It is said that a calypsonian is a storyteller. And true to form, Samuel “Brigo” Abraham had a story to tell when he recently visited the Express.
“When I started off my career I learned from Invader, Melody and Christo, as well as Sparrow and Kitchener. Today, I am still learning because the art is an ongoing process, you’re never finished.
“And what I learnt as a calypsonian is that something in our nation isn’t right because the youths don’t seem to understand that if you don’t have a past you cannot have a future, and if they don’t know where they came from they would not know where they’re going.”
Brigo said as a young man growing up if you didn’t tell your neighbour good morning or good evening, you’re going to be chastised by the neighbour, and if your mother found out then when you reach home she’ll give you the rest.
“I am coming from that era that is why I could say what I am saying.
“Calypso is a story being told to educate and inform the human’s mind, especially the younger ones coming up.
“So I’m here to make a statement. And that statement is I am bringing back Brigo’s Cultural Theatre with the aim to educate and inform the younger generations because the youths of today need to have members of the elder community as their mentors and friends.”
The iconic bard said he always had an elder person as a friend and they treated each other with respect, honour, trust, confidence, reasoning, kindness and forgiveness.
“Trinidad and Tobago needs that right now for the generations to come.”
Brigo said it’s time for the people of T&T to give what they expect from their country.
“The part I intend to play will be the establishment of a cultural school which will have a twofold purpose. Firstly, we will have ‘Sunday School’, to educate the youth on the proper values, ideals and behaviour, and secondly, we will educate the youths on what is calypso and how to make a calypso because calypsoes are to educate and inform.”
The 72-year-old artiste said that while he’s been getting some support for his venture, he’s still in need of assistance as he was recently robbed of monies earmarked for the completion of the Cultural Theatre.
“I was robbed on July 1 of $120,000 and right now it’s hurting me because that money was supposed to be used to complete the Theatre.
“Right now I am trying to get assistance from people who love Carnival and the art form. I also intend to put on a few comedy shows to help raise funds so that Theatre could be up and running for Carnival and beyond.
“I’m trying to get back on my feet after that loss so that I can extend my contribution to our culture,” Brigo said, adding that there’s a disjoint between the calypsoes of yesteryear and what the youths offer today.
He said the art form of calypso isn’t lost but what has to happen is that they have to look for the old calypsoes to bring it alive. And that’s the gap he intends to bridge with the Cultural Theatre.
“When you hear, ‘Rum and coca cola, going down Point Cumana’, that is calypso. Hear what is calypso again, ‘A voodoo man tell me they have meh name in the cemetery…’”
He said the argument put forward by some of the younger artistes that calypso is not as profitable as soca holds no water since what they are missing is the essence of the element of foundation
“Don’t get rid of foundation! This building that I am sitting in right now cannot stand without a foundation, so people have to be careful how they’re thinking.
“And you must be able to define how music was in the past in order to move forward.”
He believes calypso and pan never got the respect they deserved.
“When I was a child somehow people saw a calypsonian as a vagabond and the steelband man as a rogue. Calypso and steelband were outcasts.
“Today, calypso is paving its way to make Trinidad a better place in the world but somebody is trying to put a stop to that by trying to get the children to go in their direction and not the direction of history and foundation.
“This is the position we find ourselves in today.”
On the question of support for the art form from the government, Brigo said enough hasn’t been done and isn’t being done.
“The people chosen to be our representative government have not done enough, however, the people who’s the government is the people who’s on the ground.
He said old people represent the foundation of life and as such, he has gathered a cadre of elders who will be passing on the values being taught at the Theatre.
“I will also go to the school and pass on certain elements to the children so that they can learn that science is the first in anything,” Brigo said, adding that he will not be doing live performances for the Carnival season.
“People today do not play my calypso and because of that people are meeting me on the streets and asking, Brigo have you stopped singing calypso because I’m not hearing any.
“That’s the order of the day in Trinidad, but Trinidad and Tobago is the land of steelpan and calypso.
“Calypsonians are the ones who tell us and the outer world what’s happening in society and what’s going to happen. They sing on topics that are pertinent because they listen to the cry of the people.”
He said he will be focusing on remixing his music.
“What I’ve decided to do is remix my old songs. I’m going back in times and those I remix I will not be performing them live anymore.”
The bard then belts out a verse and chorus of one of the songs he plans to remix:
(Chorus); “Ah say they walking in the dark,
Ah say they walking in the dark
As long as man have no respect for man
Man going to meet old hell in this land
(Verse): When I was a little fella and meh parents send me to school
All who I meet around the corner I had to show respect as a rule
But today some little fellas, my friend they don’t know their place
They will see you and I walking up and down the street and cussing in front we face…”
“The story being told is to educate and inform, not only for Carnival but for all times, right through the year,” Brigo said.
Anyone interested in making a contribution to the completion of Brigo’s Cultural Theatre can contact him at 633-3192.