January 16th, 2014
Q: Why is it that music always gets banned in totalitarian regimes?
A: Because music is a human expression of freedom.
Q: Why did the Vatican try to suppress music that had any rhythm to it?
A: Because rhythm is dangerous and might make people want to get down, shake some booty, even fornicate.
In Germany and the Soviet Union, jazz was banned because it was considered decadent and bourgeois. Way too much freedom there.
In Iran, even a woman’s voice wasn’t allowed on the radio; it might enflame men’s baser instincts.
In the case of Guyana, it’s more like Fela Kuti in Nigeria or maybe South Africa under apartheid. Especially Fela, calling taking names in songs like, “I.T.T. (International Thief Thief)” and “Coffin for Head of State” and “Army Arrangement”.
Calypso in Trinidad and Tobago (calypso’s capital) has always been the mouthpiece of the people. It’s a great topical music. Great Calypso artists like Young Tiger, Lord Kitchner, and others sang about the coronation of Queen Elizabeth in 1952, the growing popularity of bebop music (for and against), and for people whose reading skills were limited, calypso classics filled the void. There were songs about Kennedy facing down Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev during the Cuban missile crisis. Calypso lyrics told the truth, giving the people straight talk on current events.
Now the Guyanese government is trying to quash calypso music in Guyana. Why? Because calypsonians there are writing songs about the endemic corruption that has plagued the South American nation. Radio stations are getting calls “suggesting” that the DJs not play certain hit songs. A top singer, De Professor (né Lester Charles), after winning a big song contest with the song, “God Nah Sleep” that a local radio station got stormed when it put the song into heavy rotation and tried to ban the song from airplay. Some of the lyrics went like this:
“While dem a thief, thief, thief,
we just sit down like if we lame”
Guyana, though known to many Americans from the hideous Jonestown Massacre of 1978, has known corruption, assassinations, election fraud and violence since independence from Britain in 1966. Repression continues with this latest ban on musical freedom.
Here is De Professor’s song that so upset the government ministers: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rVpnPnnfchQ
Tom Schnabel, M.A.
Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres
Blogs for Rhythmpalent
Author & Music educator, UCLA, SCIARC, currently doing music salons