Monthly Archives: September 2015

Producer Dalton Narine’s Black Stalin Moment

Producer Dalton Narine’s Black Stalin Moment 

By Dalton Narine

2011-02-12-1-1_B_DR_STALIN_5I was working on the Mac several weeks ago when an email from a friend in Cayman [Islands] flew in.

The pride of pan in Point Fortin, Jah Roots. Photo: TONY HOWELL

The pride of pan in Point Fortin, Jah Roots.
Black Stalin: “Roots play a lot of Black Stalin music.”

“Pan on D Avenue Live on TV,” it said. So I clicked the link, and the remainder of the night enthralled me like no other in recent memory.

Each band played two songs, one of choice and a Black Stalin composition. So I figured the pan-affair was a huge hug and big-up to the resident bard.

Well, I took it all in till 1.30 a.m., and though the band’s songs engaged me, Stal’s repertoire made such an impression that I wondered why steel bands brushed aside foresight and plain loyalty all these years in their search for hip-swinging Jouvert music to carry the day.

Stalin on Pan is a Bomb, really. It took Pan on D Avenue to vet that. The music that night and [Unplugged] sit side by side as schooled entertainment in the pantheon of patois culture.


dscn0190-aDalton Narine, a retired features editor for The Miami Herald, is a producer/director of films about mas and Pan. They include multiple-award winner, Mas Man a film about the artistry of Peter Minshall, King Carnival, Streets of Color, and Masquerade, among others. 

Black Stalin: Unplugged… [a birthday tribute]

Big Drum Nation joins Winthrop Holder in celebrating the intellectual and artistic genius of brother Stalin. We encourage you to share your unique Stalin moment. [BDN editors]


Black Stalin: Unplugged…

by Winthrop R. Holder


“I sing for the people… I sing any place but… Just don’t tell me what not to sing.”  – Black Stalin



Few of our contemporary artistes and thinkers capture, reflect, and challenge the sensibilities of our time like Black Stalin. While his calypsos have penetrated our spheres of existence, his spoken words, which are equally inventive and biting, have not been as celebrated. In paying tribute to this Caribbean icon on his 74th birthday, we offer a snapshot of his unfiltered and uncensored thoughts.

“My soul frets in the shadow of [the colonizer’s] language.” James Joyce

In Black Stalin: Kaisonian, Louis Regis sketches a portrait of the young Leroy Calliste immersed in listening/conversation with a coterie of African-conscious, indigenous scholars/elders, who were Garveyites and Butlerites. So from early the young man, who later emerged as the Black Man, would also fret about the ravages of Empire. Bothered by our “acquired speech” he posits:

“Ah mean we get licks to learn English. So we speech is resistance language. How we talking and what the brother in Guadeloupe or Martinique talking, when you look at it is the same thing: Two Africans don’t want to talk the colonizers’ language so he end up talking patois and we end up talking something that’s sounding like English…. ‘Ah, eh-eh, Whey yuh say dey?’ That language is the key to kaiso. We have to hope that the world could see our experiences through our language. The moment it cyar happen that way, we in problems, because we wouldn’t be ourselves…. The whole world had to learn what IRE means…. Kaiso is the anthem that things run on. That’s we riddim, we everything!”

Indeed, Stalin’s spoken words anticipated fellow Caribbean poet and cultural theorist Kamau Braithwaite’s “nation language”.


Upending the educational thought police, Stalin asserts: “I see my role in kaiso as educator more than the entertainer… I maintain that Kaiso must always be used to say something meaningful… and [challenge] the powerfluff antics of the downpressors and vampires.”

About one of his ageless classics, the Black Man explains: “In my composition I always get a vehicle to carry the subject….When we look at Bun Dem, the subject is people who have committed crimes against Africa and Africans at home and abroad…. In the song all are stripped of their titles, so I didn’t say Queen Victoria or Queen Mary… she became that woman mary. This was done to express outrage against all perpetrators of injustice against Africans… The history books paint a different picture… my role as educator is to correct distortions.”

And, in speaking about the timeless character of his work, the Black Man explains: “I look for a topic that’s …for both now and down the road.  [W]hatever I write, the man out there is always part of it… This is why in my writing the ‘we’ and ‘them’ in my language is important. When I am singing the audience feels is them singing it, because I’m able in my writing to get my brothers and sisters involved in the topic…. Unlike many artists who sing to the audience, I sing with the audience…. Like ‘Black Man Feeling to Party’ wasn’t Stalin singing to anybody in the audience. The entire audience was involved…. After that song, people meet me and tell me that is years they never went out with they wife, but since that song they went out.”

No doubt, Black Stalin is one of our most inventive thinkers and one who re-interprets and contests our past and the cant of our ‘irresponsible elite’ in order for us to refashioning our futures.  Little wonder, then, that in honoring him in 2008, The Emancipation Committee (T&T) saluted him thus: “[T]o define oneself as ‘The Black Man’ is a statement of ontological significance, a declaration not of art, or politics, but of being.”

Today, as The Black Man recuperates in his San Fernando home, we hear echoes of his, “We can make it….” as he’s surrounded by an institution which he cherishes and has celebrated in song–Family.  NUFF Respect Black Man!


Winthrop R. Holder

A New York City educator, Holder has written extensively on Caribbean cultural pedagogy and on the philosophy of Black Stalin. He is author of Classroom Calypso: Giving Voices to the Voiceless (Peter Lang International Academic Publishers, 2007).


Hurricane Janet, September 22, 1955


Sixty years later today Janet smolders in the Grenadian mind. “Janet”, the Hurricane, stands for fury and apocalyptic fire!

Curiously, the word “hurricane” is derived from Harucan, the  name of a Carib “Indian”  god who shot calamitous winds.


Poet Derek Walcott acknowledges the Carib deity in a poem entitled “Huracan”.



Once branching light startles the hair of the coconuts,

and on the villas’ asphalt roofs,

rain resonates like pebbles in a pan,

and only the skirts of surf

waltz round the abandoned bandstand,

and hear the telephone cables

hallooing like fingers tapped over an Indian’s mouth,

once the zinc roofs begin wrenching their nails

like freight uncrated with a crowbar,

we remember you as the possible

deity of the whistling marsh-canes,

we doubt that you were ever slain

by the steel Castilian lances

of a thousand horizons,

deity of the yellow-skinned ones

who thatched your temple with plantains.

Janet House

Janet House were prefabricated houses supplied as relief for homeless victims of hurricane Janet.

Phyllis Shand Allfrey 1


Dominican Phyllis Shand Allfrey, 1907-1986, poet, journalist, editor, novelist and politician, was the only woman to hold  a Cabinet post-Minister of Labour and Social Affairs – in the Grantley Adams’ led Federal Government of the West Indies,1958-1962. Ms Shand held the ministerial office in the face of much heckling from some of her ministerial colleagues, who believed the woman belonged in the kitchen.
Before going to Port-of -Spain, site of the federal government,  Ms Shand published The Orchid House in 1953, a novel that has won the status of ‘Caribbean classic’.
Shand, founder of the Dominica Labour Party in 1955, died in 1986.

Effect of Tropical Storm Erika on Dominica. People look at sink holes in the road next to the capitals main market
(c) ABC News



Dominica_Flag4DOMINICA hosted the first West-Indian- led conference  to discuss the matter of regional unity. This 1926 conference was convened and chaired by Dominica’s  Cecil E. A. Rawle [1891-1938], a British trained lawyer.
Cecil E A Rawle 1968 Stamp [Dominica] Year of International Human Rights

Cecil E. A. Rawle 1968 Stamp [Dominica] Year of International Human Rights

Rawle’s law practice opened in Grenada, and during his Grenada days he was inspired by T.A. Marryshow [1887-1958], the widely-acknowledged “father of West Indian Federation”.
The  1926  Dominica conference seated delegates from the following territories:
Trinidad& Tobago, Barbados, Montserrat, St Lucia, St Vincent, St Kitts, Grenada and host Dominica.

Happy Birthday Kirani James!

Born September 1 1992, Kirani James became Grenada’s first Olympic medalist with victory in the 400m in 2012. Kriani won the 400 m at the World Championships [Athens, Greece] in 2011. He is the reigning Olympic champion, winning the 400 m at London 2012.