Brother Valentino

Brother Valentino: Life is a stage

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Staff Article
Interview Recorded: June 12, 2005
Posted: July 07, 2005

The power of the word is something else

Brother Valentino
Anthony Emrold Phillip 'Brother Valentino'
Point Fortin has produced a lot of talent. Port of Spain, which is the north side, hardly produced that volume of talent, not like Point where like Super Blue came from. Then you have those guys who are from the south, like 'Stalin', 'Mystro', 'Duke', 'Inventor', and 'Melody'. 'Superior' is from Rio Claro. Those boys were born down south. Port of Spain produced a lot of listeners, so you had to go to town to get the thing. Laventille is where the first voter padding started. When the Grenadians and the small-islanders and them came down here, they did not have any I.D. cards. All of them on the hill voted. The 'Doc' (Dr. Eric Williams) represented that area. That is why they are so loyal to the PNM. The 'Doc' used to say that they couldn't beat him in John John. It was his constituency. I had a little drama with the 'Doc' at one time with my career. The year after the uprising, I sang a song by the name 'No Revolution' and I said it like it was. The tent management, which is run by the PNM supporters, like Pantin and those guys who are strong with the PNM, were concerned. The 'Doc' was coming on his political campaign, so he toured the pan yards and he toured the Calypso tents. Those guys and them know how to do the thing. He met the Calypsonians and he met the panmen.

The night in question, he came to our tent to meet the Calypsonians. I was going to sing 'No Revolution', when the manager, Sunny Woodly, came and said to me, "Hear nah Valy boy, the 'Doc' coming in the tent tonight and ah doh think yuh could sing that song." When he told me that, I felt a little concerned, so I made up my mind to sing the other song. The tent was crowded and they had a section of NJAC people, and you still had a ricochet of the public who were still in sympathy. The people came out to hear kaiso and they wanted to hear that kaiso. When it was my time to go on stage, they introduced another song. That came and passed and I sang the next song and so on.

When it was time for intermission, the man came backstage and met the calysponians and shook hands with them. When it was almost time for the second half to start, I saw a bunch of people talking, but I didn't know what they were discussing. George Goddard was there at the time, and he was the first president of Pan Trinbago and it was he who revolutionized the pan movement. He was a real fighter. When I realized the conversation was about me, and why I didn't sing my song, I heard George Goddard telling Kitchener, "If that boy doh sing his song here tonight, I will make the steelband men and them boycott yuh tune." He had that kind of power. Back then Ivan Williams used to be the 'Doc's bodyguard; so it was about eight of them there, plus his daughter Erica. That one Calypso caused a controversy. That is one of the things I will remember throughout my career as well. Back then it was tension in the air. I said to myself, "Look what a Calypso could cause nah boy." Ivan Williams came and he told me that I could sing the song. I sang the song and the crowd went wild. They came for that.

"Dr. Williams knew we didn't want any revolution.
We didn't want no state of emergency
We didn't want this police brutality
Doctor Williams know we didn't want no revolution
It was marching for equality, black unity and black dignity
Doctor Williams no, we didn't want no revolution."

It was a statement I was making. I took my line; a different point of view. As usual, people like to hear you say what they want to hear you say. It isn't all the time you could say what a man wants to hear. I guess that was my problem and it will always be my problem. I like to say it as it is. I like to be honest with my art form. If I have to take a knife to do something, I want to peel an orange, not to stick somebody with it. That is how truthful I am, even my intentions and all. It just goes to show how important kaiso is to the nation; to the people; how much it means to them, and how much it affects their lives in one way or the other. I am doing a good job. What we are talking about is not a kaiso in a fete where you are dancing and jumping up to. We are talking about a serious issue with the same kaiso, just in a different mood. We are talking about the different moods that this thing could put you in. It is a very effective art form. But a lot of us, who are involved in it, do not even realize the value, the effects and the power in it. The power of the word is something else. Just that alone, and then you will understand what you are dealing with. Calypso is a thing that could make people hate you or it could make people love you. It could make people cry, it could make people laugh, and it could make a politician cringe according to David Rudder.


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