Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : September 1st 2013 Contents B4
Sunday Guardian www.guardian.co.tt September 1, 2013
A REVIEW BY ERLINE ANDREWS
Ozy Merrique, the proponent of local
music best known for his work with
popular 90s rapso group Home
Front, was about 15 minutes into an energetic
45-minute set when he paused, sweat running
down his face under the dim light of the small
space inside Martin s Piano Bar, and asked:
"Allyuh remember me from 1994?"
The audience of about 25 supporters seated
at dark brown wooden tables, at the bar and
against one wall played along with Merrique s
often-cynical humour and made sounds in
"Good. My career only started last year,"
Whether by design or coincidence he
launched into Home Front s biggest hit, Rollin,
more popularly known as Jump Start, which
drew the most enthusiastic response from the
crowd of any song in his set.
And jump start is what Merriq appears to
be trying to do with his post-Home Front
career, promoting a new album---Twice Bitten
(Dog Eye Yampi 2)---with a series of perform-
ances at Martin s. The show last Sunday was
It was a strange mix of some of the most
progressive, modern approaches to local music
you re likely to hear with a celebration of the
roots of calypso, the art form at its most
stripped down and basic.
The duo Da Face & Enginear, dressed in
jackets and bow ties, opened the show with
their combination of kaiso and rap. What they
call "kaiflo" is a little more laid back than
The song KaiFlo samples Gypsy s Little
Black Boy and references Singing Sandra,
Scrunter and Denyse Plummer in the lyrics.
Another song, Ugly Gyal, samples Roaring
Lion s Ugly Woman and champions, like the
older track, the virtues of an unattractive mate.
The group is experimenting with ways of
distributing their music as well. CD copies of
their album, KaiFlo, were available for sale at
the concert. But they re also offering the 12-
song record through a link below the nostalgic
video for the song KaiFlo on YouTube. Cus-
tomers can download the album for free or
leave a "tip" of between US$1 and US$6
through the music-marketing Web site Noise-
Panman Derron Ellies performed a string
of calypso standards---including Portrait of
Trinidad, Mama Look a Boo Boo and Ten to
One is Murder---on the percussive harmonic
instrument or phi, in effect an electronic pan
developed by UWI engineers within recent
And Johnny King closed off the show with
some of his biggest hits, among them Wet Me
Down and Nature s Plan.
The entire night was an attempt to balance
the old with the new.
Veteran DJ StarChild provided musical back-
up for the artistes. Merrique reminded the
audience that he was the first person to win
the popular 90s lip sync/dance TV competition
Party Time with a local tune. He made the
assertion---likely tongue in cheek---that the
amalgamation of innovative young acts of
which Home Front had been a part, the
Kisskidee Karavan, was "the most important
thing to happen in Trinidad."
Along with his new record, he s also selling
a Home Front best-of.
But forging the new from the old can be a
delicate operation, as Merrique himself seemed
"So that s it then," he said after Rollin,
implying it was his last song for the night.
When the audience made sounds of objection
and surprise, he explained: "Well, people does
say that s the last good song I do."
But it s evident that Merrique still has a lot
of studio creativity and onstage charisma in
him. He entered the tiny performance area
with dramatic strides, his face covered by a
skull mask and shades. Fellow artiste Djeliba-
Janique introduced him as his alter ego Electric
Mongrel, but Merrique was made recognisable
by the tall, spiked afro rising above the mask
like dark flames.
On stage he was funny and engaging, per-
forming the Home Front hits and his new
stuff with the same enthusiasm. The bigger
response from the audience came for the hits;
but that s to be expected. The new tracks are
rhythmically and lyrically strong.
Twice Bitten could have benefitted from
beefier production, but performed live, tracks
like Roam, Feel So Good and Monster promise
to be as euphoria-inducing as anything from
Home Front. And Nigerian Money tells the
genuinely heart-wrenching story of a man
struggling with economic hardship while wait-
ing in vain for a windfall.
Merrique joked that when newfound rel-
atives in Nigeria send him the millions of dol-
lars they promised via e-mail, his next gig
would be in the National Stadium.
But, seriously, it s not hard to imagine his
outsized music and personality in such a large
A REVIEW BY BC PIRES
Few English-speaking people outside of
T&T may know that "bois" means "stick" in
French; many in the non-T&T Diaspora
attending the CaribbeanTales world premiere
of Christopher Laird s documentary, No Bois
Man No Fraid, in Toronto on Wednesday com-
ing---a day before the opening of the Toronto
International Film Festival (TIFF)---then, may
be surprised to discover that the entity credited
as the film s co-presenter, the Bois Academy,
is not an educational institute, but one ded-
icated to furthering the fine art of cracking
heads open with sticks.
The film will have its Caribbean premiere
during the upcoming T&T Film Festival (ttff).
Director Laird (who is also chairman of the
T&T Film Co, which helped sponsor the film s
marketing) is a pre-eminent name in the T&T
film and visual media industry. He was a
founder-director of Gayelle, the excellent tel-
evision magazine show that, a generation on,
remains the benchmark for local cultural pro-
gramming, and of the local television channel
it spawned; and the very name of both these
significant efforts is taken from the world of
stick- (and cock-) fighting: the gayelle, the
French word for the ring in which the action
Laird s substantial technical and artistic
gifts---and only someone entirely ignorant of
film would deny that those gifts would impress
in both ttff and TIFF---endow most of all that
is good about No Bois Man No Fraid.
It is beautifully shot, and almost as impres-
sively edited, by Laird himself. The visual sto-
rytelling is impeccable and the pacing never
lags, a particularly admirable feat, considering
how much of the runtime is taken up with
talking heads; indeed, the only technical flaws
a pedant might find in No Bois are that more
of it should have been filmed in and around
the gayelle, and that it could have been made
more forceful by being made more gory.
The film, then, is almost technically flawless;
which means that its failings are conceptual;
and the principal failure in that regard is that
the film assumes what it ought to prove: that
kalinda, or stick-fighting, is a legitimate martial
art, akin to karate, taekwondo or judo. It is
As much as we, as Trinis, may be proud of
our cultural heritage---and Laird, the Bois
Academy and the film s protagonists clearly
are deeply proud of "bois"---we ought to be
able to step back sufficiently far from our
appreciation of ourselves to concede that, as
popular as it may be in Poui Trace, St Mary s
Village, stick-fighting is not likely to be the
next new sport at the Olympics.
The film s worst moment comes when,
without any feint at irony, it compares the
antics of stick-fighters in Mayaro to the
achievements of Sir Viv Richards, probably
Test cricket s most feared and respected bats-
No one can doubt that there is bravery in
bois; but it s a long way from Viv snapping
chewing gum as he walked out to the middle
in a cloth cap to slap English, Aussie---and
immediately post-apartheid South African---
pace to the boundary, as if, in the poet Ian
McDonald s words, "he alone would turn back
It is a pity the film allows itself such indul-
gence---much of the dialogue showering tow-
ering praise on perhaps not so lofty deeds
could have been scripted by Rubadiri Victor
for Emancipation Day---because, if the sound
is turned down to silence the self-praise, the
visual conveys, startlingly, all that the force-
ripe words fail to: the courage of stick-fighters
and the huge raw excitement the sport gen-
For the pictures alone, No Bois is very def-
initely worthwhile; with the pictures alone,
at many points, it would have been even better.
"Playing stick" is thrilling, for sure, but, by
allowing stick men a place they have not been
shown to have earned, No Bois has not only
failed to raise kalinda to the "art form" it
would like it to be, it has raised the hackles
of those who might, otherwise, have been
willing, indeed, eager, to praise it.
(BC on TV returns next week.)
No Bois Man no cry
Concert series takes
nostalgia in new direction
Albums and info on live performances, check
Merriq Merrique and KaiFlo on Facebook.
A still from the film.
No Bois Man No Fraid/ Christopher Laird/
T&T/ 2013/ 84 mins/ Documentary
Links Archive August 31st 2013 September 2nd 2013 Navigation Previous Page Next Page