January 29, 2014 by cosmoakacitizensmith
Every day gets more surreal here on these islands. If it’s not a new reality TV show holding up social inequality as something to ridicule, it’s a new load of cuts savaging communities and blighting lives. I’d be laughing if it wasn’t so REAL.
So I was over the moon to find out that Lord Kitchener has been commemorated on the new £2 coin. At last, a gap in the clouds! Lord Kitchener was, of course, one of the first internationally known stars of calypso music in the ’40s and ’50s. Hailing originally from Trinidad, “Kitch”, as he became known, found early success in the Caribbean before coming to London on the Empire Windrush in 1948.
His subsequent music spoke to the Windrush generation and in many ways followed the course of their experiences here in the UK. There was the initial optimism of London Is The Place For Me, (above). This is a song Kitch sung whilst he walked off the gangway and set foot in the capital for the first time. A Pathé News crew filmed the whole scene.
Calypso also speaks of wild and crazy good times. How much fun can you have with a saxophone? You can find out here…..
For all its bawdiness, calypso could also be politically astute without lecturing, and still manage to maintain its strut. This song hasn’t been off Spotify for me all winter. It’s about the independence of Ghana and the hope that came with the upsurge of decolonisation sweeping through what was then the British Empire at the time.
Of course, all good things must come to an end. Although Kitch went from strength to strength in the UK, many of that wave of migrants from the West Indies suffered a reversal of fortune as the jobs dried up and institutional racism kicked in. This song sums up the yearning for home and all the little things exiles miss that soon become huge gaps in the soul. It starts off humorous and saves the punch till the end.
Lord Kitchener returned to Trinidad in the early ’60s and blazed a trail over there until his retirement in 1999. I was thinking how fitting it was to have him on a £2 coin in 2014. With the media getting more rabid about the presence of foreigners here, what a great way to celebrate an immigrant success story.
Or at least…..I was thinking that, until I found out that in fact I got the wrong Lord Kitchener. The Lord Kitchener who is apparently to appear on the £2 was a war criminal from the early 20th century in the pay of the British crown. He led millions of people to their deaths in a European civil war that got out of hand and dragged in the rest of the world. It was apparently a beef between three cousins called Queen Victoria of England, Kaiser Wilhelm of Germany and Tsar Nicholas of Russia. I don’t know. It all sounds rather horrible. Why are we celebrating British identity like this? Is this really the apex of our ambition?
Of course, this kind of propaganda is nothing more than government psy-ops working hand-in-hand with all the poor bashing, immigrant bashing, sexism, racism, Queen and Country and “sacrifice” that we see around us day in, day out. We’re all in it together and your country needs you.
Ever get the feeling we’re stuck in reverse?