Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Skinner Park the acid test for ‘False Papers’

Bodyguard: It’s not an attack on any race...


CONTROVERSIAL: Bodyguard (Roger Mohammed) performs at the opening of the Icons Tent at Ambassador Hotel, Long Circular Road, St James on February 13. —Photo: AYANNA KINSALE

Mark Fraser

Calypsonian Roger Mohammed, known as Bodyguard, knows he has to pass the acid test with “False Papers” at Saturday’s Calypso Fiesta.

“False Papers” has emerged as one of 2014’s controversial songs on the theme of people of predominantly East Indian descent being conferred with questionable degrees. It was written by Gregory Ballantyne (GB) and arranged by Mt Lambert-based arranger Leston Paul. 

Initially, Mohammed had attempted to join the cast at Kalypso Revue in Port of Spain but he was refused by manager Sugar Aloes (Michael Osouna).

Eventually, calypsonian Cro Cro (Weston Rawlins), kickstarted Icons Tent with the help of generous patrons and Bodyguard got a spot on the playbill there. “False Papers” has been receiving encores nightly and Bodyguard got the judges’ nod.  Apart from Bodyguard, Cro Cro with his song “Pious, Poor But Proud” and members of the cast including Heather McIntosh with “Nutten Eh Good” and  The Messenger (Georgia McIntyre) singing “Make the Right Choice” were selected for the semis. 

Bodyguard, a police officer at the Guard and Emergency Branch, said yesterday: “My fans can look forward to a great performance. I would not want to let the cat out of the bag. I look forward to making it to the finals. There will be the element of surprise. I have been busy rehearsing “False Papers”.  I feel elated. I feel great. I am looking forward to performing the song  for the judges and the Skinner Park crowd. It has to go through the acid test.” 

Asked about the merit of  “False Papers”, Mohammed added: “The song is a strong calypso. It is highlighting a social problem which is staring us in our faces. It is still unfolding as we speak. It is topical. And contrary to what some who may believe, it is not an attack upon an entire race. The song is dealing specifically with people who have been caught with false dossiers. Most of them happen to be of East Indian descent.” 

Mohammed said he was merely sharing his sentiments on an  educational issue. 

He said: “When Sat Maharaj (Secretary General of the Maha Sabha) made his statement about African children playing pans and Indians beating books, he was being frank, open and plain. I don’t see why I should sugar coat my view. What Sat said was a racist statement. It cannot be when Maharaj speaks, it is okay and when Bodyguard speaks it is a problem. Maharaj  objected to pan in the Maha Sabha-controlled  schools.” 

Bodyguard has had a hiatus from the stage and competition.

In 2005, he made it to Dimanche Gras  finals with “The Age of The Specialist” and “This World Doh Like Nothing Black”. He made it to the semis on three occasions. In 2007, it was his last trip when he  sang “Ungrateful Pastor”. 

Referring to “Ungrateful Pastor” which poked picong at former prime minister Patrick Manning, Bodyguard  said: “ I sang “Ungrateful Pastor” . I am performing the role of a calypsonian. It does not matter who is in power or in charge. Once you are in public office, you are in the firing line. You are accountable to the people.” 

Asked what advice he would impart to young people who might be fazed because their work was unappreciated, Mohammed said: “Be strong. In this business, if you are not strong and assertive and confident, it will be easy to fall by the wayside.”

Without making direct reference to Sugar Aloes, Mohammed said: “We have some seniors in  the art form who have found themselves in positions where they are managing tents and they are part of the decision- making process. They need to change their attitude.”

He said the decision to reject his song was “not  in the best interest of calypso. For not selecting my song he (Sugar Aloes) said he did not want to offend East Indian people because he wanted to bring them back to the tent”.

On the flip side, he admires veterans like the Mighty Sparrow (Slinger Francisco) and Black Stalin (Leroy Calliste). He said: “ I admire Sparrow for his versatility. He is a talented vocalist and a performer par excellence. I like “Memories”, “Interdependence”, “We Like It So”, within recent history. In his heyday, Sparrow was a cut above the rest. I also like Black Stalin. He has gems like the immortal “Caribbean man”, “Play One”, “Look On The Bright Side”, “We Can Make it”.  

Whether or not he makes it to the finals, Bodyguard said: “I will continue to produce good music.  I am having a nice time performing it in the communities like in Fyzabad. We will be at the  basketball court in Arima.”  

When contacted yesterday, Cro Cro said: “I am happy for him. It is a song discussing a certain issue. It is commenting on situations. I wish him the best. I see him coming second because I am his senior.”  

Sugar Aloes however said:  “It is has nothing to do with me. It is of no concern of mine. He was never a member of my cast. He was refused just as everybody else refused. I was the last person he came by.” See Page 23