PEOPLE’s National Movement (PNM) Tobago Council chairman Stanford Callender has written three catchy calypsoes for the party’s election campaign.
And, with just days to go before the August 10 general election, the former Tobago West MP said he is very pleased with the response of the party’s supporters to his compositions.
“When I compose a song, it is for the enjoyment of members and supporters during the election campaign,” Callender told Newsday. “I do it without financial reward, for the love of my party and country. What I don’t say on the platform, I say in song.”
His first composition for the campaign, One More Doctor, One More, simply urges voters to give the PNM another five years in office.
It also highlights what he considers Dr Rowley’s achievements as prime minister since 2015.
Callender’s second calypso, Ayanna and Shamfa, deals with the performance of the PNM’s outgoing Tobago MPs, while Shame addresses the criminal charges facing Progressive Democratic Patriots (PDP) leader Watson Duke.
Duke is contesting the Tobago East seat.
On One More Doctor, One More, Callender believes Dr Rowley has done a “tremendous job” in leading TT through some turbulent economic times.
“When the PNM came into power, the country was in a terrible economic state and he successfully navigated us through that period. While doing so, he had to make some serious decisions along the way.”
In one of the lines in the calypso, Callender sings:
He (Dr Rowley) is never afraid to make decisions in the interest of the nation.”
He said the song also speaks to the way the Government handled the covid19 pandemic.
As MPs, Callender believes the party’s Tobago candidates, Ayanna Webster-Roy and Shamfa Cudjoe, have done the island and country proud. Singling out Webster-Roy, who is contesting Tobago East, Callender said: “As a young mother with a family, as a former MP, I know the sacrifices that people have to make.”
He recalled during his years as an MP, under the Patrick Manning administration, people often asked him where he lived.
“I used to say I live on the ‘and,’ because I was always on the move between Trinidad and Tobago.
“So in Ayanna’s case, as a young mother, that level of commitment to service, I felt that it is applaudable. You have to commend young people for making that kind of sacrifice.”
Callender said Cudjoe’s experience is different from Webster-Roy’s in that she was an Opposition senator before contesting the 2015 general election as the candidate for Tobago West.
The Tobago Council chairman said Shame, which he wrote in the run-up to the 2017 Tobago House of Assembly election, is not a calypso to be taken lightly. In it, Callender said voters should be concerned about the pending criminal charges against Duke.
“I was making the point that the fact that Watson has been charged, people should not easily dismiss it. It is a serious offence and I am saying we have a problem.”
The Black Rock native said while he understands one is innocent until proven guilty, “until such time he (Duke) should not be in the forefront seeking to represent anybody, because this is serious business.”
In the run-up to the PNM’s January 19 internal election, Callender offended former ambassador to Costa Rica Tracy Davidson-Celestine with one of his compositions. Davidson-Celestine, who was contesting the leadership of the Tobago Council, described portions of the song as “debasing and misogynistic.”
At the time, Callender was seeking another term as the party’s chairman. He also wanted Kelvin Charles to secure a second term as leader.
However, Davidson-Celestine became leader in a runoff election on January 26 with the support of defeated leadership candidates Dr Denise Tsoiafatt Angus and Deputy Chief Secretary Joel Jack.
In the song, Callender made fun of Davidson-Celestine.
“If it were a fashion show, I would choose you and if it were a puppet show, I would choose/take you,” he sang.
Davidson-Celestine felt “The song classifies other candidates vying for political leader as being most suitable for a fashion show or puppet show and is debasing and misogynistic.
"The fact that two of those candidates are women makes the fashion show reference extremely sexist and totally inappropriate for the PNM in 2020 with thousands of intelligent women who serve this party daily and deservingly have ambitions for high office.”
Asked if Shame could be perceived as offensive to Duke and the PDP, Callender said: “I don’t know. The calypso has a lot of facts in it. I am not creating anything. All I am saying is that we have decent people in this land and they must take a position."
In one of Shame’s verses, Callender appealed for good sense to prevail.
“In this election, we have a man seeking office in this nation.
His character is now at stake, let’s not make that mistake,” he sings.
“The charges laid against him should make all of his chances grim. And I am calling on him to clear his name if you want to enter this game.”
Callender said since his first political composition, Who Yuh Voting For, in 2001, he has written about 30 calypsoes.
“Some people were convinced that that calypso caused the PNM to win that THA election for the first time that year,” he said of Who Yuh Voting For?
“And there were those who told me I could have never done anything like that again in my life. And I proved them wrong.”
Callender said he has used Who Yuh Voting For? with some changes to the lyrics, in every election over the past 19 years.
“I have changed the lyrics to suit the particular time, individual and election, whether is general, THA. So that has been the hallmark of the PNM campaign in Tobago, Who Yuh Voting For?”
He also composed the lively PNM election anthem, PNM Comin’.
“People feel that is a mega-hit. But the irony of that is that the first time I did that song was for the party’s Red Day some years ago, an event we normally have. But it was released late, so it never caught on.
"By the next election you couldn’t keep it down.”
Callender believes he has a special gift for composing calypsoes.
“Once I put my mind to it, composing does not take long at all and as long as I have the breath of life, I will continue to do so.”