MY PERSPECTIVE – LEAVE ME ALONE!!!
Sunday, March 12, 2017, 17:49
By Dolores Balderamos Garcia
Dr. Linda McCartha Monica Sandy-Lewis is a sprightly septuagenarian with this very long full name. She is also known as Crusoe Kid, but much better known as Calypso Rose!! She was born on April 27, 1940 in Bethel Village, Tobago. She is THE pre-eminent woman calypsonian, and her career spans over fifty-three years. Her father was a leader with the Spiritual Shouter Baptists, and her family was very much opposed to her singing the “devil music” calypso.
However, she had the special gift of a calypsonian, and she composed her first calypso after seeing a man steal the spectacles off of a woman’s face. She has now written over eight hundred calypsos.
Her career developed steadily, and in 1977 she won the Carnival Road March in Trinidad. The following year after she won the entire competition, the title Calypso King was changed to Calypso Monarch in her honour. She has also won numerous awards, including an award for unprecedented achievement by a calypsonian and one for the first triple crown Calypso Monarch. Interestingly, in 1982 she was named an honorary citizen of Belize in recognition of her work to raise our country’s international awareness on the cultural front. In 2014 she was awarded Honorary Doctor of Letters from the University of the West Indies. And most recently, last year she won the prestigious Victoire de la Musique Award in France for best World Music Album.
This album “Far From Home” is produced by Belizean Ivan Duran of Stonetree Records and was recorded in Belize. Of course she considers Belize her second home, and she has been coming here for many years. I attended one of her performances at the Biltmore Hotel, where she rocked the crowd with her infectious soca and calypso and irresistible stage presence. I also recall chatting with her at the Princess Hotel while we waited one evening for the screening, during the Film Festival, of a documentary about her life. Rose has battled sexism and exploitation, in addition to her personal battles with cancer and heart disease, and now at age 76, she strides atop the music world. It is said that now she has to be helped onstage, but “once there it is as though she has been plugged into a power source!!”
A must hear number from her new album is “Calypso Queen,” but the song that has become Trinidad’s feminist anthem at Carnival 2017 is “Leave Me Alone!!” This is the new rallying cry for the movement which has aimed to raise awareness of gender violence and create a space for women’s autonomy and empowerment. Women there have been taking a strong stand against misogyny and gender violence, while remembering the young Japanese woman who was strangled at Carnival last year. The perpetrator has never been found. At the time the Mayor of Port of Spain blamed her death on the “vulgarity and lewdness” of women’s behaviour, suggesting that her skimpy outfit led to her death. The resulting firestorm of protest and condemnation of his insensitive comments forced him to resign.
Calypso Rose’s cry of “Leave me alone; let me free up” has inspired revellers, becoming the perfect vehicle for their self-expression and freedom to party without the unwanted advances of predators. Women are tired of sexual abuse and of harassment on the street. Rose has once more and with impeccable timing struck a nerve with women who want to own their own space and feel free in enjoying themselves. According to Gabrielle Hosein, Head of the Institute for Gender and Development Studies at UWI in Trinidad, there is now a huge movement of women seeking autonomy and self-determination around their bodies and their sexuality in opposition to a particular kind of respectability and, I would say male dominated, politics.
Belizeans consider Calypso Rose to be our very own. And in my view not only is she the undisputed Calypso Queen of the World, but she is as well a major voice of inspiration for women everywhere in the ongoing struggle to be respected and treated entirely as equals in culture, in society, in politics, and in our personal experiences. Long Live Calypso Rose!! Leave Me Alone!!!
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