Mobilizing   India
The Mighty Sparrow - "Marajhin":
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 (as in Marvin's "Jahaji Bhai"). The "Indian" calypso is distinguished by its use of language, with Hindi and/or Bhojpuri words and phrases liberally used along with the predominantly Trini English lyrics, and by its use of melody and instrumentation. Some calypsos drew on Hindi film songs, and others on East Indian folk music; the tassa and dholak drums as well as the dhantal were also frequently used along with the conventional calypso instruments.

In a certain type of calypso, where the Indian woman is being courted by the African man, these notions are foregrounded in such a manner as to obscure or deflect questions of race: proper femininity is racialised as East Indian, imaged as beautiful and submissive; proper masculinity is then normed as African, embodied in the wordsmith calypsonian or the badjohn. African masculinity, however, has also to be shaped alongside and against the Indian, whose masculinity is then delegitimised or becomes bad/violent masculinity; and, I would suggest, when Indian femininity is sung into being with the desiring African male voice, from Dictator's Moonia to Sparrow's Marajhin, a kind of hyper-masculinity is produced in contrast to the object of desire. The early songs blended references to the exoticism of the Indian woman's clothing and the strangeness of Indian food; interestingly, both were seen as intensely desirable in spite of the Creole's unfamiliarity with them.

"Marajhin", first sung in 1982, is almost a throwback to the 1950s calypsos about Indian women. Sparrow is willing to change many of his cultural habits for the sake of his Indian bride, his "sweet love". He will "gladly trade [his] toilet paper for some water"; he will even "change [his] style of dress" to a typically Indian one and "wear a kapra or a dhoti" [a deliberately inappropriate mention, since no one wears these clothes anymore, except a few people and that too on rare ritual occasions]. If she wants him to, he will change his very name, and start calling himself "Rooplall or Baboolall". He will learn to cook Indian food, "learn to grind massala [spices] and chonkay [season] dhal", and - in a cheeky reference to a widespread Creole prejudice, which has it that East Indians cannot dance to "Trinidadian music" - Sparrow swears that for the sake of his dulahin he will "jump out of time to sweet pan soca melody".

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