LOCAL music artistes are partly responsible for fuelling the negative way some men view women, as their lyrics portray women as sexual objects.
And despite profiting from such “degrading” music, few artistes use their voices and platforms to speak out against violence against women.
This is according to former health minister and MP for Barataria/San Juan Dr Fuad Khan.
Khan was reacting to the spate of domestic violence-related killings that occurred this past week.
On Thursday, 28-year-old Gabrielle Dubarry was shot and killed at her Fyzabad home by a man known to her.
And last Monday, in Port of Spain, preschool principal Jezelle Philip-Fournillier was stabbed to death in the presence of her young pupils by a man known to her.
That same day, police responded to a triple murder at Get Well Avenue, off Pinto Road, Arima, where Polly Ann Chuniesingh, 31, her brother, Damian Chuniesingh, and their uncle, Canadian citizen Randy Chuniesingh, were strangled to death.
A man who was known to Polly Ann was detained in connection with the murders, but later released.
In a video posted to Facebook, Khan lamented the killings and said men need to be educated and taught how to deal with rejection.
He called on men to “grow up”.
However, he said Carnival and Carnival music encourage such behaviour.
“Carnival causes it. Carnival degrades women to the extent that our men feel it is ok to be degrading a woman. All our Carnival songs, all our Carnival movements...women feel they have to get on like some kind of wajang. Carnival degrades women. Carnival songs degrade women and men feel it’s ok to degrade them too.”
Khan called on local artistes to sing more uplifting music.
“Sing something different. Grow up and stop degrading our women.”
When contacted, Khan told the Sunday Express local music artistes need to do better.
“The lyrics in local music, they talk about infidelity, they talk about nudity, about private parts and jam and wine on a bumsee...and things of that ilk. It promotes infidelity on both sides and it promotes that type of behaviour.
“So when you get the fallout of domestic violence and men’s inability to handle rejection and men not looking at women as anything other than a sexual object, it comes from the culture that is being pushed on them. I am not making excuses for anybody, but that is a great part of Trinidad culture.”
Khan said artistes don’t use their platforms to speak up on violence against women because it goes against what they are singing about.
“Nobody says anything because how could you be singing about pushing this and pushing that and ramming this and ramming that, and then come and say, ‘Well, this is just a song, I really don’t mean that’.”
He said men must learn to read the cues women give them to show when they are unhappy in a relationship and work on fixing the problems.
He advised women to leave at the first sign of trouble.
“Domestic violence doesn’t just start with physical violence. It starts with emotional abuse and then it starts to progress into actual physical abuse.
“Once you are being emotionally abused and being put down...then you have to think what is happening here? And now we see women becoming the breadwinners more and more in society today, so they have the strength now to walk away, not like our grandparents.
“Don’t give any second chances unless the man goes for counselling...but when you sit down and you stay and you feel sorry for him, you are setting yourself up for death. This thing about ‘till death do us part’ doesn’t make sense if you are in an abusive relationship. Get out.”
Music not the main cause
Weighing in on the issue, president of the Coalition Against Domestic Violence Roberta Clarke said music and popular culture may contribute to reinforcing harmful stereotypes and inequalities, and she said not enough people use their platforms to speak up.
However, she acknowledged artistes like Destra Garcia, 3Canal, Patrice Roberts and Kees Dieffenthaller, who she said had spoken against domestic violence in the past.
Other artistes have however been accused of promoting domestic violence and toxic behaviour.
Last year, soca artiste Farmer Nappy (Darryl Henry) was forced to defend his tune “Hookin Meh”, which tells the story of a man refusing to leave after his woman breaks off their relationship.
He sang, “If you want me to go, you cyah be looking the way you do. You cyah be cooking the way you do because yuh hookin meh.”
The song drew criticism from women’s groups who said it promoted a harmful message and glorified obsessive and possessive tendencies in men.
Henry, at that time, had spoken out and urged men to not take his music literally, but to walk away once a woman ends the relationship.
Clarke said musicians should be aware of the messages they are sending in their music.
“We have to be careful about the popular culture as it recreates harmful stereotypes and demeans women, and that is an annual conversation that happens in this country.”
However, she said music is not the fundamental cause of violence against women.
Clarke said there must be a collaborative effort to ensure that gender-based violence remains at the forefront of national issues.
“Our conversation is often very reactive, as it pertains to incidents in the society, whereas it has to be sustained,” she said.
Don’t blame music
Khan’s comments didn’t sit well with one soca artiste who said music is for entertainment and not to be taken literally.
Speaking with the Sunday Express yesterday, soca artiste Rome (Jerome Precilla) called Khan’s comments foolishness.
Precilla is known for risque, double-entendre lyrics in his music, including “I want the pone, Annie”, “Ah leaving yuh fuh China” and “I want Apoo see”.
However, he says music cannot be blamed for a person’s behaviour.
“I listened to songs with lyrics about killing and shooting and I was never inclined to be a killer or a shooter. So if I am singing soca music, which is a happy music, I don’t know how that could relate to domestic violence. It is a part of our culture, and I don’t think it has any relation to domestic violence.”
Precilla said domestic violence stems from boys being taught to stifle their feelings.
“When you’re growing up as a child, people tell you, ‘Big boys don’t cry’. So when men become adults, they have no way to show their emotions. Sometimes, they bottle up their emotions inside of them and it comes out in violent ways.
“What we need to do as a society is to let our boys express themselves emotionally as kids so that when they grow up, they know that it is okay to cry and speak about their feelings instead of bottling it up inside and then releasing it on a woman in terms of domestic violence.”
Asked whether he felt soca artistes should use their influence to speak up on violence against women, Precilla said this was not their responsibility.
“Our job is to entertain and to provide music for people to dance to in a fete and in a party environment. So the soca artiste is not going to sing a song against domestic violence because that is not going to play in a fete and that is not going to put you in the mood to party.
“Our role as soca artistes is to provide music for Carnival and for on the road and for people to dance to in parties. It is not our role to speak out against domestic violence with our music. That is for parenting. You can’t blame the soca artistes for bad parenting.
“Don’t depend on the soca artistes to raise your child. You need to raise your child to know not to hit women and raise your girl child not to hit a man because a lot of domestic violence issues you see is where women strike out against the men and the men retaliate. A soca artiste cannot teach your child that.”