TOBAGO is mourning the death of veteran cultural titan Rawle Titus.
Titus, 80, died on Monday evening at the Scarborough General Hospital.
He was a cultural performer, calypsonian, musical genius and activist who served Trinidad and Tobago in several capacities, including as a teacher, a Government Senator and Senate Vice-President.
At age nine, Titus began singing in his church choir, which kindled his passion for performing.
He was instrumental in the merger of the Mt St George Youth Organisation and Mt St George Village Council for participation in the Prime Minister’s Best Village Trophy Competition. He also led Mt St George to the Prime Minister's Best Village competition in 1970. The group placed second in 1971 and won in 1972.
He also co-founded the Buccoo Folk Theatre in 1971 and was the most outstanding performer at Best Village in 1971 and 1972. Additionally, he was awarded a full university scholarship to study abroad.
He formed the Tobago Folk Performing Company in 1983, served as vice president of the Tobago Calypsonians Association from 1985-1996 and president of the Tobago Football Association in the 1995 and 1996.
Titus was named National Teacher of the Year in 1974 and 1975.
He was chairman of the Tobago Carnival Development Committee 2002-2003, a six-time Tobago Calypso Monarch and 19-time national calypso semi-finalist. He was also vice chairman of the Tobago Festivals Commission 2010-2012.
Titus was a well-known composer; musical arranger (steelband and otherwise); instrumentalist; playwright; choreographer; producer, director and author.
In an interview with Newsday on Tuesday, cultural activist Hyacinth Leander said, “It’s sad – sad knowing the wealth of information he had on culture on the history of Tobago and wasn’t able to share that with majority of us.”
She said he recently started a project where he was doing research on her village, Les Coteaux.
“He confirmed that Les Coteaux, Golden Lane and Colluden is in fact one community and there is a place between us called Killiecrankie. We were in the process of doing the research to do an event within that space called Killicrankie.”
She said his death has halted that project as the research has to continue, “and at this point I don’t know where to start. I have to review what I have so far and try to continue that research.”
Cultural icon Annette Nicholson-Alfred also reflected on Titus' death. “It’s a touching sensation for me – someone that I knew for many years. He has contributed greatly to this island. He was in culture, he was in politics – Axeback was like in everything. His passing is a great loss, not only to Tobago but to Trinidad and Tobago.”
She said Titus had “a wealth of knowledge” which he was not shy to share.
“You could have sat and talk to him all day and you can’t done – from one topic to the other – and I know the cultural fraternity has lost a great one. He was a good man, knowledge to kill.”
She added: “I know we are slack on recording; I know I myself am guilty of that – we are not recording, and Tobago is losing a lot, whatever it has, because things are not being recorded. Sometimes I sit and I see wrong information going down, but I cannot be vex with anybody.”
The THA Division of Culture, on its Facebook page, extended condolences to Titus' family and friends. It said his commitment to the island's cultural fraternity spanned over 60 years and was certainly revered throughout Tobago.
“As a result, in 2019, Mr Titus was among those honoured by the division for his contributions to the Tobago Heritage Festival in the fields of composition, dance, choreography and playwright. His name is forever immortalised in history and is currently mounted among other cultural giants at the Tobago Icons Museum.”
The Ministry of Tourism, Culture and the Arts also offered condolences in a release.
Tourism Ministry Randall Mitchell said: “Rawle Titus will be remembered for his devotion to passing on the history of Trinidad and Tobago’s culture to the generations after him. His years of work as an educator, mentor and performer have undoubtedly shaped the talents of many within the cultural fraternity today and, as such, we will always be grateful for his sterling contributions.”
THA Minority Leader Kelvon Morris described the passing as "sad and unfortunate.” He said he was privileged to meet Titus at the Lure Cocoa Estate Experience recently, in which he was immediately impressed with his wealth of knowledge and passion for Tobago's rich cultural heritage, politics and history.
“I learned so much from Rawle in that one conversation with respect to Tobago's history that I even suggested he should find a way to record the reservoir of knowledge he possesses, so it can be be preserved for generations to come. I am not too sure how much of the information was recorded, but there is no doubt that Tobago is poorer as a result of the passing of this outstanding son of Tobago; a former Senator and VP of the Senate, educator, calypsonian, performer and cultural extraordinaire. May his soul RIP.”
Dancer Kimmi Potts said the news caught her off guard.
“I am very sad because I did not expect this – we spoke a little before Christmas, in the week leading up to Christmas or so, and I had reassured him that I would have seen him when the year turns over. That didn’t materialise so it’s really sad. I am really shocked because I didn’t expect him to die so soon, or at least now at all.”
She added: “He had asked me to get a group of like-minded individuals; he said he wanted us to come as he wanted to discuss a dance project. He was working on a book and he also wanted the have visuals to go along with the book. I feel like that is such a missed opportunity. I was really looking forward to doing that project this year, and it is a pity.”
She said the fraternity continues to lose its knowledge bearers and cultural icons.
“What is notable is that most are dying with their knowledge and not passing it on. We could be in some potential trouble if it continues with this trend.”
She added: “Mr Titus was very instrumental in documenting his work, he has a lot of information documented, written – handwritten, typed and e-mails. There wasn’t a time when I reached out to him or if I was doing research and needed concrete evidence to back up my points, that I couldn’t go to him.”
Also expressing shock was another dancer, Zari Kerr.
“I am actually still trying to digest the news because just recently Mr Titus and I had a conversation. He gave me one of his books and in reading it, it spoke about the rituals in Tobago that we at one point in time, we practised when it came to the death of a person in any community. Not long after reading the book, I got the inclination to call him. It really is a bit saddening.”