Call for a Cadence museum
Did you hear the news? The government of Trinidad has purchased Sparrow's memorabilia which is intended for displaying in a museum and possible sale to collectors. This is not only a way to raise funds for the ailing undisputed Calypso King of the World but also a means of preserving part of the calypso /cultural heritage of Trinidad which in turn will realize revenue for the state as visitors pay to behold artifacts of the legendary Slinger Francisco.
There are tons recordings, dvds/video, photographs, documentaries, articles, books on arguably the greatest recording artist and performer after Bob Marley to have come from the Caribbean. No other like these two artistes, have impacted and influenced lives and the culture of our people.
This begs the question: who is the artiste or artistes who have had a similar impact on our people from a local perspective and what are we doing to preserve their legacy? The first question is a no-brainer, Cadence, just as Jamaicans will shout 'Reggae!' The artists undoubtedly are these big four: Jeff Joseph, Gordon Henderson, Phillip "Chubby" Mark and Lady of song Ophelia Marie.
It may be true to say that of the four, Chubby had the greatest impact on the lives of our youths similar to the impact of Marley, Tosh and Bunny Wailer had on Jamaican youth and the cultivation of Rastafari. Chubby, did not only sing, but his life and lyrics as a Rasta-man was lived out in his songs; from "Bring Back de Milk and Honey", to police brutality and being jailed for a coconut. Apart from Chubby's unique brand of roots Cadence which dominated dance halls from the 70's to the 90's, he also has also resided in Dominica all his life and has never been in "exile" as the Gordon's or Jeff Joe's of the Cadence world.
Off island, Jeff and Gordon would surpass his impact and popularity based on their international success in the Francophone countries, the Caribbean and Africa. This is similar to what obtained in Jamaica around that very same era when Bob was much bigger outside the country while Peter Tosh, Bunny and Jimmy Cliff were the local favorites.
Well, of course, with the demise of Cadence, Jeff Joseph was able to rise to a level above all other, with his work with Volt-Face and as a solo artiste and energetic performer who aggressively marketed his talent via performances, recordings, tours and collaborations with scores of French artistes. What better way to immortalize his life and the music's legacy but via a museum which would immortalize his work?
I have echoed on several occasions, through this medium, the need for us to create such a facility or enhance the one which is said to exist in dedication to Cadance- lypso. Since most our visitors are from the French-speaking territories of Guadeloupe and Martinique, and then there is a ready market for this tourism product, as heritage tourism is big business.
Marley's museum on Hope Road in Jamaica is a big tourist attraction and so too will any museum which honors the memory of Mighty Sparrow, long after his demise. We have examples further afield as in Elvis 'Graceland; Leeds- London and the Beatles; Michael Jackson's Neverland and Memphis for Blues or Texas branded as the home of Country music.
Gordon Henderson has written a book entitled, Zuke-Land revealing the story of the birth of Cadence, Exile One, Grammax , while Gregory Rabess and Steinberg Henry have documented several papers on Creole and the Cadence music expression. Alex Bruno's publication on the development of Calypso as a fore-runner to Cadence- lypso, should not be left out from any such preservation. On display could be films, documentaries and live performances which capture major events in the life of the music including our own WCMF which was inspired by Cadence.
I once suggested the acquisition of Vena's place which intersects Cork Street and Independence Street where Dominica's most famous writer Jean Rhys once resided for such a museum. This could display not only Cadence music but also the life and work of Jean Rhys and another great Phyllis Shand Alfred. Movies have been produced on "Orchid House" with local actors and scenes. This could also be supplemented with the "Pirates of the Caribbean" sequel film here and the numerous documentaries and nature challenges filmed on the island. The Calypso House at Bath Estate is another possible location where such a facility could be housed.
The aforementioned could be a major tourist attraction which our resourceful persons as Dr. Honychurch, Steinberg Henry, Alex Bruno, Kelly Williams, Gregory Rabess, Gordon Henderson, Philbert Robin, Dr. Shakey James and Andrew Bellony Bird could all contribute knowledge and skill.
We have just commenced another year and I trust that since elections is still fresh I would like to submit to Minister Charles to consider the possibilities of creating a museum or national arts facility (for which I am sure funding can be readily tapped) to preserve the Cadence legacy; the stories and lives around the music through the lives, talent and eyes of some of the best: Gordon, Jeff, Ophelia, and Chubby.