As some of you may have noticed based on my earlier post on the John Lennon statue in Havana, I kind of have a thing for seemingly out of place monuments. We’re actually pretty good about paying tribute to our heroes in the Caribbean, be they royalty, politicians, musicians, etc., but some of the ways in which we honor them are, shall we say, curious at best.
The structure pictured here is a good example. It’s located along a lonely stretch of windy road in Rockly Bay, just outside of Tobago’s capital, Scarborough. Rockly Bay is a nice enough beach, though its grey sands and poor underwater visibility certainly keep the crowds away.
In all the times I’ve been to Tobago over the past few years, I don’t think I’ve ever seen more than 4 or 5 people on Rockly Beach at any time, and 1 of them was always my Dad who lives nearby. I’ve also never seen anyone pay even a moment’s notice to the monument, which is really a shame when you consider the people it apparently is meant to honor.
Born in Arima in 1922, Lord Kitchener gained initial fame while living in London in the 1950s. His songs provided a strong connection back to the Caribbean for the thousands of West Indian immigrants living in the UK, while also extending calypso’s popularity to a broader, global audience for the 1st time.
In 1962, Kitch returned to Trinidad and proceeded to dominate the National Panorama competition held annually during Trinidad Carnival. Between 1965 and 1976, a Kitchener calypso composition was chosen as the road march 10 times, cementing (no pun intended) Kitchener’s legendary status.
Kitchener also just happens to be my favorite calypsonian. There’s no way you can listen to a song like Dr. Kitch without smiling (or if you’re listening really closely, laughing hysterically). When I put on his music I can almost smell the dumplings and provisions cooking, the familiar Caribbean connections of my youth pouring back for me in Florida just as they did for West Indian migrants in the UK 60 years ago.
The second calypso legend remembered here, Calypso Rose, is a native Tobagonian who rose to prominence with some nurturing provided by Kitchener. If you’ve listened to any calypso in your life, it would be hard not to know her 1966 hit Fire in Me Wire. If you don’t know that one, then you probably know her 1977 song Tempo, which won for her the Trinidad Road March Competition, the 1st such honor for a female artist. She cemented her status (okay, this time the pun was intended) by duplicating the feat the following year with Soca Jam.
While Kitchener passed away in February 2000, Calypso Rose is still with us. In fact, she has a new album that you can check out at her website by clicking here. There’s also a documentary coming out on her in September, which you can preview here.
Now back to the monument; what is it? Could it be a stalled or failed attempt at starting some sort of Tobago Walk of Fame a-la the world famous Hollywood Walk of Fame? If anyone has the answer, please comment below and let us know.