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Sunday, August 12, 2007

How You Could Sing So?


Dr. Lester CN Simon

Sting, the former teacher and world renowned musician from Newcastle upon Tyne was once asked when he knew he had really made it. He responded that it was precisely when he heard a window cleaner outside his hotel room whistling his song, Roxanne. I was in a local department store a few weeks before Carnival and I knew precisely then that we were in for a treat this year when a 5 or 6 year old girl, unbothered by the goings-on in the store and without the sound of music in the air, plaintively sang to herself, “Go Claudette”.

We have to understand the anatomy of “Go Claudette” to understand what we will be up against in preparation for the next General Elections. You have to be really hot and brimming with self confidence to start a song pledging that you come to run this place, again. It cannot be an idle boast. Think of the relatively few good, popular songs that carry or start with a boastful “I”. I Come Out to Play by Shadow; I’m Bad by Michael Jackson; I Was Made To Love Her by Stevie Wonder and I Got Rhythm, the jazz standard by George and Ira Gershwin. If you want window cleaners or school children to sing your songs, it makes good sense to start the song with a child singing it, as in “Go Claudette”. Some marketing expert is earning their salary.

In music, as in marching, there are strong beats and weak ones. A jazz singer once chided some members of her (mostly white) audience for tapping and clapping on the strong beats. She politely explained that the strong beats were already strong and therefore if they wanted to be hip, and humane and not cruel, they must accentuate the weak beat, not the strong one. So with the emphasis on the weak, second beat of “Go Claudette”, you add an upbeat after that same weak, second beat but before the next, first, strong beat, which is imagined but not heard. It is as if soldiers are no longer marching to Left-Right-Left-Right but to Right-and-Right-and, with the Left in the imagination only. The strong beat is suspended in ether and you are left totally weakened and rocking as the lady comes to “run this place again”.

Vanity is always a difficult subject to handle. If you are going to tackle human weaknesses such as the seven deadly sins, it is wise to take on one at a time, unless you are writing the classic novel without a hero, Vanity Fair. “Go Claudette” does this with masterful ease as she exalts her anatomy and becomes the ultimate mythical hero by turning us into her personal Narcissus. She delivers on the bald and bold declaration that she comes “to run this place again”. We enjoin the bliss of requited love responding with her hook line as she basks in the reflection from the pool of her vanquished fans.

This brings us to the other vain creature in our society: the politician. When an astute politician declares a mere couple of days after Carnival that he wants the Carnival Development Committee (CDC) to give the nation a detailed account of how the money was utilized, you can bet your ABST dollar he is doing a completely different accounting. His real concentration is on how to stop a ruling political party that will most certainly use “Go Claudette” at its political party meetings in 2009? Imagine a prelude of chanting, “Go Baldwin; Go Baldwin”, followed by PM Spencer proclaiming to his dear good people, “I Come to Run This Place Again”. The die is cast. Between now and next Carnival, the hunt is on for that unique song that can lift a singer and a party from second place to first.

There are many similarities between a singer and a politician. They claim to treat everyone equally at the very same time they make every one of us truly believe we are unique. They promise the world and say they would climb the highest mountain and swim the deepest sea to keep their promise. They cannot exist without us and we cannot exist without them. They are good story tellers even when, especially when, they tell untruthful stories. Their main aim is to get us to open ourselves to them. It is all part of the historic call-and-response phenomenon. They make the call and we respond. It does not matter much which way we respond initially, they can fashion the precise response they desire by repetition. They are like some televangelist in some ways, preaching their own vainglorious sermon. Oftentimes they take your collection money and perform poorly, if at all.

The task is not impossible for the current second place holder. Their researchers will have to study epic works like The Lord of the Rings to understand classical themes such as good versus evil, humility over pride and the heroic struggles against the great ring of power. More familiar territory might be a resort to the Book of all epics and the teachings of the true Master, whose themes personify repentance and forgiveness of sin as prerequisites to admission.

Religion was an enthralling force during the last General Elections. It will have a second coming. There is never a sight as noble as a congregation of contrite sinner rising from the depths of despair, earnestly testifying that they would do things differently if only given one more chance to “run this place again”.

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