Mobilizing   India
 Chapter 4
The Mighty Sparrow in concert, 2004

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This chapter examines the processes by which Indians have been represented in calypsos sung by Afro-Trinidadians. East Indians are sought to be defined against African Trinidadians, and in no cultural practice is this process more obvious than in the calypso. My attempt will be not to set a knowledge of the "real" Indo-Trinidadian against the stereotypes in calypso, but to raise questions about the changing historical functions of the "Indian" in a musical form dominated by Afro-Trinidadians. Looking at calypso music from the 1930s to the early 21st century, I try to understand how in the calypso, this cultural practice crucial to Trinidadian nationalism - although one that is often critical of the government in power, if not the nation-state itself - the question of the "Indian" sometimes comes to occupy centrestage. From being exotic creatures whose dress, language and customs appeared as objects of ridicule as well as fantasy, East Indians at the beginning of the 21st century in Trinidad, finally (although tentatively and intermittently) holders of political power, are key figures in the ballads directed by calypsonians against a supposedly elite group, as also in reinterpretations of Trinidadian history (Marvin's Jahaji Bhai) or celebrations of Trinidadian multiculturalism (Machel and Drupatee's Real Unity).

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