Monthly Archives: October 2015

Carnival Documentary Premieres in Brooklyn

Caribbean Awareness Committee (NY) Presents:

“Our Soul Turned 

Inside Out!” 

a NY premiere film screening


Our Soul Turned Inside Out,” a documentary film that examines traditional Carnival characters created in the 19th century crucible of slavery and emancipation and the psychic impulses behind them, will have its New York premiere on Friday, October 30, 7 pm at Medgar Evers College auditorium, 1650 Bedford Av. Brooklyn. 

The film, which runs approximately one hour, focuses on traditional carnival characters – the Pierrot Granade, blue devils, stick-fighters and jab jabs – highlighting the depth of conflict, physical and verbal aggression, inherent in these contested cultural forms. The film connects Trinidad and Tobago’s mas to the J’ouvert traditions of Haiti and Grenada and explains the changes over time in the psychic imagination of mas and why these practices persist.

The film, produced by the Carnival Institute of Trinidad and Tobago (CITT), directed by Mary-Ann Brailey, written by noted filmmaker Dr. Kim Johnson, was well-received at the September 2015 T&T Film Festival. This special screening is being presented by the Caribbean Awareness Committee in conjunction with the Medgar Evers College Film & Culture Series and theCITT.

Roger Toussaint, former president of the Transport Workers Union Local 100 and a member of the Caribbean Awareness Committee, said: “At a time when there is a kind of degeneration of some of our of deep-seated cultural traditions, it’s comforting to know that the CITT and the filmmaker are focused on recapturing and unsilencing the true spirit of  carnival…. This film goes a long way in documenting and celebrating cultural retention and the sometimes hidden connections between working class communities exhibited in traditional mas.”

The film’s screening comes at a very critical moment as the J’ouvert celebrations and the Brooklyn Carnival are under severe attack by hostile forces committed to silencing and marginalizing the Caribbean community which has been a mainstay of Brooklyn’s cultural landscape for the last forty-six-plus years.

The Medgar Evers screening will be followed by a Q & A session around the survivability of traditional carnival in the Caribbean and NY with a panel comprising Dr. Kim Johnson, Director of the Carnival Institute of T&T and Roland Guy, ole mas player in the Brooklyn Carnival since its inception and winner of WIADCA Ole Mas and J’ouvert International Competitions, with Toussaint moderating. Admission to this screening is free and open to the general public.

The film’s trailer may be accessed at:

For further information contact Caribbean Awareness Committee at: or call 718-532-6347







There are non-material forces, which cannot be measured precisely, but which nonetheless carry weight.”

– Umberto Eco

The evidence shows that this is how the murder was committed”

– From “A Fratricide”– Franz Kafka


In this great future, you can’t forget your past”.

-Bob Marley

The First Mourning – William-Adolphe Bouguereau

The First Mourning – William-Adolphe Bouguereau


Conscience strikes ten-nineteen!

I returned to Memory where every one here had a fantastic alibi.

But Memory remembers the fratricide that crested the fortified hill.

Comrade, How do you plug a leaking memory?


An island is just a puny plot; a scar upon the water, according to Cesaire.*

Islands are too small to retain memory and hard feelings;smallness smothers the senses.

But how do you forget a blood-drenched memory?


Memory taunts a flaccid conscience and incites a moral unease.

What do you do when you wake up to Bouguereau’s The First Mourning?

Comrade, How will we wade through October’s crimson lavalasse?


*“Islands that are scars upon the water”- taken from Aime Cesaire’s Return to My Native Land.


Caldwell Taylor



“Banjo” is a 1929 novel written by Jamaican Claudius “Claude” McKay (1889-1948).

In Banjo McKay explains the Black intellectuals’ alienation.

This alienation, he suggests, is a product of a collective loss of folk tradition and folk knowledge.

Dem Rastas got it well right: real thinkers ‘ave to be “rootical”.




War down a Monkland!

War down a Morant!

Morant Bay War - Artist Conception (Artist unknown)

Morant Bay War – Artist Conception
(Artist unknown)

The two lines from a Jamaican folk song [cited above] recall the “war” – the so-called “Morant Bay Rebellion” which opened on 11 October 1865.

The rebellion came just three decades following the Abolition of Slavery in Jamaica and the British West Indies. The Abolition brought an end to chattel slavery and inaugurated “wage slavery”. The Jamaican people sought “full free”; the island’s colonial Governor Edward John Eyre and his British overlords in London were militantly opposed.

The Colonial Administration was very well- armed , and their fire was used to “quell” the resistance: hundreds were killed, many more jailed.


George William Gordan

And Jamaica’s colonial courts hanged George William Gordon [1820-1865], Paul Bogle [1822-1865] and dozens more. Independent Jamaica has elevated the two men to the status of “National Hero”.

Paul Bogle

Paul Bogle

The Morant Rebellion inspired reggae band Third World to compose “1865” aka “96 Degrees in the Shade” [1977], an anthem that recalls the bloody event.

“96 Degrees” – Third World

The Morant Rebellion is also commemorated in the Jamaican novelist V.S. Reid’s “New Day” , first published in 1946.

There exits many more literary salutes to the heroes of the rebellion.

The Rebellion [and its savage repression] caught world attention and Governor Eyre was recalled.

Jamaican novelist V.S. Reid's “New Day”

Jamaican novelist V.S. Reid’s “New Day”

Eyre’s recall was opposed by many: novelist Charles Dickens, for instance, was among the governor’s supporters.


Thomas Carlyle “Occasional Discourse on the Nigger Question”

Historian Thomas Carlyle was a “strident” supporter of the governor. Carlyle’s support is robust and racist in his 1849 essay entitled “Occasional Discourse on the Nigger Question.”

Jamaica’s Morant Bay action reminds of Grenada’s “Laborers March” on Sauteurs of January 11, 1848. Both actions were responses to colonial oppression.




Caldwell Taylor
October 11, 2015

BIGDRUM…..beating out our stories.




David Mitchell “Play(s) One” for Black Stalin

stalin1David Mitchell “Play One” for Black Stalin


Long before I was able to analyze the lyrics of Stalin, no Black Stalin, I had to deal with the image of the man. I had to see myself in him and not Michael Jackson.

Long before I was strong enough to deal with the individuals in his stories, I had to deal with the blazing intellect inherent in the themes of the Kaiso.

Born to two pan lovers on “Lavantie Hill”, I probably met Winston Spree Simon but was too young to understand his importance. It was only Stalin and Boogsie who gave me Spree to hum, giving me the opportunity to “play one” thousands of times in the shower, in the classroom, in the office, for my children and now my grand children. It was me that had to wait on Dorothy because there was more to consider than wining and partying.

As a Caribbean Man in a foreign land, Black Stalin made us to understand that despite our favorable surroundings, we are still charge with maintaining our values.

We are still charged with the impossibility of making a living and thriving under almost impossible odds.

And yet we are commanded to give it all away so that our community could survive and grow.

Roy Cape and Black Stalin share one of their many happy moments

Roy Cape and Stalin share happy moment

I often wonder about the many observations through song and lyrics that he didn’t have an opportunity to record for us. I always sensed the urgency in all that he did – how he was loving us all along.

However, I am grateful for all that he is still able to do and I can at least say thank you. That’s what Black Stalin means to me!



David Mitchell is a dedicated Black Stalin fan and an avid supporter of the kaiso art form.

List of Nominees/Inductees for Sunshine Awards Hall of Fame

BDN Interview Sunshine Founder Gil Figaro


Frankie McIntosh – St. Vincent & the Grenadines

Frankie McIntosh

Musician, Arranger, Producer and Teacher

McIntosh, a national of St. Vincent and the Grenadines was introduced to music at the age of 3 by his father, saxophonist, Arthur McIntosh who founded the popular Melo Tones Orchestra Band in the 1950s in St. Vincent. By age 14, Frankie founded the Frankie McIntosh Orchestra which included some of his school mates. In 1968, Frankie migrated to the United States to pursue a degree in music at Brooklyn College in Brooklyn, New York. He also completed a Master’s Degree at New York University in 1978. Research has revealed that since 1968, Frankie has produced and arranged over 2,500 songs. Frankie describes his music as the vehicle to sustain his continued growth in the various disciplines of life. He is forever studying the relationship between speech rhythms and melodic rhythms.


Godfrey Augustine – Grenada

Show Promoter and DJ

Godfrey Augustine

For the past twenty years, every Grenadian knows of Godfrey Augustine owing to the love and respect he has shown for the calypso art form. He is the disc jockey who brings the calypso over the radio air waves to them daily, explaining at the same time the meaning of the lyrics and the relevance of the song to music in general and to world themes in particular. Besides playing calypso daily, he searches his historical, lyrical bank to find calypsos to educate the youth and other academics who are searching for knowledge. In addition, every year, Grenadians look forward to his super calypso concert production whereby is featured the leading calypsonians of the Caribbean.


Pelham Goddard – Trinidad & Tobago

Musician, Producer, Arranger, Songwriter

Pelham Goddard

Playing piano from the age of nine, Pelham learned to read music via a correspondence course from the Berkley College of Music in Boston. He launched his professional career in 1967, as organist for the Peter De Vlugt Orchestra. For over three decades he has made a lasting impact as a songwriter, arranger and producer. He arranged and produced many hits for many calypso and soca artists including David Rudder, Christopher “Tambu” Herbert, Super Blue and Calypso Rose. He has also arranged and produced many radio and television jingles. (By Craig Harris)


Peter Blood – Trinidad & Tobago



For the past forty years, Trinidadians have grown accustomed to the name Peter Blood; it is a name linked to every aspect of entertainment in the twin-island state. Peter has covered calypso, steel band, parang, jazz and gospel music in all the leading newspapers and journals since Independence 1962, writing in a style that makes readers become participants in the event itself. His description of ethno-musicological events allows readers to feel that, having read “Bloodline,” they can narrate to anyone what took place at the event itself. Besides being a journalist of the Arts, many artists in Trinidad and Tobago rely on Peter’s evaluations to improve their offerings on stage, especially that of carnival.


Dr. Allister Francis (Posthumously) – Antigua & Barbuda


If today the independent state of Antigua can boast about education, it is because of the interest, commitment and work of one man in the main: Dr. Allister Francis. He is the one who having been educated at Howard University in the United States, returned to Antigua and single-handedly revolutionized education in the state. Starting with primary education, Francis organized various departments on the island to form the Antigua State College in 1977 and expose Antiguans to secondary education. He furthered his educational thrust by adding the training of nurses to the Institution as well as opening up the College to Advanced level GCE in 1978, thereby moving from 150 students to over 1000 souls in the first decade. Today the Antigua State College, because of Dr. Francis, introduces students to first year courses as part of their degree programs of the University of the West Indies.


Professor Dr. Gordon Rohlehr – Guyana / Trinidad & Tobago


Professor Gordon Rohlehr has spent over forty years in the Department of English at the University of the West Indies at St Augustine, Trinidad. He is internationally recognized for his ground-breaking work on Caribbean literature, calypso and culture. In fact, he is often described as the world’s leading authority on calypso, tracing its development over the last two hundred years from its West African origins and studying the vast amount of recorded material produced by generations of West Indians, particularly in Trinidad and Tobago. He wrote more than 100 essays on West Indian literature, oral poetry, calypso and the popular culture of the Caribbean. He has been the recipient of the University of the West Indies’ Vice-Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in the combined fields of Teaching, Research, Administration and Public Service (1995).


Rudy “Two Left” Smith – Europe / Trinidad & Tobago

Performing Artist – Steelpan

Rudy “Two Left” Smith

Smith Played his first pan at age six and was influenced by many great panists including Forsythe, Alfred “Sack” Mayers and Alrick “Chick” Springer. By the time he was a teenager he was playing in major competitions and festivals. Through the years he perfected his unique style by studying jazz luminaries: Milt Jackson, Bobby Hutcherson, Oscar Peterson and John Coltrane. Rudy left Trinidad in 1962 and toured Germany, Sweden and Norway where with other Trinidadians that he met in Europe, he formed a band playing Jazz on the steelpans. Today he is regarded as an expert in the world of Jazz and travels the world performing for audiences of various cultural backgrounds.


Leon “Smooth” Edwards – Trinidad & Tobago

Arranger and Producer

Leon “Smooth” Edwards

Arranger for eight-time Panorama Champion Massy Trinidad All Stars. Smooth started his musical journey playing the pan at age 9. At 16, while still at high school, he joined Trinidad All Stars. Through the years, he developed his talent and skills to become a major force in steel band competitions throughout the Caribbean. He toured Nigeria with Trinidad All Stars in 1977. His greatness as a “smooth” arranger, par excellence, will be forever admired by all music lovers. Today, besides being a pan player and steel band captain, he lectures to undergrads at the University of Trinidad and Tobago.


Winsford “Joker” deVines – Trinidad & Tobago



Winsford ‘Joker’ deVines is undoubtedly one of the greatest, calypso songwriters of our time. His compositions span from political and social commentaries to sex and humor. Over the past 50 years, his compositions have been performed by many calypsonians including the Calypso King of the World, the Mighty Sparrow, Crazy, Baron and Machel Montano. Many of his compositions have become classics of the calypso art form and are now regarded as national treasures of Trinidad and Tobago and by extension the Caribbean.


Russ Henderson (Posthumously) – Europe / Trinidad & Tobago

Performing Artist – Piano and Steel band


Russell Audley Ferdinand “Russ” Henderson MBE was a jazz musician on the piano and the steelpan. He is most widely recognized as one of the founding figures of the Notting Hill Carnival in London, United Kingdom. In 2006 Henderson was appointed a member of The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire for Services to Music. On Friday, 24 August 2012, just prior to the Notting Hill Carnival weekend, he was honored with the unveiling of a blue plaque in Notting Hill at the junction of Tavistock Road known as “Carnival Square”, to honour his contributions to the development of Carnival. Russ led the first carnival parade in 1965. He is also credited with helping to transform the Notting Hill Carnival into a high, revenue-producing, International event. Russ departed for Heaven at age 91, on August 18, 2015.


Erna Letemps – Haiti

Performing Artist, Teacher, Public Servant

Erna Letemps is a singer, actor, playwright and producer. In January 2004 Erna was honored to celebrate her county’s bicentennial of the Haitian revolution. In fact, she also performed a duet with the Calypso King of the World on the CD titled “Happy Birthday Haiti.” This CD also featured, Susan Sarandon, Danny Glover, Gil Figaro and the late Ossie Davis. Her recent projects include the writing and production of two successful plays – “A Different Kind of Christmas” and “Guilty or Not Guilty.”


Youssouf Koumbassa – Guinea, West Africa

African Dancer


Born and raised in Guinea, West Africa, Youssouf Koumbassa began dancing at the age of six by studying and emulating the members of the National Ballet and the leading dancers of the many local and regional dance companies in Guinea. For thirteen years, he traveled extensively throughout West Africa, Japan, Bangladesh, India, Holland, Hungary, Russia, Korea, Libya, Saudi Arabia and the United States with the Ballet National. He is now globally known and sought after as the African dance teacher from Guinea.


David and Chandrakantha Courtney – India/Houston

Performing Artists


David and Chandrakantha have been performing on the tabla since 1972 after spending a number of years learning the instrument in India. They perform extensively on stage, TV, CDs, and radio, in India, Europe and the United States. In 2009, they were designated as “Cultural Jewels of India” by the Indian Cultural Centre of Houston.


Sharlene Flores – Trinidad & Tobago

Performing Artist


Sharlene Flores joined the famed Parang Group, San Jose Serenaders in 1975 (40 years ago). In 1978 she became the lead singer of the group. In 1982 the band “Flores De San Jose” was formed and with Sharlene as lead singer they immediately became a major force of Latin Parang Music. Parang is a popular folk music brought to Trinidad by Venezuelan migrants who were primarily of Amerindian, Spanish, and African heritage, something which is strongly reflected in the music itself. Parang is widely performed during the Christmas season.


Rawle Gibbons – Trinidad & Tobago

University Professor, Researcher, Writer and Dramatist


Rawle Gibbons is a writer and dramatist. His Calypso Trilogy of plays was a landmark in the exploration of calypso, history and politics on stage. He was the first head of the Centre for Creative and Festival Arts at the University of the West Indies – St. Augustine, a post he held for 20 years. Though recently retired, he continues to research Calypso, Orisha and the festival arts in the Caribbean with an eye for their dramatic components. His abiding passion is education through drama and the folk and popular art forms. He recently produced a dramatic piece “The March to Caroni” which documents the events of the 1970 Black Power Revolution in Trinidad.


The SUNSHINE Awards Organization’s mission is to recognize excellence in the performing arts, education, science and sports. The 27th Annual SUNSHINE Awards Program is sponsored in part by United Airlines, “the preferred airline of the SUNSHINE Awards Program,” Alizé, National Staffing Associates, All Star Motors and Essex County Towing, and Trini Breakfast Shed. The black tie event will begin with a cocktail reception at 5:00pm followed by the presentation of awards and a live show. Tickets can be obtained on the SUNSHINE Awards website at Sun Shine Awards or by calling 201-836-0799. The SUNSHINE Awards Program is hosted by Errol Fabien and Nikki Crosby.



BDN Interviews Sunshine Awards Founder Gil Figaro

BDN Interviews Sunshine Awards Founder Gil Figaro


The SUNSHINE Awards will usher in its 27th annual event October 3, 2015 at the AXA Equitable Center , NYC. Founded and produced by Gilman Theophilus Figaro (Sr.), this Caribbean institution is endorsed by the (National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS), the organization that produces the Grammy Awards, and the United Nations. The New York Carib News regards the initiative as a “cultural bridge from the Caribbean to the world for the 21st century.” Big Drum Nation sat down with Mr. Figaro on the eve of this weekend’s event.


Gil Figaro and Trinidad and Tobago High Commissioner to Uganda Patrick Edwards at a previous Sunshine Awards

Big Drum Nation (BDN): The Sunshine Award recognizes individuals and groups for ___________?

Gil Figaro (GF): The SUNSHINE Awards was founded 27 years ago to recognize excellence in the performing arts, humanity, education, science and sports of the various Caribbean countries.  Over the years, the program has expanded in depth and breadth with a global view including countries from Africa, Europe, South America, Central America and India.

A special feature of the program is the SUNSHINE Awards Hall of Fame. In addition, “The Friend of the Arts” Award is given to individuals who have made substantial contributions and demonstrated a commitment to the various art forms of the aforementioned regions.  The SUNSHINE Awards “Corporate Award” is presented annually to an organization for its involvement and social commitment to any of the various regions and/or their American communities.

BDN: Are we at all indebted to the so-called “makers of our culture?” 

GF: We should always recognize those who contribute to culture and those who perpetuate cultural heritage. Cultural heritage speaks volumes of a people. Very often we tend to forget those who build highways – with so many lanes – for us. That’s why the SUNSHINE Awards was founded – so we don’t forget those who brought us this far………….

BDN: Are women sufficiently recognized as “culture makers?”

GF: There is no doubt that women are the true culture makers.  Reflect on our grandmothers – can you imagine what our world would be if our grandmothers did not preserve it for us? And they preserved it with it rich culture – spiritual and otherwise. I vote for recognizing women more for their contribution to culture.

BDN: Finally, Can you give us a peek into this year’s event?

GF: This year’s event will be a great one – educational and entertaining. There will be performances from Africa, the Caribbean, Europe, India and South America.

Stay Tuned for the List of Awardees, Friday, October 02.

Sunshine Awards

For more info email to: