Nov. 9, 2003 — A full house turned out Sunday afternoon, Nov. 2, to help the V.I. Carnival Committee and the Social Sciences Division of the University of the Virgin Islands launch Dr. Hollis "Chalkdust" Liverpool's newest book.
"From the Horse's Mouth" is a collection of interviews and commentaries with 10 Calypsonians who Liverpool feels were important in Calypso's history but historically under-noticed. Originally published in Trinidad, the book has now received an appropriate introduction to the Virgin Islands, the author said.
Community and academics came for the program in the Chase Auditorium on the St. Thomas campus and heard praises for Liverpool from a number of persons, including UVI vice provost Henry Smith, Carnival Committee executive director Caswil Callender, Glen "Kwabena" Davis, professor Gene Emanuel, "carnivalist" Lesmore Howard and main speaker Dr. Vincent Cooper. Nearly all speakers, as youngsters or young men, remembered "Chalkdust" in his performing prime, whether in Tortola or St. Kitts or Virgin Islands, and they happily reminisced — spinning 78s on a "Victrola," calypso disallowed on Sundays, steelbands with a reputation as vagabonds, Lord Pretender overlooked for a title — there seemed no end to the words about calypso music and its history.
Three of the speakers were asked to read from one of the interviews, and all three — without collaborating — chose Lord Pretender. Howard spoke of him as "griot," praise-singing, story-telling, and having no patience with faulty or foolish singers. Liverpool reinforced their choice in his words, reminding that Pretender felt calypsonians should write their own calypsos.
Liverpool quoted Derek Walcott, who had a fascination with calypso, calling calypsonians "simple angry but laughing men." It was joy, Liverpool said, that motivated him to write this book.
Further, it is important to counteract the eurocentric, that historians must collect all versions in the search for historical truth. Moving outside his obvious love of the topic, he offered three items that should be addressed in the community:
— first: Elder calypsonians, many of whom live in poverty, can be of great value to teaching the Caribbean in schools.
— second: There should be created a calypso archive, with all recordings, books, and programs.
— third: A foundation, government or private, is needed to provide grants specifically within the Caribbean for calypso research.
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