The precarious existence of many of our beloved artistes is once again underscored by the national rally to raise emergency medical funds for soca artiste Blaxx, otherwise known as Dexter Stewart.
For roughly 30 years Blaxx has been entertaining crowds, although his big break did not come until 2007 with the hit “Dutty”.
Since then he has been a much-loved fete fixture guaranteed to deliver music that excites the crowds.
Two years ago, he went all the way to second place in the Power Soca segment of the Soca Monarch competition with “Hulk”.
However, while Blaxx would seem to have a relatively successful career, not everything that glitters should be presumed to be gold in the world of T&T entertainment. The investment costs are high and many performers get into deep debt before making a breakthrough. Added to this now is the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic which has sent the entertainment industry into shutdown for the past seven months with little prospect of an imminent reprieve.
With the bottom having fallen out of the industry, it is a safe guess that many performers whose talent has been the sole source of their income are burning through whatever savings they have or living on borrowed money or the generosity of family and friends.
Blaxx, who is just approaching age 59, has many long years of entertainment to give his fans who have been rallying to his cause with whatever little they can afford. He is also blessed with good friends like Dawg E Slaughter and Fay-Ann Lyons-Alvarez and her husband Bunji Garlin who have been among those who have stepped up to help co-ordinate his medical care and organise crowd-funding for his bills. Given the seriousness of his condition, one would have to hope for rapid response to the crowd-funding initiative.
His case aside, it is shocking to discover that after so many years of public exhortation for medical insurance and post-career support for calypsonians and soca artistes no such plan is yet firmly in place. As the representative body, one would have expected the Trinbago Unified Calypsonians Organisation (TUCO) to have prioritised this issue long ago given the heartbreaking cases of calypsonians who, despite having given so much of themselves to the art form and the country’s creative heritage, have ended their days in penury and in conditions of neglect.
Four years ago, the Social Sector Investment Programme 2016 disclosed plans for a convalescence home for the care of “those who have contributed to the development of our culture… in their time of need”. It envisaged the construction of the “TUCO Home Plan” as a “state of the art centre for members recuperating from acute illnesses” which would provide nursing and supportive care to calypsonians who had been discharged from the hospital and were without support systems at home. If there has been any progress on this project beyond the words on the page of yet another government document, we would be thrilled to hear of it.
Years ago, calypsonian Explainer sang “We just can’t go on this way”. The words remain as relevant as ever today.