Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by the author(s) do not represent the official position of Barbados TODAY.
by Lincoln Samuel
“Check wunna hist’ry book,
We were brought down here to work . . .
So, Black Man, from hard labour do not shirk
Remember we came here to work.”
I attended this year’s Pic-O-De-Crop Calypso Finals as I have done for the last 30 or so years.
Overall, I did enjoy the event (thank you to all involved; congratulations to the winner), but I must confess that I was taken aback by the lyrics of the calypso entitled: “We Came Here To Work”.
While the calypsonian’s rendition and stage presence were highly commendable (especially for a first-timer) it was the message of the calypso that caused me concern. It would be an understatement to say that I was disturbed that in the year 2022 a calypso could offer such a distortion of the history of our enslavement in order to make a call for an improved work ethic.
Don’t get me wrong, I do agree that an improved work ethic is extremely important – and the working conditions that would conduce to this are equally important – there’s no disputing this. But for any calypso to use as a premise that “we were brought down here to work” in order to present a case for the necessity and urgency of this improvement exposes a grievous and reductive mischaracterisation of the barbarous nature of the Slave Trade and the Plantation Slavery which was perpetrated here in Barbados and other places in this hemisphere.
What’s more, I think the attempt to lend this regrettable misunderstanding some undeserved validity by prefacing it with the line “Check wunna hist’ry book” is so very ironic as it only serves to confirm a lamentable lack of insight regarding that history, the breadth and depth of which I find most unfortunate and dangerous in this day and stage.
I greatly respect the important chronicling and educational (developing consciousness) role calypso plays in our civilisation – and long may it be so.
Sadly, the aforementioned mischaracterisation repeated in the calypso “We Came Here To Work” does not properly appreciate that role, in my humble opinion. This is hardly corrected by the “By force” line sung by the background vocalists once in the chorus.
However, as another calypsonian used to say, “I may be wrong and I usually am, but …”, and it also may very well be that my concern with this calypso is shared by no one else since I have not heard any discussion about the manner chosen to put over its message. This silence is one I find equally disturbing for many reasons.
I end by stressing that none of this is meant, in any way, shape, or form, to discourage or to disrespect the young calypsonian who offered the calypso. But, hopefully, it will initiate some needed conversations.
I am obliged to you Madam Editor,.