Veteran calypsonian Smokey Burke is urging local entertainers to contribute to National Insurance Scheme (NIS) and apply for health insurance.
The ailing entertainer is recovering from sepsis and a stroke which forced him to forfeit his spot in the Courtesy Mount Gay Pic-O-De-Crop Finals last year. Burke who is known for tunes such as My Party In Power, Mo Money and Mango Long is on a long journey to recovery. After he suffered a stroke the left side of his body was affected as well as his vision.
Speaking to Barbados TODAY, Burke indicated that he was slowly improving and taking it one step at a time. “It is a long process but one has to be patient,” he said.
The strong-spirited entertainer revealed that many entertainers do not pay NIS nor apply for health insurance which led to their detriment as they got older. Greats such as the godfather of Barbadian calypso Lord Radio and comedian Trevor ‘Dynamite’ Eastmond were selling out shows during their youth but have been somewhat abandoned in times of ailment.
“When you are young, you don’t think about these things and you don’t think about it until you are either old or something happens to you,” Burke remarked.
“We prolong and then one day you get up and realise you are 70 and nobody wants to hear you or see you anymore and you are also broke . . . . It may not seem like much right now but you will be surprised when you get to 60 or 65 how handy it [insurance] comes in,” he continued.
When asked if he believed Government should implement a fund or insurance scheme for entertainers, Burke stated that the discussion had been ongoing since he entered the field more than 30 years ago and he did not expect it to change.
“It is up to the entertainers themselves to get it going . . . we talk about everything, let’s do this and let’s do that and nothing happens. Twenty years later somebody is like a brand new idea, let’s do this only to find out you talked about it twenty years before,” he said, while adding that the entertainment fraternity would be responsible for leading its creation.
“The lack of success is more due to the entertainers being lackadaisical.”
Nevertheless, the entertainment sector has come to the aid of its members during their darkest times.
“Twice I have been very ill and the entertainment fraternity has come through for me. I have no complaints in that area but when it comes to health insurance and stuff entertainers don’t think about such and when they do think about it, it is too late,” Burke commented.
Burke disclosed his goal for 2019 was to be able to stand on the stage again. Although he has been progressing smoothly, the calypsonian said he might not be able to grace the Super Gladiators stage this year.
“I would love to do it this year but if not this year in 2020. I don’t want to go on stage in a condition that people are pitying me,” he said, while revealing that he would know definitively by mid-March.
“Unless it is a serious relapse I can see myself walking in the next few months, once everything goes according to plan and the physical therapy works, I will be able to walk again. I don’t know if I’ll be able to sprint but I am fairly certain I will be able to walk again,” Burke reiterated.