Saturday, January 20, 2018

El diablo suerte


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Until last Sunday when Lennox Grant declared his love for it, I could not identify by name anyone who is as moved as I am by Pat Castagne's song "Kiss Me For Christmas" other than my wife when we dance to it and I tell her my view of the song, which is too intimate to repeat here; but I am a lucky devil to have her.

Over decades I have seen very many couples instantly drawn to the floor the moment the first note of "Kiss Me For Christmas" is struck. Both currently vibrant romances and old fire sticks glow and crackle like the sparks that flit through the air when you are fanning coals.

This lighting of the romantic fires is illustrated best when accompanied by the unique shick, shick, shick sound of dancing feet on the panyard floor of Silver Stars yard during the annual parang and steel Saturday evenings. The two-step comprehensively prevails over the wine.

It is a generation thing because in my days before learning to take a wine, the two-step was part of the courting arsenal of Trini males as it was shame to go to fete and not respond to "the Castian".

Castian is our pronunciation of Castilian referring to the Spanish waltz of which "Clara" and "Ansiedad" are the best-known examples. "Rio Manzanare" is also a popular waltz. It refers to a river in Cumana, Venezuela, and is one example of the Venezuelan influence in the music of the Christmas dance season.

"Ansiedad" is a difficult song to translate because of the use of idiom in the Spanish language, which results in many words having meanings other than the literal. Ansiedad means anxiety but the singer is anxious in the positive sense of keen or yearning, not in the negative sense of slightly frightened. So the lyrics declare: "Ansiedad de tenerte en mis brazos, musitando palabras de amor."

The words lose in the translation but they mean: Anxious to hold you in my arms again, whispering words of love.

I don't have the lyrics for "El diablo suerte", which is a beautiful instrumental on a Daisy Voisin CD -memories of a lifetime of a parang- but this too is a Castilian. The phrase in its literal sense means lucky devil. Many persons are uncomfortable with any reference to the devil. Lucky devil is nevertheless understood to mean that someone has had a piece of luck for which he or she should be envied. Sometimes the same sentiment is conveyed by the phrase "you lucky dog".

We are about to ring in another New Year. Those who will do so at fetes will almost certainly hear a castian early in the fete. Whichever of the songs it is, we will be lucky devils to be able to enjoy life of Trinidad and Tobago given the underlying disrepair of our social fabric and the challenges we will face in 2013.

We will begin 2013 with the Tobago House of Assembly elections in the course of which the political rhetoric will likely follow the new nasty, which has grown alarmingly in 2012. Politicians have abandoned any attempt to discuss issues and go immediately for the nuclear option of personal attack.

I have not supported many of the decisions of the current President, including his handling of the Section 34 protest recently made directly to his office, but calling him a puppet is not an acceptable response. Sadly, until the present Government looks inward and understands the significance of the disappointment of the middle ground citizens who feel we have only leapt from one bonfire of vanities into another, the nasty reactions of those who believe that they are above criticism will continue unabated throughout 2013.

The Opposition also has to look inward. It must do so in order unequivocally to assure us that it has recognised the depth of its errors when last in government. It may consider that the mood of disappointment is a sufficient simulant for the narrow political purpose of winning office. The country requires more than that. We need a stiff dose of truth and reconciliation and a renewal of hope.

I have spent some time this year discussing our country's musical and other entertainment life, which is vibrant and positive and contains the seeds for a significant employment, entrepreneurship and social turnaround. I urge those, who have expressed their desire to follow the concert circuit, which I have highlighted, to get out there and support it.

We need now urgently to look past the wine and jam and bam bam, which pays its promoters handsomely, and direct subsidy and investment into innovation in arts and culture. I fear however that the mood of disappointment will increase the craving for the noisy and fleshy aspects of the coming Carnival season and beyond and that the cynical politicians will be happy to feed the craving.