A timely reminder

When Dr. George Roberts, he of superlative musicianship, particularly on that most beautiful instrument – the piano, raises his hands over the keys a la the genius pianist and conductor of the New York Philharmonic, the late Leonard Bernstein, there is an expectant pause. The listener knows that he is in for a most delightful treat. After all, Dr. Roberts is undoubtedly one of our finest pianists. When the good doctor, he of Apollo (the god of healing) fame bows his head, the listener knows that the soul is about to be wafted heavenwards. How big-of-a-rapture and transport, however, is anyone’s guess. After all, the good doctor appears tentative and undecided, and a soloist is nonchalantly, and deceptively so, lounging in front of the grand piano with a recording device in his hand. (See popular video and audio making the rounds)

Ah, the soloist –  a fine gentleman by the name of Arlen Seaton, and arguably one of our most enchanting tenors. Linisa George, a poet, writer, director, playwright, and chief consultant of BGR Media and Communications Inc., describes him thusly in her swooning piece entitled, ARLEN SEATON AND THE VOICE DRIPPING WITH MELODY AND MOLASSES: Arlen Seaton’s voice is powerful and calming. It forces you to drop everything you are doing and just take it all in. Seaton is an Antiguan singer-songwriter whose easy-as-molasses vocals will charm any listener. In his bio, he describes his sound as ‘not the familiarity of a lyric heard before, but of the stranger sitting beside you in a bar, that you feel like you’ve known all your life’.  Arlen’s nostalgic style of storytelling through song owes a lot to his West Indian heritage of calypso and folk tales as well as the influences of eclectic artists including Damien Rice, John Legend, Coldplay and the Cinematic Orchestra.” Hmmm!

Anyway, when the good doctor finally drops his hands to the keys, it is a delicate touch, and he gracefully tickles the ivories with a brief and seductive introduction. Then Arlen comes to life and throws his head back, belting out King Short Shirt’s PULL TOGETHER with a celestial and cerebral appeal to our better selves. He exhorts us, in a plaintive and resounding wail, to look beyond the politicians and do right by our country – do that which the exigencies of the moment and the future demand. His unspoken message, especially after one arrives at the coda by way of a gripping, hair- raising crescendo, is that there is so much more to unite than divide us. And we must toil . . . and toil . . . and TOILLLL!!!

That classic was written by Shelly Tobitt, one of our finest calypso writers ever, and it, along with STAR BLACK, enabled Short Shirt to snag the calypso crown in 1972. Notwithstanding the fact that it was written some 47 years ago however, the message is timeless. Indeed, the way that our present administration has bankrupted our country, condemned us to broken infrastructure, horrid roads, late salary and pension payments, rogue ministers supposedly pursuing frivolous cases for spite and malice aforethought, shoddy water and electricity services, government-connected companies illegally mining sand with impunity, shenanigans at Customs, YIDA defecating all over the NEMMA, and  government officials and their friends and family partaking of the fatted calf and the fat of the land, whilst er . . . relieving (rhymes with ‘diss’) themselves all over this blessed country, the Roberts/Seaton treatment could not have come at a more urgent time.

Especially when one considers that ordinary Antiguans and Barbudans cannot even get enough clean potable water in the faucets to drink for a good er . .  ‘relief.’ We mean, something must be wrong in a country where the world economic climate is, for the most part, favourable, and more than one billion dollars of Citizenship by Investment (CIP) money has been collected, yet the administration finds itself in exceedingly dire financial straits! Sigh! Schoolchildren are saying that it is corruption! But what do schoolchildren know? They can hardly think straight, what with the lousy school meals being served up by the embattled School Meals Programme! Don’t pay the schoolchildren and their idle melee no mind!

Instead, look to the fact that you are living hand-to-mouth! Look to the fact that you cannot make ends meet, and that you have to ‘scrunt’ to put food on the table! Look at the life of quiet desperation that you are living! Look to the legion of broken promises made by mealy-mouthed candidates cum representatives. Look at the fact that you can’t find the scallywags anywhere! Look at their arrogance and callousness! Look at the unadulterated mess! No amount of happy-talk can white-wash the sad fact that all is not well in Mudville! Look at the tenuous state of affairs and resolve to PULL TOGETHER!

Interestingly, some time around 2012, another one of Antigua’s greatest calypso writers and thinkers, Mr. Dorbrene O’Marde, the chairman of the Antigua and Barbuda Reparation Support Commission (ABRSC), compiled a list of King Short Shirt’s 100 Greatest Hits. Inexplicably, he and his fellow–selectors, placed PULL TOGETHER at a middling 46 on the list. Needless to say, we vehemently beg to differ with the good ABRSC Chair and his compilation committee. PULL TOGETHER ought to be right up there in the top ten with such classics as ILLUSION, NOBODY GO RUN ME, POWER AND AUTHORITY, WHEN, TOURIST LEGGO, LUCINDA and OUR PLEDGE. But don’t take our word for it. Give a listen to the collaboration of the good Dr. Roberts, pianist extraordinaire, and our world-class tenor, Arlen Seaton, in their sublime treatment of that song. This is an instant classic – a call to arms, if you will, that will be cited and played over and over again at Independence time, and at those times (see faithful Nationals Rally, October 24, 2019), when the citizens of this fair country must set aside narrow parochial interests and partisanship, and come together to take a unambiguous stand for a national betterment. Ladies and gentlemen, we submit for your kindest consideration, PULL TOGETHER (KING SHORT SHIRT). Our commentary is italicised in brackets.

Don’t pull to pieces, pull together

That’s the way we should live our lives

Don’t hate one another; love your black brother

You help he, and he’ll help you right.

CHORUS

Don’t wait for the politicians; think about this land (Politicos only thinking about themselves)

This is your country, and you’ve got to set it right (Not YIDA, BHM, Robert De Niro et al)

Hoping and wishing won’t build this country; you got to raise up and toil day and night.

If wishes were horses, beggars would ride

Don’t wish for the changing of the tide (Our silence gives consent!)

Put your shoulders to the wheel; work, not talk is what we need (Enough talk! March!)

To build this country, we’ve got to toil day and night

Don’t sit down and wait man; get up and get man; God helps those who help themselves.

We’ve got a good country; with hard work and unity (A beautiful country, indeed)

We can make it like anywhere else.

Don’t throw in the towel; and send Antigua downhill (Sheep will get a government of wolves)

Let us raise up and work for ourselves (No GPH)

Like birds of a feather, when we stick together, we can depend on nobody else (They’ll exploit us)

Don’t blow up this country with hatred and envy

Don’t lose the substance for the shadow on the wall. (No ham and turkey at election time)

It’s not too late to repair, the damage that we’ve caused here (Voter remorse, but not too late)

Every man for his country, and God for us all!

Many thanks to Dr. George Roberts and Mr. Arlen Seaton for such a compelling and timely reminder! Can’t forget the original work from The Monarch and Shelly either!