Tuesday, November 15, 2005
Hear the national anthem of Trinidad and Tobago
Forged from the love of liberty,
In the fires of hope and prayer,
With boundless faith in our Destiny,
We solemnly declare,
Side by side we stand,
Islands of the blue Caribbean Sea,
This our Native Land,
We pledge our lives to Thee,
Here every creed and race finds an equal place,
And may God bless our Nation,
Here every creed and race finds an equal place,
And may God bless our Nation.
Patrick S. Castagne composed the words and music of the National Anthem in 1962.
I've never been all that fond of the 'Star Spangled Banner.' It's difficult to sing, showcases one battle in one war, and focuses on one limited aspect of American culture and values. It's not a lack of patriotism on my part. I just think other songs would be more reflective of us as a united people. That being said, let me share my thoughts on why the national anthem of Trinidad and Tobago is such a good one.
For starters, the music itself carries the dignity befitting a national anthem and it sounds good played by either a traditional orchestra or a steel pan orchestra. It is in a range an average human voice can carry too!
'Forged from the love of liberty, in the fires of hope and prayer...' Trinidad and Tobago was alternately controlled by Spain, France, and Britain. It is one of the few Caribbean islands that still has a small enclave of indigenous people. It is very small, and there are none with 100% Carib or Arawak blood, but a group still exists and there is deep pride in what culture remains. The bulk of the population, roughly 80-85%, is descended from African slaves and the East Indian indentured servants that were brought to replace the slave labor lost upon emancipation. Entire villages from southern India were transplanted to Trinidad with promises of freedom once the cost of passage was worked off. These are a people with a collective history of oppression yet who maintained an indomitable spirit. Independence was gained on August 31, 1962. It is really quite a thing to sit and listen to the stories from 1962 when they are told by someone who was there for such a moment in history. It was a bloodless handover of power unlike our own revolution but the excitement over the right to determine the path of one's own nation still carries such impact.
'With boundless faith...side by side we stand.' While Trinis may be quick to criticise government (remember the roots of calypso?) and perhaps lack faith in their leaders every bit as much as we do, they still know that without unity they are doomed. When times get bad they pull together, neighbor stands with neighbor. A sense of community exists that is a great strength in the culture. We were the recipients of such warmth and generosity on many occassions. We lived at the very end of the water pipelines and at the end of dry season our water tanks were empty (water does not flow into houses round the clock so tanks are the norm for storing water to use throughout the day. As soon as neighbors realized our predicament we had every hose in the neighborhood running from 3 different neighbor's houses to fill our tank. We didn't ask for it. They asked us, 'do you have water yet?' When we said 'no' they flew into immediate action. People look out for each other and lend practical assitance not just words of encouragement.
'Here every creed and race finds an equal place.' In addition to the Africans and East Indians there are significant Chinese, Portuguese, and Syrian minorities as well as the odd Brit, American, or immigrant from other Caribbean nations. Religiously, you'll find large populations of Catholics, Anglicans, Hindus, Muslims, and the syncretic Spiritual Baptists who blend a little bit of everything. One set of neighbors was representative of most of this. The father was a practicing Muslim, the mother an observant Hindu, the childen were sent to Catholic school. Religion is not a forbidden topic of conversation, neither is it generally a thing that causes heated debate when discussed. True to Trini love of liming, more religions and cultures means more opportunites for a day of work to party (remember Divali?). Whether it is true or not, I don't know, but Trinis like to boast that they have more public holidays than any other nation on earth because each culture and religion is represented in at least one official holiday. Racial terms are bandied about very casually, but again, not in a derogatory manner. Because of the intermingling of races there is a descriptive term for just about every mixture. People refer to each other as 'dougla boy,' 'red woman,' 'whitey,' etc in a relaxed way. When you meet someone new an early question is going to be 'What's your mix?' I have to admit, I used to get a kick out of being dark enough to confound them....Hhhmm, American accent, black hair, good tan......'Giiiirl, what yuh mix is? I cannuh figure yuh!' Is there occasional conflict based on religion or race? Yes, of course. But overall, there seems to be a really refreshing acceptance of differences.
All rise please, and sing with me.......and may God bless this nation.