Writer, Editor, Stand-Up Comedian

Another Highway Records post

Posted: August 22nd, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Column | No Comments »

Got this on Facebook… Reposting…

Embrace our own!

Trinidad and Tobago has a rich and marketable culture outside the Caribbean boundaries and this has been proven by many entertainers, play writers, beauty queens, sports men/women and so on that have received international recognition and acclaim for their efforts. In this regard, I pledged to make an effort to market and showcase brand T&T. Now I am faced with trying to fathom this email I just received concerning The Trinidad and Tobago Publishers and Broadcasters Association (TTPBA) and Copyright Music Organisation of Trinidad and Tobago (COTT), on a quest to fight down and literally shut down certain groups of artists.

I sat in London and watched my country vote for change by exercising their freedom of speech and right to be-rid of a government they deemed as a dictatorship. Now I see divisions of the newly formed government that claimed such an astounding victory less than 4 months ago bullying some of the same individuals that placed them in power.

As a nation we fail to live by what we should stand for and the words “together we aspire, together we achieve” falls by the wayside as many are guilty of wanting change but moon-walk into old and backward tactics. Showing clearly that it matters not who is in power!!

In 2010 any genre of music is acceptable be it in the 5% niche market or higher/ lower! So why should a directive be given to ban the music of some local artists from being played on radio stations and Synergy TV but foreign artists of same genre are being played? We profess to support our own but as a matter of fact it is sad to acknowledge that although SOCA is widely accepted by most citizens, as soon as T&T Carnival is over, that musical genre is on no-one’s agenda leaving artists to travel the world to gain a wider acceptance.

Trinidad and Tobago has been the concert capital of the Caribbean for more than 3 decades with huge acts including those with a hip-hop background; Run DMC, Nas, Naughty by Nature, Foxy Brown, Busta Rhymes, The Fugees, Ludacris, Bow Wow, Method Man, DMX and others to sold out concerts. Even Jay Z’s Big Pimpin video was filmed during T&T Carnival. Clearly bringing to light that we are musically diverse and we influence people other than our own!!

This also concretes the fact that hip hop is an internationally recognised genre of music (though a niche) so % does not matter! Music is a world language and artists have a right to express themselves in any genre that fits their personality and style!!! Our country’s culture, religion, race, talent et cetera is so diverse, there should be no thoughts from any powers that be to encourage the segregation of minorities in any form or fashion!

As individuals we have the human right to decide which bank to invest our savings in, which grocery to shop at, car to purchase or restaurant to eat in. So too does any business entity have the ethical and legal right to decide which companies they want to fulfil their various functional activities and services. So if an artist chooses to conduct business with Awesome as opposed COTT they should not be ridiculed, at the end of the day it’s just business.

For those who don’t know, Awesome Limited uses digital media tracking technology which ensures that every time a song from Awesome’s playlist (any song, any artiste) hits the airwaves, it’s digitally logged. This then works in sync with the logs of the given station to guarantee that the artiste are receiving and paid their just share of royalties. This software system is recognised on an international front and used by associations including the Performing Rights Society (PRS) in the United Kingdom which has more than 70,000 members of songwriters, composers, artists and publishers..

In light of this current situation all members of COTT should:-
1. Read their signed contracts
2. Read the Copyright Amendment Act
3 Grasp a full understanding of Royalties and Publishing

Of all the radio stations in the country only 94.1 have decided to stand by and support Highway Records and deserve to be saluted for this. Other stations have the power as well but what will be done? In addition, other artists, supporters and companies can embrace the message on the coat of arms and represent a small fraction of our culture.

Hip Hop lovers in T&T and the world over argue about who the better lyricist is – Tu Pac or Biggie! Can we now exercise that passion towards our own? Talk the Talk and Walk the Talk people!

TTPBA mu’bbe mad!

Posted: August 22nd, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Column | No Comments »

This post on Facebook by hip hop artist Chromatics and his label Highway Records is a good talking point to discuss the rights of performers vs the rights of broadcasters. What do you think?

I not only disagree with the TTPBA–I think their stance is immoral, possibly illegal, and short-sighted–I think we who love original, authentic and indigenous music should speak up against it.

Call your favourite TV and radio station NOW and request this music. If we all demand it they surely will begin to see the error of taking hip hop and related music for granted.

Terror from the skies…!

Posted: August 20th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Editorial | Tags: , | 2 Comments »

I want to start a Society for the Extinction of Bats.

Yup, you read that right.


As in, “Population: Zero.”

I know everybody is all into conservation and all that. Whoever wants to conserve bats never had a couple of them living in their house.

Well, to be fair to the bats–a big one and a little one; we call the big one Chester, ’cause he’s like a member of the family now, a hated, feared, avoided member of the family–they were here first. My new apartment spent many years as the semi-abandoned unfinished apartment under a family home. The backyard is the forest, so it’s no surprise that all manner of forest creatures, including a colony of fruit bats, made this their digs.

Nevertheless, when construction started up for us to move in, most of the charming previous residents moved out.

All except Chester and his little furry paramour. Chester seems to resent my presence here, I swear. Why else would he be going out of his way to terrorise me at night? Even as I write this I’m ducking and screaming as he zooms around between the kitchen and the bathroom, the two darkest areas of the house.

My ten-year-old daughter reassures me regularly that Chester won’t hurt me. And my friend Gab echoed her in saying, quite rightly, that unless I look like a giant fruit, Chester won’t be interested in biting me. Still. Have you ever come face to face with a small, furry animal hurtling towards you at eight miles an hour? Yeah. It’s like that. No night-time pee-er is safe. I won’t get out of bed for a glass of water anymore. My own kitchen scares me.

The neighbours recommended incense. Annie recommended loud dancehall music. Sharon recommended putting up foil strips. They worked for a while, sorta. Now I think they just piss him off more. There’s bat poop on some of the foil. As if to say, “Here’s what I think of your little traps, Ma’am!” Gab has recommended moth balls. I’m going to get some. And a bat. A baseball bat. One small volley for Chester, a giant relief for Lisa.

Up next…

Posted: August 18th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Editorial | Tags: , , | No Comments »

I can’t believe it’s almost September. It’s been months since I started plotting the rollout of The Allen Prize for Young Writers and incredibly here it is! In September we open the first prize competition, and in October, all things being equal, we stage our first seminar.

We’ve been a busy little beavers for the past few months, trying to put things in place for this. First was the writing of the strategic plan and getting it approved by the board. Then was the drafting of the competition submission guidelines and the seminar and workshop plans, done by the hardworking committees. Then we had to contact the Ministry of Education to get their endorsement. Then we had to write to different international agencies to get them to support the organisation with their money. We had to seek out corporate sponsors, too, and we had to meet with the associations and NGOS who work in literature and youth… it’s an ongoing process.

Now we’re in the process of planning the first seminar and the media launch, and starting the prize competition. Newsflash: We have judges!

I didn’t do all this by myself–madness to even try! My board, prize committee, finance committee, family and friends were all behind The Allen Prize, giving encouragement, advice and very practical support. One friend of mine is doing the Allen Prize web site. Another friend (a couple of friends, actually, and my brother) helps with artwork–artwork that’s going to be placed in a sponsored ad in The Student Press… And on, and on.

As the actual date of the competition and the seminar draws nearer, I hope the support continues. The Allen Prize for Young Writers will not work without it.

Moving house

Posted: August 13th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Editorial | Tags: , , | 6 Comments »

So the last few weeks of my life–nearly a month, now–have been consumed with moving house.

I lived in Diego Martin for about six years and my rent increased pretty much annually. This year I knew I had to make some changes, because, despite quitting my regular job to take a chance on the NGO I founded, I plan to send my elder daughter off to school in Foreign. Do the maths: less income and more expense. Something had to give and that something turned out to be rent.

My new apartment is still a work in progress. It is a two-bedroom in Petit Valley (in the kind of neighbourhood that had the kind TSTT lady saying, when I called to change my service address, “You sure you want to live there?”) and so far, so good. My younger has school friends in the area and, to be honest, once the DVD player and the computer are working, she’d live in the pit of hell for all she cares. My elder, ditto, except you can substitute flushing toilet for DVD player.

We haven’t fully unpacked yet. The dozens of boxes, bin liners and reusable HiLo bags into which I packed up my life are mostly empty, but since one of things we haven’t got yet is shelving, there are some key items still wrapped up in cardboard and packing tape. The amenities are not what I’m used to, but then I have to remind myself that I grew up sharing a bedroom with two sisters, my mother and my brother, without indoor plumbing or a TV for most of my childhood. It’s all relative. You’d be amazed at what  you can get used to, either way.

As I wait for the completion of our apartment, grimy from concrete dust and ducking the damned bat that refuses to understand that humans live here now, I count my blessings. Health, happiness, a life mission, good friends and a lot of family support are not all I have. I also have a roof over my head–even if I do have to share it with the bat for now.