Brother Valentino

Brother Valentino: Life is a stage

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

Everybody is going down a crazy road

Brother Valentino
Brother Valentino
There is a vast difference when you compare my art form, against what we are dealing with in this present generation. They are the traffic, and they are the ones with the energy. They are the ones who are moving around, and they are also the ones with the majority of support. But what are they supporting? Everybody is going down a crazy road; and it is the multitude that I am speaking about. That is a sad thing. The promoters and them are making a killing. At the end of the day, the promoter is the man who really outsmarts everybody, and it leaves you frustrated and poor. It comes like work is done and the labour is lost. Some of the artistes have to understand what they are involved in, and what the meaning of the art is. They have to know if it is the carnal side alone they want to deal with, or if it is the spiritual side. What are their intentions? What are they in it for? Is it for the love of it, to make a contribution, or to make a fast buck?

When I had just started to sing Calypso, I used to sing in a Calypso tent by the name of the 'Big Bamboo', which was on Park Street. In those days, Park Street was the place. That little strip on Park Street, from by Globe Theatre to Charlotte Street; that was the place. It was the hottest place in the whole of Trinidad and Tobago. It was the hottest place on either side, upstairs and downstairs. Back then there was a club where you did your drinking upstairs, and if you get hungry, you would go downstairs to have something to eat because there was a café with all sorts of things. These people decided for the Calypso season, they would house a Calypso tent.

The Calypso tent was for guys like us who couldn't get into the big tents. At the time they did not have as many Calypso tents as they do now. They only had about three, which was Sparrow's tent, Kitchener's tent and the Government's tent. The Calypsonians who had performed then, were 'Skipper', 'Creator' (deceased),'Lord Inventor', 'Conqueror', and 'Young Creole'; the top Calypsonians. That was where I got my first experience as a Calypsonian. It was among these guys. You call that net practice because you are still knocking up, that was in the early '60's; either 1961 or 1962.

There was also a place on Frederick Street by the name of Frenchies Arcade, which had some offices with some Syrian people. At the end of the week, I used to get two dollars and fifty cents. 'Brigo' is a man who worked for sixty cents, and he said when he got that money, he was happy. Back then you were more going into this thing for the love of it, because you are still not seeing the money. That money-conscious thing was never my first objective. I guess a lot of Calypsonians share that same experience too, looking back at it now.

When you make the comparison today, it is thousands of dollars a week you are getting in a Calypso tent now. I guess now everybody is seeing the thousands and only focusing on that, which is so wrong. I guess that is the trend now; it is what is happening in the arts today and it is what I am being confronted with. After forty plus years coming through, we never thought that we would have reached a situation like this today. But given my situation, when you look around, there are a lot of other situations we never thought would have confronted us, and we are staring at it in the face too. I guess it is just the changing of the times. And whether it is a good change or it is a bad change, sometimes you have to really check yourself and realize which direction you really want to go.


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