An opinion piece by Valini Lalla
It’s that time of year again, Carnival time in Trinidad and as anticipated, artists from across all genres come out to perform their soon-to-be hits in hopes of winning a title. This year, George Singh, CEO of Southex Promotions who are also producers of the Chutney-Soca competition have banned contestants from performing rum songs. For quite some time, we’ve heard the complaints; Chutney has only become about rum. With hits like Samaroo’s “Rum Til I Die”, Hunter’s “Bring it (Rum in D Morning) and (one of my favourites) Ravi B’s “Ah Drinka”, it’s hard to imagine chutney without the mention of alcohol.
So what does this mean? I began to ask myself, wondering what does rum signify in our community? Quite frankly, even without the mention of rum in our music, the culture of alcohol consumption will continue. So what is the end goal here? Perhaps the belief is that alcohol is an erosion of the culture and that banning it from popular culture will deter abusive behaviour. I agree, there are many social problems that arise from alcohol, addiction, poverty, domestic abuse but the solution isn’t banning it from music. After all, rum has been a part of Caribbean culture since its inception (let’s not forget that it was the sugar produced on plantations across the Caribbean by our ancestors that first enabled the rum trade).
The key word here is education. Many young West Indians grow up around alcohol, seeing their family and friends enjoying themselves at a lime or a fete. But the conversation needs to be about being safe, not banning it all together. It’s about learning how to be “safe drinkers” by knowing about alcohol abuse, not drinking and driving and knowing your limits. I’ve recently heard a few songs that mention designated drivers (like Machel’s Bottle of Rum and KMC “I’m Not Drunk) which is a start. There’s no harm in opening a discussion and talking about the realities of alcohol.
I don’t agree that taking rum out of songs will somehow change the culture, but perhaps the banning of the word this year from the competition will force some creative alternatives in chutney music that we haven’t heard in a while. I guess only time will tell but in the meantime, stay safe this Carnival season whether it be here or away!
What are your thoughts on the subject? I’d love to hear your opinion, email me at email@example.com or tweet me, @leeeniie