BOMBER: TRIBUTE TO A GRENADIAN-BORN HERO
TRIBUTE TO THE BOMBER (Pt.3)
THE BOMBER TURNS 80 TODAY - AH
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
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
" 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
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
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
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
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
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!