CREATIVE SPACE #24 of 2021 (uploaded October 31st 2021)
CREATIVE SPACE is a series spotlighting local (Antiguan and Barbudan/Caribbean) art and culture. As a brand, it dates back to 2009, published exclusively in LIAT’s inflight magazine. It was revamped in 2018 and syndicated as of 2019 on Antiguanice.com. Its publishing partner, as of 2020, is the Daily Observer newspaper. It has its first print run in the paper every other Wednesday, with the online extended edition running here on the blog. It continues to expand across other media platforms (e.g. AntiguanWriter on YouTube). CREATIVE SPACE is created, owned, and written by Joanne C. Hillhouse – Antiguan-Barbudan/Caribbean author, journalist, producer, and freelance writer, editor, and trainer.
Here’s a link to the issue as it appeared in the special Independence issue of the Daily Observer newspaper on November 1st 2021 – Happy 40th Birthday Antigua and Barbuda:
Below is the extended online edition (not a duplicate of the edition with publishing partner Observer Media) with EXTRAS.
CREATIVE SPACE #24 OF 2021 – 2021 INDEPENDENCE SPECIAL: PATRIOTIC SONGS FROM THE ANTIGUAN AND BARBUDAN SONGBOOK: 4 PLUS 1
Patriotic songs inspire feelings of pride in one’s country. Protest songs push for change. Perhaps it’s the times, perhaps my spirit, but much as I love songs like ‘Believe’, ‘Pledge’, and ‘Stand up for Antigua’, I’m thinking that some of our protest songs are among our most patriotic. (full playlist in EXTRAS)
Obstinate’s ‘True Heroes’ pressed for renaming our spaces nearly 40 years before the Black Lives Matter uprising of 2020 made this a center piece of its movement.
“We must now delete Drake, Hawkins, and Nelson Street
Shirley Heights and Nelson’s Dockyard
Our progress these names retard
Instead of using King George pasture
Why not Andy Roberts, the fast bowler
All cricket fans should be found
On Vivi Richards recreation ground.”
Well, we still have King George V grounds, Shirley Heights and Nelson’s Dockyard, but Hood Street, after British naval officer Samuel Hood, in Ovals was renamed for Andy Roberts, the first Antiguan-Barbudan to play for the West Indies Cricket Team. Right next to it Drake Street, named for British privateer (i.e. pirate by another name) and slave trader, Francis Drake, was renamed for national hero Vivian Richards, the second Antiguan-Barbudan to play for the WICB and one of Wisden’s top five cricketers of the 20th century. The newer national cricket stadium is also named for Sir Viv. Nelson Street is still there but it is flanked by streets named for educator Nellie Robinson and parliamentarian Lionel Hurst, instead of colonizers (George) Rodney and (John) Hawkins. Both were British naval officers and the latter is distinguished as one of the early proponents of the enslavement of Africans.
Obsti even took shots at the House of Windsor: “to remind us of their misrule, we have Princess Margaret School/England is headed for a downfall and we still have Elizabeth Hall”. Princess Margaret School is still there and Queen Elizabeth Highway (though the National Archives is now where Princess Elizabeth Hall once stood). Who can say what the practical impact of the song was, but I like to think it planted a seed, insisting on ownership of our physical spaces and the way we think of them. What’s more patriotic than that?
How about insisting on your belongingness with respect to those spaces irrespective of political and economic pressures? Because that’s what Short Shirt asserted in ‘Nobody go run me’ with his emphatic “tell dem, tell dem for me” that at pain of death, he “ain’t running nowhere”. No it’s not an anti-emigration screed, so much as a screech of defiance against people “who feel that they playing god and could wreck me life for me”. It is the kind of song that speaks to anyone who feels beat down by the system, but especially the creative artist…
“They don’t like my calypso,
because they can’t control me,
so they plan to kick out my ass.”
The writer of this song, and of the next song on the list, Latumba’s ‘Culture must be Free’, is Shelly Tobitt – I’m sensing a theme.
“They tell me they don’t want no politics at all this year
So when I come to sing, I must sing about love
They tell me is only Uncle Toms that they want this year
So if the crown I’m thinking of
I must sell my soul
for a circle of tainted gold
But my heart cannot buy it
my conscience reject it
for they lock teachers up in prison
and they beat them up without reason
innocently keep them in jail
and like slaves they refuse them bail
I say to hell with your competition
I want no part under those conditions
They don’t even bound to play my songs
on none ah dem two radio station” (Culture must be Free)
The song specifically references the violence surrounding strike action by teachers in Antigua in 1979. At the time, any time pre-radio Observer (i.e. pre-2001) and their well-known battle for the right to broadcast, really, radio licenses were scarcer than gold and airplay was up in the air (or believed to be) for songs that bucked the system. Is there anything more patriotic than insisting on freedom of expression?
“I go sing what I see
culture must be free
they can’t muzzle me.”
And in the tradition of Latumba, Ivena burst on the scene late 90s in the Calypso Association breakaway competition/early 00s in the main event to become the first female calypso monarch. Not with this one though. ‘Old Road Fight’ inexplicably didn’t pass muster according to the judges but it’s done something better, endured as a record of a time when Antiguans stood up. In this instance, against a hotel development project, but as framed, a callback to anti-slavery rebellions of generations past.
“When the conch shell sound
It spread right across the land
King Court calling rebel man and rebel woman.”
The song argued for the environment against capitalism-at-all-costs, insisting on the rights of people to dissent – reflective not of a breakdown of democracy but of its vibrancy. This too is patriotic.
My plus one comes from my dad who went a more traditional route when he picked Swallow’s ‘Dawn of a New Day’, which calls for “cooperation…a sense of purpose, a sense of community” with a sing-a-long chorus rallying us to “stop all the back biting…to see that dawn, beautiful dawn of a new day”.
And, yes, that too is patriotic.
Every song mentioned here (for which I could find video) is included in a playlist on my AntiguanWriter YouTube channel.
Read the full Daily Observer 2021 Independence edition: Daily Observer Independence 2021 special edition
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