I went to Belmont Boys’ RC and Belmont Secondary.
Two things everybody in Trinidad do at some point in their life: “nearly drown”—they call it that or “drink water” —or “nearly get catch” thiefing mango.
I know all the characters in (writer Earl Lovelace’s novel])The Dragon Can’t Dance. They grew up around me. My mother was well-respected and some of Belmont’s baddest men would help take me to school. Don’t mind they just open somebody back down the road: they know my mother!
There were five of us children. I was the eldest. I was always the one expected to do something. In a strange way, after 1986, I came like the eldest of the Trinidad family. You wouldn’t believe the amount of people expecting me to make good music every year, expecting me to do all kinds of things. After a while, you’re drained. My greatest line from Trinidad is, “I want to use you for something.” They actually use the words, “I want to use you”— but like they don’t hear them. I’m working on two albums, a live one and one called Random Notes. I’m taking my time. Normally, every nine months, I put out an album in Trinidad. I have over 25 albums. Because I felt I had to please people and try my best to make them think, feel good, everything else, I would “‘hustle out” the work. Sometimes I listen to a piece and there’s a little “coulda-shoulda-woulda.” Now, I don’t have that worry.
Trinidad always talking about “give back.” You work hard and give-give-give. And then they want to know what are you going to “give back.” That is up to me! Sometimes I ask, “What have you given?”
Canada is a very neutral space. I could always just relax and melt into my environment. Where I live is very much like Belmont. It has more roti shops than you could find in Belmont.
Even trying to lay low in Canada, people find you. I’m always on CBC. I’m sit on a board of the Arts Council, too, to decide who to give money to, for arts projects. In a sense, it’s like the respect you don’t find at home.
Trini to D Bone was written by Ian Wiltshire. But, to me, it’s a compliment when someone uses your song. That was how they closed off the commentary on the Trinidad v Sweden match in Germany, the commentator saying, “Trini to the bo-wan!”
There’s a vagrant who grew up in the era when man used to say ‘ten cents’ meaning ten dollars. So he said, “Gimmeh a five cents, nuh!” So I deliberately gave him a five-cent piece. He say, “Five dollars, boy!” By coincidence, when I did the High Mas video, the same man passed across the screen. Every time I see it, I say, “Eh-eh, look Five Dollars, boy!”
I love to read but don’t have a favourite author. “Neteherland” was a great book. I want to meet that guy. He captured the Trinidad mentality amazingly.
I started writing songs when I was around five, six. I’d listen to I Wanna Hold Your Hand and say, “If was me, I wouldn’t write, “Oh yeah, I.” I’d write, “Oh yeah, so-and-so.” I used to correct the Beatles’ songs.
I might pass down the road and hear somebody say something. “Longtime Band” came from this woman saying, “I going and wine like I never christen’”.
I listen to Bob Dylan, Stevie Wonder, Fela – I love Fela. The digs he used to take at Nigerian society, the same things still going on. Bob Dylan is the ultimate American calypsonian.
I prefer club performances. The big shows, yeah, you control the masses and it’s very powerful. But in a club. I did a show at Martin’s on the Boulevard, the band jammed up in this little backyard, the place packed and, in the middle of it, Beau Tewarie and Deepak Chopra came in. After three or four songs, I started Calypso Music. And like they had to go somewhere, they got up to leave. Over the whole sound system, a man bawl, “Nah! Nah!Nah! My king on the stage and Deepak Chopra walking out? While he singing the great Calypso Music. @#$$# you, Deepak mother #$#@ Chopra!” You couldn’t get that in a stadium.
When, sometimes just one person comes up and says, “When you say, so, so, so, so and so, do you mean, so, so, so, so and so? And it’s exactly what I meant? That is the best part of the job.
Art can’t lead. All art can do is suggest.
The bad thing about the job is I’m getting tired of the drudgery of the road and, when you reach, somebody is two hours late and things aren’t exactly as the contract says.
A Trini is a rumshop where you watch Argentina v Germany and, by the time Argentina get the third goal, the DJ in the rumshop find three versions of Don’t Cry for me, Argentina and play them. Starting off with the Dennis De Souza version!
Trinidad is the only place where people don’t eat food, they declare war on it. They lash a roti! They put some blows on a pelau! They leather the dumpling! They murder the pudding! Trini don’t eat food, they’s fight food. And win!
Trinidad and Tobago is my heart and soul. It’s my home, my spirit. Even though it gets me tired sometimes, there’s a laugh in the place that makes you say, “All right. Let me go again!”