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THE BOMBER: TRIBUTE TO A GRENADIAN-BORN HERO 
TRIBUTE TO THE BOMBER (Pt.3) 



Caldwell Taylor


THE BOMBER TURNS 80 TODAY - AH WANNA FALL!



Bomber heard just a single word of Sir Galba's introduction-Bommma!!!


He rose to his feet and made his way to the stage, which seemed a thousand miles away. He gritted his teeth. He clenched his fists. He staggered through a dense fog of stage fright.  His heart was cuffing the walls of his chest; it was as if it was getting ready to break out.


Bomber reached the stage and he consulted with the backing musicians, one or two of whom offered well-intentioned but wholly uninspiring words of encouragement. He heard one of them say,"Doh worry youself, padners, you go be okay"


Well, it was time to deliver. For an instant Bomber wondered whether his vocal cords would hold up. Then...


"Good evening Ladies and Gentlemen ... I am goin to do for you one of my songs called Juvenile Delinquency".


The applause was casually polite. And that was so because calypso fans doh ever buy pig in a poke.  Indeed, calypso fandom is rooted in a pitiless empiricism, which requires the calypsonian to "come good day in and day out". The Tent is both ungrateful and unforgiving.


" Juvenile Delinquency: You better doh give us no juvenile shi.t!" shouted a Seh Wah hooligan.


Suddenly, Bomber's heart settled back in place and his voice rang out like a bell.


And five minutes later, Seh Wah's Ritz cinema was filled with cries of "encoreeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!"


Bomber returned for the first.

There was a second.

And a third.


Then he walked off stage into the embrace of friends and fellow calypsonians.  The Bomber was in orbit.


The success at the Ritz earned Bomber a new status in the tent and it also gave a boost to his self -confidence. Naturally, the Ritz was on his mind when he entered the 1957 Radio Guardian Tenth Anniversary Calypso King competition. He delivered a Ritz performance and he walked away with the top prize.


The Ritz. Radio Guardian. Two big successes within the first year of his campaign in Trinidad. Bomber was now thinking of one thing: the Big Prize.



BOMBER AND TEACHER SPOILER


Therefore, he determined to work harder at his compositional techniques, his diction, organization and the many other intangibles that go into the making of a truly great calypso. By this time, the Bomber was also spending many hours each week in the company of his hero and mentor, the inimitable Spoiler (1926-1960).Bomber wanted to drink up Spoiler's
cutting wit and soak in the semiotics of the Spoiler's satire: He succeeded. And to this day he remains Spoiler's greatest student and disciple even though he had just three years under the Master's principalship.


The Spoiler died on Christmas Day in 1960, and then he came into a new and well-deserved life as the art form's dominant immortal. Close to fifty years since his mortal exhaustion, students of calypso are still trying to deconstruct Spoiler's poetics. Nobel LaureateDerek Walcott may be counted among these students; Walcott celebrates calypso's holy ghost in a poem
called "The Return of the Spoiler".


I sit high on this bridge in Laventille watching that city where I left no will but my own conscience and rum -eaten wit
and limers passing see me where I sit , ghost in brown gabardine, bones in a sack, and bawl: "Ay, Spoiler, boy! when you come back?"

Tell Desperadoes when you reach the hill, I decompose, but I composing still


Walcott's poem is fitted with Spoiler's inscrutable incantation, "Ah wanna fall!"


In the "Return of the Spoiler", Walcott hints that Spoiler bears a literary resemblance to John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester (1647-1680). Both men were satirists of the first order. Both wanted to trade places with creatures from lower orders of being. In his "Satyr [Satire] against Reason and Mankind", Rochester says he would rather inhabit the case of a dog, rather than that of a man.

Were I ( who to be cost already am One of those strange prodigious creatures, man)
A spirit free to choose, for my own share
What case of flesh and blood I choose to wear
I'd be a dog , a monkey or a bear
or anything but that vain animal,
Who is so proud of being rational


The Spoiler wanted to come back as bed bug.  In what is by far is best known composition, "Bed Bug", he sings:


Ah going to bite them young ladies, partner
Like a hot dog or hamburger
and if you think don't be in fright
is only big fat woamn ah goin to bit


John Donne (1572-1631) is probably another of Spolier's literary relatives. Donne wanted to trade places with a flea:


Mark this flea, and make in this
How little that which deny'st me is
Me it suck'd first, and now sucks thee
And in this flea our two bloods mingled bee
Confesse it ,this cannot be said
A sinne, or shame or loose maidenhead
Yet this enjoyes before it wooe
And pamper'd swells with one blood made of two
And this, alas, is more than we would doe.


Look for Spolier's influence in the Vidia Naipaul's early works .Read Miguel Street and catch the Spoilerian conceits and the Spoilerian satire.  Naipaul's B. Worthworth (in Miguel Street) is Spoiler in a diaphonous disguise. By the way, you could find the ghost of Spoiler- undisguised- in the novels of  Earl Lovelace.

Spoiler's untimely death brought great sadness and sickness to Bomber's soul; he even thought of giving up.He eventually cured himself by vowing to continue Spoiler's great mission.

Two years following Spoiler's demise, the Bomber was in the finals of the Trinidad and Tobago Independence Calypso King competition, which was won by Brynner. Sparrow came in second, Nap third, the Bomber in the fourth berth . To this day, many say that Bomber was the clear winner that night.


But as we all know, calypso adjudication is a vexing thing, especially as the art form perches itself between orality and written discourse. Of course adjudication is itself a problem, for aesthetic judgment is socially constructed. Our taste in
music (or whatever) is a product of our education, our class position, ambition, or aspiration, among other things.


BOMBER WINS THE CALYPSO CROWN


Bomber rebounded from his Independence disappointment and in 1964 he won the calypso crown with two Spoilerian masterpieces," James and Joan" and "Bomber's Dream"; the former, a sociology of sex and the family, the latter a masterful tale of a reunion of teacher and disciple in the liminal world of dream. Bomber's 1964 victory took him to the 1965 Commonwealth Festival in Britain.


At the 1965 Calypso King competition, the Bomber failed in his bid to defend his title; he copped second place in a tie with Terror. Sixty-fivewas Sniper's year.

In 1967, Bomber was one of two calypsonians ( Young Killer was the other) to represent Trinidad & Tobago and Grenada at Montreal's Expo 67:the two countries shared a single pavillion. The Expo date was a public farewell to a 'romance' that never gained traction.

Truth be told, there never really was a romance, for the British Government and Eric Williams (1911-1981) colluded in a scheme to mamaguy Herbert A. Blaize (1918-1989),the Grenadian chief minister of the day.  The British and Williams had very different reasons for wanting to pull a fast one on Mr Blaize.

For his part, Eric Williams demanded a big "dowry" in order to take Grenada in. He made this crystal clear in a speech before West Indians students in London, in November of 1962. Williams told the students that he was not prepared "to mind Britain'sbaby",meaning Grenada. The British were well aware of Williams stubborness and they knew that pushing
the idea of unitary statehood (Trinidad, Tobago and Grenada) would open them up to Williams's anti-colonial rhetoric and demands for hefty 'baby allowance'.

In his intellectual biography of Williams( Eric Williams & the Making of the Modern Caribbean), Professor Colin Palmer reminds us that the Colonial Office regarded Mr Blaize as a dunce: "[Blaize] needs help in clearing his mind", wrote one official.


The plan to make a fool of Blaize was disclosed in a note penned in November 1963 by Miss M.Z Terry of the Colonial Office. She said that she saw no way to get Blaize "off the hook". [Therefore], the best tactic is to take all possible steps to maintain the illusion that union with Trinidad is still a possibility and to keep the idea in play for as long as may be necessary". The colonial records show that Williamswas privy to this.

Such colonial chicanery should make you bawl
Oh we lawd oh, Ah want to fall

After his 1964 win Bomber would made several trips to the Finals, but he never succeeded in wearing the crown for a second time. But the Bomber has the great honour of being the oldest finalist in the modern history of calypso competitions in Trindad. He was 73 when he appeared at the 2001 Calypso Finals.

The Bomber was a part of a movement whose cultural production sought at once to valorize our Caribbean experience and assert a Caribbean identity.

Bomber's calypso singing spans more than sixty years, beginning in Grenada in 1940 and continuing in Trinidad from 1956. As a leading exponent of the calypso arts, Bomber's strengths are in the eloquence of his storytelling, the elegance of his diction, the conversational registers of his singing voice, and the compelling charm of his stage personality.


LONG LIVE THE BOMBER!

             

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