Carnival Tuesday evening, from the vantage point of the tray of the Laventille Rhythm Section truck, I am looking across at Roger George, much higher than me on the tip-top of his own Charlie's Roots' truck.
Or rather, I am listening to him and it seems to me that he is singing for me alone, not that he has any idea that I am there, only that down below people are moving around in a swirl of Minshall red going about their business, buying corn soup and bread and shark, beer and soda water, pausing to pee, the band standing still, as always, at this enforced Memorial Park pit-stop so the Minshalites, perforce, are occupied doing their human things on the ground while, perversely, this Minshalite is deep into the divine playing out on high.
All yuh ever hear Roger George sing? Well, I am hearing him this Tuesday evening, and I, who have made it my business to hear him sing whenever there is the opportunity, find myself stunned for the umpteenth time by the variety and range that this 26-year-old brings to his craft: as gruff as Satchmo would have it, and so high that hearing him David Rudder, who is sharing the truck with him (is Charlie's Roots' truck, after all), playfully asks of this married man: 'Yuh ent have no balls?'
Between Satchmo and the high falsetto that you'd expect only from a eunuch (thanks, David), George's voice covers all the bases and he is singing his original but Beanieman- inspired chant, only, of course, Beanieman never sang anything quite like this: George singing lead as if he was not one but all of three singers.
Indeed, he catches me because I find myself looking to see who really is singing atop that Charlie's Roots' truck because, look! Roots also has not only David, who alone is more than enough, but KV Charles who alone is a star, and Kerwyn Trotman who could carry the whole damn show if all of them were to get sick.
But this evening, this moment, whether by accident or design, it is Roger's show, and show off he does, singing and scatting, doing all kinds of wonderfully impossible things with that voice, and I fancy (we are outside the hospital you see) that the sick are pulling themselves up to peer out of their windows to see and hear; and as for the dead, well, the only reason they don't wake up is because the mortuary is quite across on the Belmont Circular Road so they out of earshot, poor things!
Now, the prelude finished, George presses into the song proper and it is 'Man A Bad Man' and I tell you and I warn you that after you hear George sing that song you don't need to hear Bud sing it again; which is a helluva conclusion to come to because there is also something divine about Bud's voice, only that in sharing voice when God reached Roger he was distracted by the need to reach out and save a drowning child, so that he hand slip and George end up with his and five other people's share.
So that, friends, was one of the transcendental Carnival moments for me; but before I leave I want to leave you with a few others in, as you'll see, no particular order.
Gypsy is singing. The last night of Spektakula's calypso season. A good but not full house. The song: 'Lift Yourself Up'. The style: Soulful. The Groove: Just right. And the crowd doesn't really want him to go so he asks the willing Wayne Bruno to bear with him ('is the last night, after all; what the hell!'), and this man who has just been deposed as the reigning king gives this kingly performance, so relaxed and so unperturbed, caressing each cadence; and I relate because both of us, I know, grew up with the 'blues' and what Mr Peters is here doing, this Carnival Saturday night, is chasing not his own (Gypsy is a nationally entrenched entertainer so the crown is neither here nor there) but other people's blues away.
And I am proud of him and thank God for giving us such an all-reaching talent as this one, and later I make it my business to go round the back to thank the old 'Gyp' for all that he has given us.
Dimanche Gras night and I am home watching it on the television. Nothing moves me until the very last item which is David Rudder with 'High Mas'.
As usual David Michael is making magic but neither I nor the audience stage-side knows what a double whammy he has in store for us until he jumps off the stage and heads into the North Stand, where he continues singing and singing and singing as if he's never going to stop.
Man, the lights go up and David Michael is still singing so that TTT 'in one of the most ill-advised departures in local entertainment history' returns to the studio (to hell with deadline schedules, I would have said had I been the programme director, all yuh ent see magic going on here?). Which just shows, of course, why nobody in their right mind would ever make me programme director of anything. And I literally dive across the bed to turn on the radio where David is still singing and I know what he is doing, which is spitting defiance at his and 'High Mas's' critics; only, David is incapable of spitting on or spitting at anybody, so what he is doing is not spitting but singing defiance, threading the song with other music from his great repertoire.
Calypso Music! Yes! Yes! Yes! Miss Elsie's son is standing up, once again, for kaiso's children and when he is finished I flop down on the bed, sweating, as if like him I had just ran a musical marathon.
Carnival Tuesday night and finally Minshall's red sea is sweeping stagewards, but instead of waves there is this raging rhythm. The Laventille Rhythm Section has been becalmed for hours as the band has been kept waiting.
But now, like men possessed, they fall upon their instruments and I seem to be standing still, but all that is illusion because, in reality, I am being swept along by these singing irons and I don't know how but I find myself singing this wordless melody and I think: 'Buh, boy, Keith yuh singing in tongues'.
And I laugh this kind of a manic laugh and jump high in the air on my old pinched-nerve foot, coming down to look at how many, 10, 12? pairs of black hands and one pale, because one of the Salloum boys had asked to join us and we haul him aboard and his playing helps to give the band a zing!
And I think all yuh think is only black man have rhythm, and somehow the thought pleases me and I hear myself, sober as a Carnival judge, laughing and singing in the darkening night into the Savannah wind.
(Keith Smith was born and grew up in Laventille, East Port of Spain, and still lives there. He was educated at Fatima College in the city and at the University of the West Indies, St Augustine, and has now been engaged alamost as long as anyone else in Trinidad and Tobago in the pursuit of journalism. He is Editor-at-Large at Trinidad Express Newspapers.)