O’Trinidad... Love Again
Written by Simeon L. Sandiford
Thursday, 21 July 2011 22:17


"Is this still the sweet Trinidad that we know? I want an honest answer from you, yes or no"

The saga unfolded with the lyrics of a calypso entitled O' Trinidad... Love Again penned by that superior composer, Dennis Franklyn (The Merchant), which resonated with patriotism and seemed to be a truly rallying cry to her citizens. We had recorded PCS Nitrogen Starlift Steel Orchestra performing it on the Thursday night before the finals of Panorama 1998, and afterwards I got into the customary discussion with my friend, Frank Sealy. He proposed that since Ray Holman's arrangement of the melody was so beautifully intricate a choir should sing it, exactly as Ray had written it. We debated the possibilities. The Lydians? No, I said. Marionettes? Nah. Knowing that Frank preferred the more polished sound of the two choral groups he had mentioned, I thought to provoke him by suggesting the wonderful folk choir from Signal Hill, in our sister island Tobago.

We laughed and dropped the subject, but the more I reflected, the more the song seemed perfect for their style. I challenged director John Arnold to arrange the piece for the Choir's 1998 repertoire and gave him the score; reminding John that Ray Holman's music is especially significant to Sanch, his publisher.
Meanwhile, I was producing a gospel CD for Gillian Seecharan-Scott who had considered having pianist Enrique Ali as her accompanist. Sensing that he might be too classical, I suggested Felix Roach who was adept at improvisations.

Since she had only one original song, I introduced Gillian to Ray Holman who had also composed some gospel renditions. The old procrastinator was in rehearsals but offered two pieces, one without lyrics, which he had kept meaning to finalise. Gillian requested the melody, and by next morning had written lyrics for Jesus is Boss. Ray was so astonished that he promised to arrange the two songs as well as play pan on the album.

Gillian and Felix began recording For His Glory, but unfortunately Ray got an urgent call from the University of Washington to lecture for one year and he was off. Gillian didn't give up though, she recorded Ray's pieces with substitute pannist Anthony "Juggy" Rose and we completed the project.
I was planning the year's concert events, when it occurred to me that I could invite Rudy Smith, who was in New York, the Signal Hill Alumni Choir, Gillian and Felix. Ray had already left for Washington and would not be available. One day I was complaining about the many heartaches I had suffered with him. "I'm tired of getting tabanca from Ray. First it was with Plenty Lovin', Now it's this O' Trinidad thing," and that was how the concert got its name.

The Signal Hill Alumni Choir's repertoire for the shows included Folk, Contemporary, African, Reggae, Gospel, Negro Spirituals and of course, Calypso. The event was held at the auditorium of the Central Bank of Trinidad and Tobago on September 11 and 12, 1998. We recorded it live because I felt the lyrics of Ray's and Merchant's song were too powerful to be lost and I sincerely want them to be around for a long time.

Furthermore, we would save money by not having to gather the artistes again. It turned out to be a good decision. No one had yet heard the Choir's rendition of O' Trinidad. We were all blown away by the spirituality of that performance. John Arnold subsequently told me that the song is now a permanent part of their repertoire.

We were blessed for both nights of the concerts. Unfortunately there was no rehearsal on either day. On Saturday Rudy Smith was not allowed to remove his pans from the tight security of the Central Bank Auditorium for an appointment with Felix Roach whose clock had set him back by an hour. Both men were sour. Grim-faced, they almost passed each other on the Concourse until one called out "What are we going to play?" and the other responded with a shrug. "We'll improvise."

By the time drummer Mervyn de Cannes arrived with his artillery, I could only advise him to join the audience and enjoy the show. I had put matters into Divine hands.

It was easy for Felix to go solo for the opening, since his repertoire is so diverse. Rudy followed with his solo. Then they came together and something almost magical transpired. The music was so moving that in no time Mervyn appeared behind the stage side drums, followed by Signal Hill's bassist, Terry Shaw. It was a moment of pure connectivity, brought about I am sure by Divine intervention. The atmosphere became charged for the duration of three selections of spontaneous improvisation. The audience loved it. At the break, Rudy tried to make introductions. It was the first time they had ever played together, and as he came around to Terry, he paused, "Ladies and Gentlemen," he mused, "This group is so new, I don't even know the name of the bass player."

As we celebrated afterwards I decided that Sanch would produce a series of concerts and live recordings around the concept of O' Trinidad.

From that moment the project breathed its own life. Graphic Designer, Ken Scott and I brainstormed about what we felt really captured the essence of O' Trinidad, and after sorting through assorted flora and fauna, we arrived with a sudden jolt at the notion of the Jab Jab. Of course! This notorious devil was part of our Carnival and folklore. Although he seemed menacing sometimes, he was generally regarded with a kind of sceptical affection - a curious mixture of respect and fear. He was perfect for the role. All it took was the addition of a musical tail and we had it - the spirit of Trinidad, captured in two words and an imp.

O' Trinidad - how many times has one of its inhabitants sighed at her incorrigible, irascible, sportive, frolicsome ways? We, who live here have learned to identify just which characteristic of this wonderfully complex society is being lamented or praised in the nuance emitted through that special sigh. It is at once a declaration of love and a gesture of frustration at her wilfulness, and above all it signals a readiness to embrace her as she is. It seemed natural that a series of recordings designed to showcase the multicultural facets of this island should be so titled.

The series will continue to feature traditional Carnival characters whose various personae in one way or other reflect what we consider to be the essence of this irrepressible space called Trinidad.

© 1998 Simeon L. Sandiford


O' Trinidad...Love Again (Lyrics) ©1998 Sanch Music/COTT


Is this still the sweet Trinidad that we know? I want an honest answer from you, yes or no Are we still a cosmopolitan country, Or is racialism sneaking up on we? Questions that boggling mih mind, Answers that I would like to find. Our country's future is on the line, I wish that we could once again be Fun lovin' and free, like we used to be. Living was nice, but now I realise Today I have to stop and think twice.


I doh want to feel we losing it, But our behaviour showing it; Look yuh filling mih heart with pain, O'Trinidad, so beautiful, I hope that we could love again, Could we ever learn to love again.

I remember well the way things used to be,
Everybody living like one family.
Now it seems as though the table turn over,
Every headline you read spelling disaster.
Heaven knows where we heading;
In this direction we taking.
I just don't like the things we doing,
I'm asking why so much fighting.
No love anymore; wasn't so before,
But if we try, we could come together,
Pave the way for a bright future.

We only tarnishing the image and beauty,
Of this paradise that is our country;
And if you truly love your country I beg you
Let us stop doing all the wrong that we do.
We got to pray a little more,
Believing in what we stand for,
Then we can open any door.
I wish that we could once again be
Fun loving and free, like we used to be,
Living was nice, but now I realise,
Today I have to stop and think twice.

Melody - Ray Holman
Lyrics - Dennis Franklyn (The Merchant)
Vocals - Karissa Lewis