MUSIC: Song: Hooper and Chanderpaul – By Dave Martins + Music Video

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“What’s your favourite Tradewinds song, and which one you feel has had the strongest reaction?” I’ve been asked that several times.  On the first question, it depends on when you ask me; some days it’s Is We Own; some days it’s Angel Wings; some days it’s Copycats. On the second question, I suspect Not A Blade O’ Grass would be the answer.

It’s interesting though that only one interviewer – a very astute Guyanese lady – has ever asked me the parallel question: “Which song do you feel had the weakest response?”  The answer to that one, hands down, is Hooper and Chanderpaul, and therewith, as they say, hangs a tale.   
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It was around the time of ethnic street clashes here, and a concerned Guyanese government official called me where I was living, in Grand Cayman, out of the blue.  “Guyanese pay attention to your music, man, so a song on this subject might help to calm things down,” was the way he put it.  My response was that my serious songs did not tackle subjects head on – Blade o’ Grass, for instance, did not mention Venezuela or border clash directly – and that I didn’t think the notion would work. But in the week or so afterwards, troubled myself by the violence, I came up with the idea of addressing the subject through an imaginary cricket match which Guyana could win only by using both Hooper and Chanderpaul – symbols of our two major ethnic groups.

I still see it as one of the most subtle double entendre calypsos I have written – a disc jockey in Antigua dubbed it “the best calypso of the decade” – and, with the song launched, Tradewinds came to Guyana for one of our frequent Pegasus poolside fetes.

The fellow in Antigua may have loved it, but Hooper and Chanderpaul landed like a ripe breadfruit in Mahaica; it hit the ground and didn’t even bounce.  I was stunned. I had been so sure of this song, and this was Pegasus poolside….I couldn’t believe I was so wrong.

There are two aspects to this.  The first is that it is proof of what I wrote in a column here recently which is that song-writers rarely mould popular opinion – we simply delve into it. Blade O’ Grass was a good song but it became a hit because it expressed the national sentiment. Conversely, Hooper and Chanderpaul, also a good song, crashed and burned because the people were not of that mind. Tellingly, you can still hear the Venezuela song on radio, and everywhere I perform, I have to play it.  On the other hand, the cricket song is dead, and audiences don’t ask for it.  That’s the first aspect.

The second one, the one that distresses me the most and is my main point here today, is that the incident reflects the depth of this rift  that pervades our culture, holding us in a state of two major divided camps, hampering and frustrating  us as a nation. Furthermore, the division remains. The attitudes behind the dismissal of the suggestion in my song, so many years ago, continue. And before someone raises it, please spare me the “politicians-created-the-division” nonsense.  Certainly it was exploited by politicians, but they didn’t invent it; it was already there. No, it hadn’t reached the cussing and beating up stage, but it was there, and many decades later it is there to some degree.  In recent times, in a trenchant column in this publication, Alan Fenty related an incident with a taxi driver reflecting the divide in stark simple terms…still frustrating us.

I vividly remember leaving Guyana on that tour a chastened man. The experience with Hooper and Chanderpaul had shown me the depth of the division between our two major groups.  Truly, it jolted me. What I said in the final line, “this place ain’t you and me, this place is all o’ we”, was wrong; Guyana is more a case of “this place is you and me.”  A sad conclusion; a bitter reality.  It’s likely you don’t remember the song that virtually died at birth; here are the lyrics:

SONG: Hooper and Chanderpaul

Ramotar and Joseph Henry, drinking two rum in Unity
planning a cricket game next day, Ramotar turn to Joe and say
We can win it in Guyana, pick Chanderpaul and pick Hooper.
The first time that the West Indies win, it wasn’t just Sonny Ramadhin
when we give England licks that time, it was Ramadhin and Valentine
and now in this time in this country, we have to use the same strategy

We must play Carl and Shiv that’s how we have to live
for us to win this game, banna
Guyana must combine Hooper and Shivnarine
this match is make or break, banna

Curry team up with metagee, Hooper and Chanderpaul
Yellow plantain and dholl pouri, Hooper and Chanderpaul
Roast cassava and fry channa, Hooper and Chanderpaul
Evening gown and shalwar, Hooper and Chanderpaul

Joe say boy I agree with you, we have to play Shiv and Hooper too
Jacket and tie alone can’t win, you have to get dhoti to join in
and in the pavilion the menu must feature roti and dumpling too

It must be Carl and Shiv, that’s how we have to live
from Waini to Canje, banna
This place ain’t you and me, this place is all o’ we
from Kaieteur to the sea, banna
Curry team up with metagee, Hooper and Chanderpaul
Cook up rice and dholl pouri, Hooper and Chanderpaul
Paratha roti and black pudding, Hooper and Chanderpaul
Pumpkin curry and green plantain, Hooper and Chanderpaul
Cumfa and Diwali, Hooper and Chanderpaul
A-line dress and white sari, Hooper and Chanderpaul
From Rosignol to Wakenaam, Hooper and Chanderpaul
Leguan to New Amsterdam, Hooper and Chanderpaul
From Aishalton to Bartica , Hooper and Chanderpaul
Golden Grove to Parika,  Hooper and Chanderpaul
This place aint you and me, Hooper and Chanderpaul
This place is all o’ we, Hooper and Chanderpaul

  •  MUSIC VIDEO

The Tradewinds Dave Martins – Hooper and Chanderpaul 

Video prepped by JamoonWine. – 2,043 views – Oct 31, 2018

Comment: Just a minor correction on the backstory. The song isn’t a lament for West Indies cricket or an encouragement to select Shiv and Carl. Guyana has a very diverse ethnic background with the two dominant groups the Afro- and Indo-Guyanese often clashing. As Dave Martins was a very influential figure in Guyanese culture, he was asked to write a song to try and get the people to put the violence behind them. He chose to use cricket players as cricket is pretty much the most popular sport in Guyana. Hooper and Chanderpaul were the two biggest names from Guyana at the time and conveniently represented the two ethnicities Martins was trying to bring together. If you listen to the lyrics at the end, Martins chooses one Afro- and one Indo- cultural icon for each line of the song in the same manner as representing them with Hooper and Chanderpaul. He’s trying to say put aside the stupid fighting we’re both a part of Guyana – “this place ain’t you and me, this place is all ‘o we”. Unfortunately the song was a massive flop and although the violence has largely stopped I believe the issue of race is something you have to tread very carefully around if you choose to visit Guyana. Martins describes the story of the song here.

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