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In The Light Of The Shadow

Keith Smith. Friday, February 6th 2004

WELL, I put my Carnival toe in the Normandie's waters the other night, the hotel launching its Carnival season with a sweet show that celebrated Shadow who appeared in his black and white "skeleton" outfit that reminded me of the road travelled since he stood up on the Revue Stage that memorable night and sang "The Threat", the whole of Trinidad and Tobago now knowing that Mr Bailey did well know of what he spoke.

Which calypsonian, I ask you, more than Shadow has captured the public imagination this season, his "Horner Man' being the first hot out of the gate to be quickly followed by "Whap! Cocoyea" and, Wednesday night, I was to hear "Come For Your Lunch" a hilarious ditty with which the men with paunches in the audience identified, Shadow singing and showing how "sweet food" is all very well but has a price to be paid in the form of the laboured gait that is but one of the costs to be paid for being overweight.

Truth be told, I had never before seen or heard Shadow in concert, mini though it was, and I laughed with the rest of the audience at his sing-song patter, Shadow playing with our minds even as he oozed sincerity this calypsonian, more than any other perhaps, needing the love of his audience, that night at the Normandie taking us up the runaway road he had travelled and, now, look here he was, one crown and two road marches later celebrating the life and that's not even counting all the music with which he made us both think and be happy.

"I wouldn't like to be in Shadow's head because it must be a hell of a place to be," the knowledgeable and Peter Ames told me and I don't know, it being Shadow's head, whether he used that "hell" there deliberately but I knew what he meant, Shadow being the ultimate original so original, in fact, that he has caused me, more than once, to muse about this thing called the creative process, the thing being that this oft-buffed Tobago boy ("Come here Winston!") had internalised his domestic discomfiture and turned it into musical strength, his songs revealing passion, humour but, above else, a tribal wisdom.

Pain, too. More than most at the Normandie I suspect, I empathised with Shadow when he "wept" his latest anti-piracy song, the boy singing his nursery-rhyme-type lament reminding me of a conversation we had two, three years ago at Mobs2 when seeing him sitting a in corner I approached with the usual:

"Wha happenin', Winston?"

"Pirates, boy, pirates."

"Don't study them, man," I, replied very unfeelingly, now that I look back.

"I have to study them because is my pocket."

Which was and is true, of course and I don't know how we are going to beat this "pirate' thing (Ella! Rudder! No longer recording) except of course by each of us deciding we not supporting this "pirate' thing or by the industry just forgetting this whole recording thing and is back to the old days when to hear music you had to hear it live as I am going to over the rest of the Normandie shows and, I guess, some more the outing having lifted me out of my "jadedness' yuh boy over these last few years finding it more and more difficult to come out to absorb trite tripe of either the "hands in the air" or "peace and love all over variety".

For this lift I have to thank not only Shadow, although he was the biggest blast but, in order of combustive effect, 3 Canal whose melodic rendition of "The Problem Is" made me like it even more which is saying something and whose rollicking "Good News" may well be the song of the season if you take that to mean an offering that has both melodic and lyrical quality.

I have to thank Denyse Plummer, too, by whose patriotic energy I continue to find myself seduced, the lady having had the courage to come out and, perhaps more than that, having devised the means to stay. And, finally, there remains (the environment and the audience not being Sanelle Dempster's, that lady, lovely as she looked that night, lacking the critical rags-waving mass so necessary to raise her game); Baron who, even as he ages, has this gift of letting honey out merely by opening his experienced mouth.

Courtesy Keith Smith, Editor at Large, Trinidad Express


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