Brother Valentino

Brother Valentino: Life is a stage

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

"No dogs allowed and no Calypso singing"

Black Stalin, Brother Valentino and Peggy Castanada Phillip
Black Stalin, Brother Valentino
and Peggy Castanada-Phillip

When the intellect started to come in and you followed it, realized the value of it, and started to lecture on it, that is when the thing started to get some respect. Calypsonians like Hollis Liverpool also known as 'Chalkdust', the Tobagonian guy, who is a Senator in the house, 'Denise Plumber' and 'Trini' gave some prestige to it.

In this society now, I feel anybody who has the ability would want to come and sing a Calypso, whether you are pink, white, black, blue or whatever, because kaiso now, is a Trinidadian thing. Once you are born here, you could say that it is your thing. You could claim it as yours; you have the right to go in a Calypso tent and sing. They have to accept you. If you are good enough, they have to put you in the Savannah in any competition too, once you have the ability to sing the Calypso. That is where it has reached. It wasn't an easy struggle to get here though.

It is nice to see that the stages that I went through were not what I read about, but they were what I had experienced. It was very sad trying to evolve from the initial stages. For example, China Clipper Restaurant had a sign that said, "No dogs allowed and no Calypso singing." That sign was at the entrance as you go up the steps. We were confronted with all of that. The reason was because there was a time in those restaurants when the Calypsonian would take up his guitar, and go there to make a little hustle, (according to 'Rootsman'), "to look for a food." Even around the Savannah, when the tourists and them went in the Botanic Gardens, a Calypsonian or two would come and serenade them and pick up a buck or two, and that was his hustle. But the China Clipper people didn't want that in their place. Sometimes people would come and sit around a table, and they might be drinking, and somebody there might appreciate what you are doing. The China Clipper people didn't want that. When you see a sign like that, and if you tell yourself you want to be a Calypsonian, or you are aspiring to be a Calypsonian and you watch that, it is a nightmare when you go and lie down in the night. It is still nice to know I could tell that story.

Thank God, that what you work hard for and what you struggle and fight for, you have the people who will continue that struggle. People really took up the mantle, just like they did with the steelband too. Most of the Calypso shows they have now, you will always see the Minister of Culture there. Senator the Honourable Joan Yuille-Williams loves culture. Anything you invite her to, once it is culture, she is there. These things are just to show where the thing has reached today; thanks to hard work, dedication and people who had a vision.

We have to give thanks to people like Gordon Rolhehr and these guys who have been enlightening people and showing them the values of the Calypsonians.


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