Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : October 9th 2014 Contents B11
Thursday, October 9, 2014 www.guardian.co.tt Guardian
Davis "Coco P" Deen has the durable, master
Trinidadian folklorist Al Ramsawak to blame for
his initially confusing sobriquet as impresario, stage
performer, broadcaster, poet and author.
The Southampton-based, Gasparillo-born writer
remembers one of his first London gigs and when
he was asked about the stage name for which he
would have liked to be become known, it did not
take him long to recall a few lines from his 1983 per-
formance of Ramsawak s Sermon of a Drunkard in
which comedic mention of Venezuela s "cocoa pany-
ols" was made.
"Call me Coco Payol ," he remembers telling the
Coco P tells 'tales of survival'
show promoters, only to be reminded by some lin-
guistic genius that he probably meant "cocoa panyol"
---with its convenient truncation of the word "espanol."
In the end, a potentially bothersome dispute was
averted when he decided that he should simply use
"Coco P"---no controversy over the dropping of the
a in the word "cocoa" and absolutely no confusion
over the absence of the accented Spanish "n."
Much like this introduction to the storyteller/psy-
chotherapist, it s difficult for Coco P to cut a good,
long story short. In fact, his recently-published Tales
of Survival---Caribbean Stories and Poems is also
not short on some rather tall tales.
One revered Gasparillo neighbour called "Paapy"
(with the two a s) once claimed he was part of the
grand discovery of oil in Penal in 1941. Coco P points
in the direction of Paapy s house as he sits with me
at the family homestead in the southern town. "He
was the old black man who lived out the corner dey."
It was the same Paapy who, according to Tales of
Survival, at age seven, survived a falling coconut to
the head and was, on another occasion, resuscitated
by his father after being struck on the same ubiquitous
head by a cricket ball.
Coco P moves seamlessly from Gasparillo tales to
his recent work as a psychotherapist in the British
military and his repute as a broadcaster with an inti-
mate knowledge of everything from Trini chutney
to Punjabi bangra to the latest soca.
The Coco P Web site features him on bongo drums
and with ponytail in full flight at Notting Hill Carnival
at which he is a regular feature, serving under the
Kric Krac Productions brand, as a leading MC for
Cocoyea and other West Indian bands. It s a far cry
from the sometimes solemn nostalgia of Tales of
Coco P s grounding in the Seventh-Day Adventist
Church provides him with both the roots of what
he describes as his "lyrical background" and a reflec-
tive shell from which he describes his father s painful
passage as a result of alcohol abuse and other tragic
"My father died at the San Fernando hospital of
cirrhosis of the liver at the young age of 36," he says.
"We grew up without a father, so my grandmother
who was an Adventist ... always got us to sing the
hymns, read the bible, read psalms, read something
"When you go and spend holidays," he says, "every
Friday, we would do a skit, we would recite some
poetry, sing something, dance something."
Then there were the days as a cub scout and the
Ramjohn family---as in the iconic athlete, Manny
Ramjohn. "He (Ramjohn) was responsible for the
scouting movement in Gasparillo," Coco P says of
the renowned CAC gold medalist of 1946.
He also recalls his earliest introduction to Carnival
when he and his grandmother, a seamstress, ventured
out to Guaracara Park in San Fernando to sell caps
Then there was Paapy. "The stories and poems
(in Tales of Survival) are from his point of view,"
Coco P says.
"He would tell us tales about soucouyants and la
diablesse and thing walking up the road," he adds.
In Tales of Survival, we are told of Paapy s pref-
erence for stories told at sunset when rural Gasparillo
was about to get very dark. In fact, neighbours were
known to declare him an obeah-man who had not
only survived coconuts and cricket bats but who had
wrestled with a shark, fought an octopus and survived
a fall from a "donkey cyart."
Tales of Survival reads almost as good as chatting
with Coco P in the yard in Gasparillo. Today, the
corner house stands at a busy intersection with street
lights to keep the douens at bay, except when Coco
P is in town en route to new adventures either as
Davis Deen, psychotherapist, or as Coco P, spawn
of Al Ramsawak s delightful tales.
• To read more about Coco P, visit his Web site at
Davis "Coco P" Deen
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