Ah work my finger to the bone for meh country
I squeeze blood out of stone for meh country
The people in authority mashing up meh family
So much a years that we sweat and toil
Is we blood and tears what till the soil
But we still suffering today
And we children cyah see dey way, noooo
Ah wake up in the morning and is unemployment
Ah cyar take dat
Wake up in the morning and is more retrenchment
Ah cyar take dat
When they going to stop all this humiliation
Ah cyar take dat
Wake up in the morning is more frustration
Ah cyar take dat…No! Brother Resistance.
For whatever reason, that song, “Cyah Take Dat,” has been playing in my head constantly since midnight on Tuesday.
I clearly remember the moment I received the message that the Great Griot had passed. I was watching When Sharks Attack on the National Geographic channel. There was shock, disbelief and my body got frighteningly cold as I tried to process what I had just been told.
My thoughts raced, Buh ah just talk to the man last week to get some information; how de a#s he could be dead?! I immediately called former Trinbago Unified Calypsonians Organisation general secretary, Kassman (Wayne McDonald) to verify. He answered in a daze, and not sounding as though he was asleep. He too was in shock over hearing that his dear friend had died.
When someone dies, especially a national figure such as Resistance, we consider their passing a great loss, define them as irreplaceable and lament that their absence will mean some measure of stagnation in whatever field of endeavour they were engaged.
Trust me, this is very true in the case of Resistance, who was instrumental in so much of what defines us Trinbagonians as a people. The better definitions of us, that is.
Resistance inspired countless youth over the years to emancipate themselves from being enslaved by American fads, trends and fashions, to embrace and appreciate their true identities as Trinidadians, whether of African, Indian, whatever heritage.
My very first encounter with Resistance was as a youth when one day I went to the Drag Mall on Frederick Street, Port of Spain in search of a pair of alpargatas. I walked into the culture shop he and Karega Mandela owned, I think the name was Uprising, the memory eh so intact. What grabbed my attention as soon as I stepped in was an African talking drum.
I was staring at it when Resistance came up and told me to, “Take a try. Do a ting.” He had immediately recognised my desire to play the drum and had no problem allowing this schoolboy to do so. I was fascinated by the collection of drums, craft, books, records, clothing and other items representing Trinbago and African culture and learning packed into that shop.
I began to visit regularly, hardly being able to purchase much, but always enjoying fully the live performances Resistance and Mandela would host.
Calypsonians and rapso artistes launched their new music there, mostly on a Friday evening. My first experiences seeing several artistes perform live was at that shop. I remember seeing Bill Trotman, Andre Tanker and I think David Rudder perform there. I also remember that I would hang around once Resistance was there. If Mandela was around, I didn’t stay because I was afraid of his powerfully loud voice. Lol.
Once when I needed beads to make shakers, I went to the culture shop hoping to get some there and Resistance told me he didn’t sell beads. He, however, took the time to tell me that I would get whatever I needed at a store Master Drummer Jah Jah Onilu had on Piccadilly Street. “Tell him I send you,” he said.
When I got to Piccadilly Street the store was closed, but I didn’t give up. A man gave me directions to get to Onilu’s home up in Laventille. I walked up the hill swiftly with the advice to be real careful ringing in my head.
When I got there, Onilu looked at me stunned, asking his wife, “What this Indian boy doing here?” I told him Brother Resistance sent me and he was ok with that. The man gave me a variety of beads and a couple calabash. When I attempted to pay, he refused payment saying, “Resistance send you. And yuh brave to walk up on that side,”
Discovering his identity
Resistance began to develop his own desire to know of his true identity and ancestry as a youth during his days at Queen’s Royal College. He continued this journey of self-awareness through his time at The UWI. While there, Resistance joined the Birdsong Steel Orchestra. Even after moving on, Resistance continued to be of service to the band throughout his life.
Resistance’s involvement in the Black Power Movement from as early as 15 years old is well known. This consciousness fuelled his poetry and in time his music, which was inspired by his desire to encourage others to appreciate their ancestral heritage and the cultural elements of Trinidad and Tobago.
Resistance was also inspired by Lancelot Layne whose seminal, “Blow Way,” heralded the rapso music movement and led to Resistance cofounding the Network Riddum Band. Stories that follow in these pages will elaborate on Resistance being a pioneer of the rapso movement and his positive influence on young artistes who came up between the 1980s and the present.
Resistance served as president of the Copyright Organisation of Trinidad and Tobago (COTT) and was a longstanding president of TUCO. He became a part of these organisations for one reason, to serve and that is just what he did. He served the people, the culture, the music, the nation at large. As TUCO president he gave up to his final breath and is actually still giving.
Some believed that Resistance and his team didn’t do enough in the way of administration, marketing and producing profit-generating events, but many calypsonians who had fallen on hard times have eaten, received medical care, have roofs over their heads because Resistance went into the coffers and also dipped deep into his own pockets.
Resistance’s presence will be missed for years to come, and I mean that in a tangible sense, not the figurative bump-gum we all do when a personality dies.
Resistance’s daughter, Nalo Lewis said she has lost a part of herself. I believe we have all lost a integral element of our nation.
“My father loved us all in a way that made us feel like we were the only person that mattered to him. He never judged or criticised us. Instead, he would ask questions to understand our “why?” and then he would support us UNCONDITIONALLY.
This is the first time in my life I feel so alone. I am so numb.
He was always ready with a listening ear and a firm grip ready to keep us grounded and moving forward.
He is my friend, my creative sounding board, my cheerleader, and my GPS in life,” said Nalo.
By calypso, our stories are told. Long live calypso.