One of the enduring legacies of the colonial experience is the self-denial of the intrinsic qualities that make up national culture.
Before attaining independence, all our local music, calypso from Trinidad, steelband music, and other Caribbean genres were pigeonholed into cultural ghettos on radio schedules to serve a Barbadian population.
Radio stations had no difficulty creating a Calypso Corner. For many years, there was even ‘West Indian News’ during the luncheon period.
All things Caribbean were considered good enough only to be consumed by a few at a chosen time.
Now, amid a plethora of radio stations and the legal obligation to develop programme content that is ostensibly Barbadian, coupled with ownership requirements to match, we still find ourselves shoving our culture into a single month on radio and television.
African Americans often note with irony that the month of February, the shortest of the year, is ascribed to Black History Month in the US.
In February, all things pertaining to the culture of 400 years of African settlement and enslavement in the New World are highlighted.
Then and only then, one imagines, is where there is time for majority culture to embrace a minority culture.
But Barbados need not suffer any such affliction.
Why, then, do our radio stations adopt a seasonal approach to Barbadian music, putting it on wall to wall only in the month of November?
It has now become as a seasonal a ritual for Barbadian music during Independence month as is Crop Over or Calypso and Soca Music.
Our music is perfectly suited for any time of year. Why should Barbadians have to wait 12 months to hear the great and the good of Barbadian music, and in particular those who paved the way for our current stars?
Only in the month of November are we expected to be tolerant of, if not embracing of Bajan music from Richard Stoute to Rihanna. We contend that this is the result of adopting a colonial approach in post-colonial Barbados.
By all means, we should celebrate our nationhood in the month of November. But our music should have a longer shelf life than the ultramarine and gold bunting adorning stores and public buildings.
Increasingly, we are told that our young creatives are expected to be at the vanguard of a new cultural industry, generating badly needed foreign exchange and jobs.
If only in the month of November, our radio stations can find the time to develop an audience for Barbadian music, we suggest that no one should be surprised by the paucity of returns.
Our national music – soca or sponge, kaiso or folk – song for is no national joke and must not be treated as such.
In the last week, the Government has sought to tighten its grip on the national broadcaster it already owns – the Caribbean Broadcasting Corporation. It has split the job of General Manager in twain to create a chief executive officer and chief operating officer. It has placed full power of approval on job appointments, not in the hands of these individuals, but in those of the minister for broadcasting herself.
What actual reform of our public broadcaster in the spirit of forging national identity and embracing those who create the music and speech that identify can be achieved from these new legal fandangles, we ask.
In 1968, the radical labour politician, Tony Benn, then minister for broadcasting said that broadcasting is too important to thing to be left to the broadcasters. We see such a Machiavellian approach has been adopted by the current government in Barbados.
And yet, for all these machinations our music, the people who create it and the industry that can produce even more music remains in an annual ghetto.
Barbados is a permanent proposition to its people, renewed every morning we draw breath. Surely now, it should have occurred to our broadcasters and cultural policymakers that relegating the creative product of Barbados to backwaters of radio schedules does not build audiences that could sustain this output.
Where, then, is there Pride and Industry.