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Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Best week ever... NOT!

Coming off the high of Machel’s concert where he did us proud in New York, Trinidad and Tobago is once again making headlines in the media globally but this time for our apparent ignorance concerning alternative lifestyles. You have to be living under a rock not to know that the Tobago Jazz festival takes place next month in Plymouth, and a huge controversy is already brewing which threatens to mar the Island’s reputation as an idyllic vacation spot and open, welcoming Caribbean island. Several religious groups in Tobago are protesting Elton John’s headlining performance at the Jazz festival because he will “turn the people gay”.

Listen, I have no problem that Elton John is married to a man, I have no problem with what goes on behind his bedroom doors he is coming to perform and do what he does best, which is to give a stunning performance and not to lecture patrons about his choice of lifestyle. I cannot fathom how his performance can make anyone “gay”, and I am not even going to debate the nature versus nurture argument concerning homosexuality. However I am quite upset about the portrayal of Tobago in the media stemming from this incident. If you are unaware read this Express report which highlights the mockery that is being made of our sister island:

To-bahg-o' gets blows on VH1
Comedians mock island over Elton John
Kristy Ramnarine

Tuesday, March 27th 2007



US cable station VH1's show, Best Week Ever, has made a mockery of Tobago, amid calls by pastors in the sister isle to ban Sir Elton John from performing at the 2007 Plymouth Jazz Festival.

It was only on Sunday that the pop star performed to a sold-out audience of more than 20,000 fans at New York's Madison Square Garden to celebrate his 60th birthday. Former US president Bill Clinton introduced the veteran artiste to a standing ovation.

For half-hour each week, the VH1 television show makes fun of the week's current events and pop culture. The producers use news, music video, television and film clips to provide ample evidence of how silly celebrities, politicians, sport figures, and others caught in the news spotlight can behave at times.

Tobago was in the spotlight last Friday, when the controversy over John's upcoming performance was featured among other clips of international celebrities.

In a clip called "Performance Anxiety", the narrator said the "country" of Tobago was scared to let John perform because he would turn the population into gays. This was accompanied by photos of Caribbean residents having their "Best Village-type" folk wear replaced by stereotypical homosexual outfits.

Then two comedians joked that Tobago had not yet recovered from the time American drag performer Ru Paul had sexual intercourse with the president and that "To-bay-go" or "To-bahg-o's" problem was not "gays" but that no one knew how to pronounce the name of the country.

However, the ridicule does not stop there.

International web loggers and bloggers are also calling for tourists to boycott vacationing in Trinidad and Tobago.

A web log posted by Chuck Yarborough, a Plain Dealer columnist, read: "If you're looking for open-minded vacation spots, you might want to cross Trinidad and Tobago off your list. Word out of England is that there is a movement afoot in T&T to scuttle Sir Elton John's headlining turn at the Plymouth Jazz Festival, which runs Friday-Sunday, April 27-29 in Tobago.

"With that kind of welcoming committee (and with apologies to author Erskine Caldwell) Sir Elton might want to rethink any trip along Tobago road."

Blog websites supporting John had many comments from persons, among them: Snarky Gossip: "So who knew? Going to a concert apparently makes you gay. I have one Elton John record, maybe that's the reason behind why I am tempted to kiss other girls, wear a mullet, and try on many, many sleeveless plaid flannel shirts. OR MAYBE PEOPLE ARE JUST IGNORANT @$$ CLOWNS. I'm going with that second one."

Suite 101: "I'd like to initiate, if no one else has already, an official boycott of Tobago by all performers. Any country whose church leaders try to block an Elton John performance because they fear his mere presence on the island will turn residents automatically and magically gay is too backwards to deserve any cultural visits by artists from around the world."

There are even more far reaching consequences as online groups are now calling for a boycott of the island by vacationers, and as an island that is trying it’s best to develop a tourist industry this is quite a negative blow to Tobago. Judging by the fact that accommodation and V.I.P. tickets to the Jazz festival are already sold out, in addition to the fact that there are no flights to Tobago that weekend; the Jazz festival is being heavily patronized by many people who are apparently not afraid of being turned into homosexuals.

My personal thoughts on the whole issue is that these religious leaders would better serve their time focusing on crime, H.I.V., teenage pregnancy and incest in Tobago rather than a man who will only be on the island for a few days to do what he does best; give a good show!

And the Grammy goes to....

Someone sent me this link to an online petition for a Soca/Calypso category at the Grammy Awards 2009. Now, I have no idea if this is genuine or not but I signed the petition any way since I believe this is a good fight. If they can have a nomination for Polka music at the Grammy Awards why not for Soca/Calypso? Machel’s concert at Madison Square Garden, which was sold out twice on the same night, is a very strong indication that “our” music is gaining in popularity and reaching out to more diverse audiences apart from West Indians. To understand why some genres of music are left out of the Grammy’s Wikipedia has this to say about the Awards:

“The Grammy Awards have been criticized on numerous occasions for being only devoted to mainstream music and for not highlighting alternative groups and artists. This has also lead to the speculation that The Grammy Awards are controlled and manipulated by major record labels.[citation needed] Evidence for this is limited, though the lack of non-mainstream acts being nominated for awards has supported this speculation.”

To be honest with you, I do not look at the Grammy Awards apart from the pre-shows to see who shows up and what they are wearing. The show is boring, predictable and “safe”. I am one of those persons who prefers MTV’s Music Video Awards instead. However a Grammy Award comes with its own merit, much like wining an Oscar and I remember the first time both Rap and Reggae music were given their own categories at the Grammy Awards, which was a huge step for music considered too “black” for the Grammys. Even so, the nominees and winners for either category have still been chosen from among rappers who are not hardcore (has Tupac ever won a Grammy?) and popular reggae singers like Sean Paul.

I think Soca/Calypso music has made some inroads into American pop culture, albeit not what would consider true to the art form like Baha Men’s “Who let the Dogs Out”, since Kevin Little did have a lot of airplay for his songs. To tell the truth I would really be disappointed to have a Soca/ Calypso category at the Grammy Awards and have Kevin Little win over someone I think is more deserving but less popular to main stream audiences. But I guess just having the category would be some achievement in itself, and that is what this petition is all about.

You can get more information about the petition by checking out this link and lets all hope that this is not just another bit of spam and our signatures can make an impact someday.
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