are now quasi-experts on what is offensive, politically correct and morally virtuous. Selectively, of course, because for some reason the morally suspect PNM Women’s “Justice League” always defend and label the offensive language of their almighty supreme leader as picong, whilst everything else is offensive to women in their minds.
At the end of the day, unlike the revelry of mainstream soca music that is designed to make us wine, jump and wave, calypso and chutney soca usually centre on political and/or social commentary that make us laugh, steups, or shake our heads in disgust.
However you choose to feel about Gosein’s lyrics is your prerogative, but honestly, if our biggest concern as a society is a song about counting vegetables, someone else really needs to do a remix about holding that same count.