By: Annalyn Laura-lee Joseph
Dominica State College student
The Caribbean by many, is often described as a Melting Pot, which is thought of as a place where a variety of races, cultures, or individuals assimilate into a cohesive whole. To deconstruct this a bit, the Afro-Caribbean culture is one of the most predominant cultures found in this melting pot and comprises of many Art forms. One of the most prominent being Calypso. In fact, Calypso is a style of Afro-Caribbean music which originated in Trinidad and Tobago from African and European roots respectively, and has been transplanted into many different Caribbean Islands ever since. It serves as a medium for social commentary, has a precise ability to capture the political pulse in a country and impeccably masters the technique of innuendos and satire. Narrowing it down to Dominica, calypso has become so ingrained into its culture, that intellectuals have taken up the responsibility of comprehending its authentic meaning and creating interactive discussions amongst citizens. As a student of the Dominica State College, I too enjoy dissecting these calypsos and finding out their true purpose. This year, A calypsonian by the name of Tasha Peltier, galvanized me with her calypso “Free Lunch”. The message in this Calypso proves to be very pertinent in today’s society and also proves to
be very thought-provoking.
Indeed, there is no such thing as a free lunch, which is the way in which Ms. Peltier phrases it. Although I am currently enrolled as an English Major, I also Pursue an Economics Associate’s degree at the Dominica State College. Fundamentally, Economics has taught me that the price
of something is what you give up to get it. In other words, it is compensation given by one party to another in exchange for goods or services. To be more precise, the phrase “No such thing as a free lunch”, was actually founded by various economists in their research. Whereas this definition may seem irrelevant, it actually explains the meaning of this Calypso. Many people and by extension society, hold a preconceived notion that many things in life are in fact, free. This is because no monetary value is attached to it and thus, it is deemed as such. However, money is not the only medium of exchange in today’s society, so to speak.
This Calypso goes deeper than just a free lunch. I reckon that it refers to deeds which are done by individuals for other individuals and are regarded as gestures or even kind acts. Yes, it comes at no monetary cost, but still, the price must be paid. It may be paid by giving up your
dignity, your freedom or even your ability to think and cognize. Many times, these acts are done with ulterior motives, which recipients are not cognizant of and end up utterly flabbergasted when they realize the very price they paid or have to pay in return. Which is why Ms. Peltier, pleads in the chorus of her Calypso for people to be sagacious and obliterate their credulity in such circumstances. In my opinion, weaknesses were not visible In the literary piece.
In the first verse of the her song, she gives such instances where she was innocently fooled by kind acts and did not even realize it until later. With age, she notes that she had become more aware of the ulterior motives of people, for example when she was given gifts and was expected to proffer something in return. She Reminisces on her younger days and wishes she had not been so gullible and foolish in those instances. Ultimately She recounts the lesson she had learned through her amassed experiences in life. This lesson being that nothing in life comes at a free cost.
In her second verse, she continues along the same course with this lesson. She lists the various prices that people must pay when they receive presumably heartfelt gifts and gestures from other people. She appeals to individuals that the price may be unimaginable but is in fact reality.
For example a lunch bought for a woman by a man must be remunerated by her giving up herself as “ dinner” to him. She then brings into light the issue of sexual abuse of children in Dominica which is highly encompassed by this very sensitive topic.
The third verse of the song however, seems to be moving from just focusing on the individuals but to focusing on countries who also encourage this issue. She speaks of destitute countries who accept financial grants from other countries, but pay the price later when the tables of the
Donors turn in relation to their financial standings. She also raises two hypothetical situations in which Dominica might have to pay a price for accepting financial help and grants from other countries in the future. The first one deals with the diplomatic relations that Dominica has with
China. She indirectly states that the necessary affiliations that China has with Dominica could be used to China’s advantage in the event a war eventuates. Dominica then, could be used as a base to assist with military purposes. The other hypothetical situation lies on the Petrocasas or
houses which were funded by the Venezuelan government a few years a back. She goes on to say that if Venezuelan refugees were to come to Dominica, the authorities would never be able to turn them away, due to the help Dominica received from Venezuela. According to an idiomatic expression, one should not bite the hand that feeds them.
In the final analysis, Tasha Peltier combines her literary work with music and captures the attention of most listeners. I believe it was well written and should be not only locally but regionally recognized for its great message. Whereas my opinion is normative, I think that most people understood the Calypso in its entirety and took heed of the lesson brought out. The subject matter in the Calypso was well deconstructed and became the topic of discussion in many forums. A renowned writer once said that the true test of any Calypso is whether or not it has the ability to send one into deep retrospection or thought. With that being said, I would like to commend Ms Peltier on a job well done and I would also like urge her to continue the good work in the upcoming Calypso season in 2018.