Trinidad’s Gen X: the memory keepers


It was the year of the Great Spaghetti Pie (a feat never to be repeated) and David Rudder’s triple crown win (also not yet repeated). It was the seeing.

Rudder on the Dimanche Gras stage, even on TV. His presence was a thing of awe. The stage was dark and, I’m not sure why, but we also turned off the lights. And more, I’d never heard anything like him before.

In 1986 he gave us The Hammer. The rest is still happening.

My time – my growing and living – really happened in the 90s and early 2000s. So much happened just before, but I was a child and all you can do then is see and absorb. If you’re that kind of child.

It’s hard to know if I grew up in an ordinary way, because we only ever really know what we know. Someone once said something like, “We do not see things as they are. We see things as we are.” There’s debate about precise copyright. I have nothing against it coming from Anais Nin, but I swear on all my earrings when I first heard it in my head, I was sure I’d come up with it.

I hate when that happens. You have five seconds when you think you’re really clever and then you find out you’re just a person who reads.

I told a friend that it seemed like those years were filled with art. I went to as many fetes as the next person, but all year long there were concerts great and small, exhibitions, poetry readings, so much theatre. And I had to ask him what I was missing. There must have been some other world that was not this dreamscape of creativity.

Rubadiri was the wrong person to have called. He just made the list longer and deepened the conversation.

In those days we wanted to see everything and go everywhere. We wanted to go to festivals, to explore the way things were done in places beyond Port of Spain.

We were witnesses. We saw great West Indies cricket and the Soca Warriors World Cup dream. I went to Andre Tanker concerts like it was an addiction. Then there was Mungal Patasar.

Ours was a generation that had everything and lost everything. R and I talked about learning from the masters who had learned from the innovators and gods. We were high on loving this country.

I know that was but some of us.

Many took their amazing minds and talent and left for foreign and for good. Some of us decided that the privilege of choice meant we would stay and try to do things here. Some things have been done, but not enough by half.

Where is all the work I should have done on soca from the 80s and beyond? Me, personally, just so you’re clear I’m casting this burden fairly. Who, of the hundreds who sat at Leroy Clarke’s feet, has done something to ensure the continuity of the way he taught? Who will understand us like Tony Hall?

Humanities students are doing research and writing papers. Good. But how will it become accessible? How will it become part of our everyday knowing when getting anything on the school curriculum is one of Dante’s circles of hell?

Memories and knowledge will die with us if we do naught.

Just this April there was news of Robert Amar and something called the Kiskadee Karavan. Mention was made of its incarnation in the 90s.

Mention? The only thing more memorable was the coup attempt. General Grant, Homefront, Kindred. Where they played we went. And they were ours. They were us. Not since oil and cacao were invented were we so proud of local produce.

I had another world. Gary Hector’s Oddfellows Local (the pre-jointpop) was my alternative reality in every sense of the words. When I wasn’t chasing SuperBlue around the country, I was haunting the less mainstream world.

And thinking all the time: this is us, this is us.

Our responsibility was to take what we knew and write it in stone. We needed to record, to document, preserve and protect. We let so many die not knowing how much they were loved. We let them grow old and bitter. We let them go.

In last week’s general Gen X column, maybe a lot of people didn’t see themselves in it. This week will likely speak to a yet smaller group.

But maybe it will open up a space for us to look at things we need to do. Before we can’t.


"Trinidad’s Gen X: the memory keepers"

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