Bun Dem!


(MENAFN- Caribbean News Global) By Johnny Coomansingh

During my childhood days , I came into contact with quite a few senior folk in the countryside. These compatriots, whom I sincerely respected and honoured, spoke in very quiet and somewhat surreptitious tones. They spoke about certain practices among their peers for fear that our little“eyes will be opened.” In my presence, my godmother and her old cocoa-producing neighbours never spoke in the English language. They always spoke patois, this broken French. It seemed that they were more comfortable with the countryside lingua franca. So, as our elders instructed, we had to“cork our ears.” Language with a clandestine tone was a way of hiding from us what they wanted to say or explain to one another.

Patois was an“app” in those days, a kind of tight shortcut, a decoy to keep you guessing. Nevertheless, my level of guessing was short-lived. Little did they know, those patois-speaking elders who shot words and phrases over my head, that I was learning the French language in high school. With the little French I learnt, I figured out at least 75 percent of the times that the topic was, for the most part, about some sexual encounter, or a steady focus on some man or some woman. Innuendo prospered in those days. The laughter between them was enough to figure out their“sensuous and dirty” conversations.

When you heard a phrase such as,“gardez non mon cher ... belle femme garcon!” know for sure that there was a beautiful woman passing by and so you are compelled to watch; especially with respect to certain aspects of her rear anatomy. If the term“caca mange” was used to name a dog, it was simple to figure out that the dog was regularly caught eating chicken droppings. Words such as genneh (awkward), mon cher (my dear), cochon (pig), couyon and cuernard were frequently used. Couyon, means almost the same as cuernard, which of course, meant foolish or stupid or what Trinis understand as dotish. It was easy for me to pick up on the slangs for example, tout moun (everybody) and tout bagai (everything). When I helped in the cocoa field, I was the one to“samblay” (from the French assemble -to collect or gather) the harvested cocoa pods.

My acquaintance with the French language exponentially increased my understanding of Patois. As I listened more intensely to my elders, I learnt more“untidy,” crass, crude, and derogatory statements used in Patois. For now, I will hold such expletives hidden in the bosom of my soul. In fact, my godmother and her husband at certain times had serious“cuss outs” using these Patois invectives. Someone told me that this vestige of colonialism is still hanging around. Patois seems to be an integral part of our culture, but I am not hearing the younger set speaking any of it.

Nonetheless, just like Patois, the political arena in Trinidad and Tobago has similar hush-hush, or under-handed shu-shu, kankah and kuchoor (confusion) and mauvais langue (bad mouthing). Today, we are hearing fewer and fewer voices of people speaking Patois about who is coming, who is going, and how they're looking with regard to the happenings in Trinidad and Tobago. The calypso as a medium for communication is now speaking volumes about the happenings in Trinidad. So according to calypsonian Black Stalin:“Peter wait! Peter wait!”

Doctor Leroy Caliste, aka,“Black Stalin,” deceased, sang about who to bun (burn) in hell and that“Jah know, Jah know.” In his calypso Bun Dem, released in 1987, he even asked“fuh ah wuk” with Saint Peter on“Judgement morning.” Black Stalin was not singing any Patois in this song and I understood exactly what he was saying in his poetic satire.

I did not have to struggle to translate the language used in the lyrics presented here:

“Judgement morning, ah by the gate and ah waiting

Because ah begging di Master, gimme ah work with Peter

It have some sinners coming, with them I go be dealing

Because the things that they do we, ah want to fix them personally.

Peter wait, Peter wait, Peter, look Cecil Rhodes by the gate. Bun he! Bun he!

Peter, look the English man whe send Cecil Rhodes to Africa land. Bun he! Bun he!

Peter, take Drake, take Raleigh, but leave Victoria for me. Bun she! Bun she!

Peter, ah doh care what you say, but Mussolini, he cyar get away. Bun he! Bun he!”

Stalin's rendition was poignant when he called for the“bunning” or total annihilation of the above colonial miscreants and then some more, for example, Queen Victoria, Ian Smith, Christopher Columbus, Ronald Reagan, Hitler, Botha, and the man in the Ku Klux Klan. He gave a clarion call in this song to bun oppressors when he quipped:“Peter you don't know, the pressure that I undergo, from these mad man and woman, I feel the full weight of their hand. They make their oppressed law, they never care 'bout the poor.” Stalin's song spoke of his opened eyes that saw the nepotism and inequality extant in Trinidad. In this case, Vidia S. Naipaul in his book, The Middle Passage was correct when he quipped:“...it is only in the calypso that the Trinidadian touches reality.” Stalin was true to form with his expressions in Bun Dem.

Many moons ago, we in Trinidad and Tobago asked to be free from the shackles of colonialism, and yes, we gained independence from our colonial masters. We even became a republic for crying out loud! Today, what have we? Economic slavery is rife! Inequality is here to stay! There are vestiges of colonialism that still haunt us, mentally, socially and physically. Neocolonialism is now having its way with the citizens. As a former rich hydrocarbon producing and exporting country, the serious inequality that plague us as per the distribution of resources is a nightmare; a nemesis! There are those who are flagellated to the point where they think or are rather hypnotized that it is normal for them to be beaten down and derided.

The“make-up” and“break-up” syndrome in Trinidad is a fact. Whom do we think that Saint Peter should earmark for bunning in Trinidad? Oh, I could name quite a few! There was one who said:“...and dey eh riot yet” when he raised gas prices for the third time. The mockery of the people by those in authority in a democratic state does not augur well for a decent and progressive society. While the parasitic oligarchy in Trinidad are living in their ivory towers drinking champagne and eating caviar, the proletariat are struggling to gather a few crumbs that fall from their tables.

Taking a closer look about what is happening to us in our beloved country, Black Stalin revamped the fact that the government in a certain era sought desperately to stifle the voice of a people when he asked Peter to refrain from holding him back. He was interested in bunning the one who drafted the“Public Order Act.” Stalin did not put his mouth in water, he was not talking Patois or talking inside“boli” (calabash) as they say when he raised the cry about kleptocracy to“... catch that big belly fella, whe carry my money down Panama.”

In view of Stalin's song written way back then, we must be allowed to think about the seriousness of the political arena where we have become pure pawns to be used, abused, confused and finally refused by the political directorate. Saint Peter yuh dun know how genneh ah feeling. Couyon is now an understatement to describe how a whole lot of citizens are being treated in Trinidad.

The post Bun Dem! appeared first on Caribbean News Global .

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