Home / View Point / Letters to the Editor / Baldeosingh: Calypso and chutney music are not inherently sexist; and here’s why

Baldeosingh: Calypso and chutney music are not inherently sexist; and here’s why

“The fact is that almost all the calypsoes that are deemed sexist are calypsoes which, in one way or another, express the power of women over men. Growling Tiger’s “Money is King” (1935) says: ‘If you have money and things going nice/Any woman will call you honey and spice/If you can’t give her a dress or a new pair of shoe/She’ll say she have no use for you’.”

In the following Letter to the Editor, satirist Kevin Baldeosingh argues that calypso and chutney music are not inherently sexist:

Photo: Rupert “Lord Invader” Grant’s “Rum and Coca Cola,”sung in 1943, is one of Trinidad and Tobago’s most famous calypsoes.

In the ongoing commentary on Nermal ‘Massive’ Gosein’s “Rowley Mudda Count,” commenters who are calling for the song to be banned and those who are arguing for freedom of expression both take it for granted that calypso and chutney songs are typically sexist. This assertion, however, is not based on any close reading or reasonable interpretation of calypso or chutney lyrics.

Take the most famous calypso where women are the central focus, Lord Invader’s 1943 “Rum and Coca Cola,” where the chorus line is “Both mother and daughter/Working for the Yankee dollar.”

This can be taken as sexist only if you accept (1) moral condemnation of prostitution and (2) that women should not be free to trade sex for money. But one could reasonably argue that what Invader is really lamenting is the power of women to do exactly that.

Thus, Sparrow’s celebrated 1956 follow-up, “Jean and Dinah” is actually sexist because, in singing “If you catch them broken/You can get it all for nutten,” Sparrow is celebrating the reduction of these women’s independence from local men.

The fact is that almost all the calypsoes that are deemed sexist are calypsoes which, in one way or another, express the power of women over men. Growling Tiger’s “Money is King” (1935) says: “If you have money and things going nice/Any woman will call you honey and spice/If you can’t give her a dress or a new pair of shoe/She’ll say she have no use for you.”

Photo: Iconic calypsonian Slinger Francisco, better known as The Mighty Sparrow, whose 1956 classic “Jean and Dinah” is still well known nowadays.
(Copyright Soulreflectionz.com)

Growler in “Stupid Young Men” (1937) says, “The young girls today they don’t make no sport/As you slip, believe me, they put you in court,” while Attila’s “Women Will Rule the World” (1935) warns that “If women ever get the ascendancy/They will show us no sympathy/They will make us do strange things goodness knows/Scrub floors, even wash clothes.”

And Beginner’s “Second-hand Girls” (1938) bad-talks promiscuous women but admits, “Some call them bats and some call them rats/But I will call them diplomats/You hardly find one with simplicity/All have the mind like Mussolini.”

Sexism, like racism, assumes an inferiority on the part of all members of the group being denigrated. The lyrics of both calypso and chutney at best condemn women as morally inferior, and even then only on the narrow basis of sexual morality.

But the assumption that calypso and chutney as musical genres are generally sexist is not supported by the lyrical evidence.

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12 comments

  1. I don’t understand how does the writer conclude that people who are for or against the song, “Rowley Mudda Count,” asserts that all chutney and soca songs are sexist….

  2. From the beginning of the art forms

  3. Is the writer saying Massive Gosein song is similar to the ‘sexist’ Calysoes he mentioned?

  4. Dais it? What an enlightening article…

  5. May all 4 of your forthcoming children have names from the Seychelles. ..

  6. Is this calypso sexist ” Last week evening I went to the libahree /the libarian ask me what she could do for me/Ah tell she ah come to borrow ah dictionary/So she tell meh Siddong and rest awhile/While ah take a look in the file “? Calypsonian – Lord Fluke.

    • Sanimanitay… Will leave that for Eric A St Bernard or Baldeosingh!

      • Earl Best

        St Bernard or Baldeosingh, Mr Editor-in-Chief? One does not have to be an expert to say, without fear of successful contradiction, that that calypso, like “Rowlee’s Mudda Count,” is pure shit.

        “Irenie, why yuh climb up the tree? Mammy, Jack Spaniard bite me” is as smutty as the calypso cited is sexist.

    • Hahaha…. I not in dem boys class partner. But, there are all types of Calypsos. Black Prince catalogue is about woman taking advantage of him; on the other hand there are several Calypsos which make women a sexual object. The point we are missing is, there have always been Kaiso we call “ah tent chune”. Those were never meant for mass consumption. The era of social media change the game. Pre social media, Massive would have been in Kitch tent (yes, PNM Kitch) and word would have been around- “ aye, ah Indian fella have ah song about Rowley mudder count, yuh have to hear it”. And the PM, like his predecessors, would have gone to the tent and take the Picong (or warning) in strive.

      • Earl Best

        Eric, you taking this piece seriously? Please!

        A man writing in 2018 about a 2018 chutney song cites no calypso later than Sparrow’s 1956 “Jean and Dinah” in support of his view, cites no other chutney song and we are supposed to treat that as relevant scholarship?

        Sorry! For me, that is pure scholarshit, no less.

    • But for this Carnival,I hope people who dish it out can take it on their plate.