El Guanaguanare
Submission Guidelines


Guanaguanare: the laughing gull bows low in gratitude to the spirits, living in the here or hereafter, whose works are posted on this blog. They have felt and thought deeply enough about this nation of Trinidad and Tobago to use their time and effort and creative talents to give expression to various perspectives and opinions.

Covering the gamut of approaches, from unfettered pride, thoughtful appraisal through concern and admonition to frustration, cynicism and alarm, what they all have in common is LOVE - conditional, unconditional, unrequited, serious tabanca, but love all the same, for this place we call home.

The blog's sidebar includes a listing of websites/blogs maintained by natives and non-natives of Trinidad and Tobago. Some of them focus on issues relevant to Trinidad and Tobago and I am pleased to include them also here and thank them for their voices.

Special, special, special thanks to the many persons, including TriniDesi, IsDePanInMe, izatrini, 0trini0, cool4rocknroll, kaiso22, Trinnilicious4life, wongkee83 and baidawi who upload the treasures that I link to on YouTube. Thank you for sharing Trinbago's gifts with the world.

Thanks to the photographers, including Gary Gibson and Maximilian Forte for kindly permitting the use of some of their images on this blog.

Thanks to Dr. Roi Guanapo Ankhkara Kwabena and Louis Sellier, whose generous spirits always accompany El Guanaguanare.

Last, but not least, thanks to the persons who drop by and take the time to leave comments. Your encouragement means a lot to me.

Thank You All.

El Guanaguanare | Composed and performed by by Jesús "Chu" Ávila [1930-2012] | Uploaded by keysalmo

Who is the Laughing Gull?

Guanaguanare, the happy, non-threatening seagull hovers over this blog. This seagull symbolises something of the resilient though besieged natural spirit of the islands and many of its inhabitants...an aboriginal presence...a retiring, gentler spirit that does not seek heavy baggage and leaves a light footprint. The name Guanaguanare (most commonly pronounced "Wanna-wannare") is an Amerindian word for the laughing gull and you probably know that it was also used by the Amerindian cacique -Cacique Guanaguanare, who gave the Spanish the land on which they were to establish San Jose de Oruna or St. Joseph, the first capital of Trinidad.

From resources on Island Carib language, I created the site's rallying call:

Ahakutuwatiwa, alëlekatiwa, akuyawatiwa!
We awake, we laugh, we return!

It is meant to give hope to all people who are mourning the loss of a better quality of life. On another level, it is also addresses people with Amerindian ancestry who do and do not publicly identify with this connection. We are still here, sleeping maybe, but not extinct. Apart from its use to disprove the fact of a continuing Amerindian presence among us and in our veins, the extinction myth is also used to suppress so many other possibilities, to nip life itself in the bud. Someone decided that Hope is Extinct and people are despairing because they are beginning to believe the myths, that human kindness is dead, that the option of a simpler, less punishing lifestyle is a lost cause, that Trinidad and Tobago is going down the tubes, that law breakers and inconvenient human foetuses are better off dead, that all efforts to reverse the tailspin will amount to nothing.

The site belongs to everyone, all the spirits who fly through to contemplate or to leave their contributions to this conversation about Trinidad and Tobago. Even if you do not submit works, please visit to listen, to read, to reflect and, if you wish, to leave your comments. Looking forward to meeting you! Many blessings! ................................................................................................................................................................ SUBMISSION GUIDELINES

Greetings prospective contributor

The purpose of this not-for-profit blog is to collect songs (audio files welcomed), lyrics, poems, short essays and maybe even graphics which portray the creator's impressions of Trinidad and Tobago. I am looking for works which focus on the broader topic of Trinidad or Tobago or which refer to Trinbago but I will post materials which fall outside of this description. Please visit the Index to get an idea of what has been posted so far: It would be a tremendous honour and pleasure to have your spirit join us here.

My Guarantees
The Laughing Gull guarantees that:
  • Your work will never become the property of this blog. You retain all rights to your work and full credit will be given to you. This will be stated clearly and displayed in any format that you require.
  • You decide for how long you wish your work to be displayed on the blog. Upon your request, your work can be removed promptly, no questions asked.
  • Contributors preferring anonymity will be accommodated and are equally welcomed.
  • Any edits that you wish to be made to your work will either be done by me following your directions, or upon receipt of an edited file.
  • As a courtesy, I will also provide, at your request, any links back to your websites or announcements about your publications/performances.
  • Finally, your work will be in the company of other works that are not hateful or violently obscene, or that obviously are intended to disrespect the rights of others.
..................................................................................................................................................................... "Patria est communis omnium parens" - Our native land is the common parent of us all. Keep it beautiful, make it even more so.

Blessed is all of creation
Blessed be my beautiful people
Blessed be the day of our awakening
Blessed is my country
Blessed are her patient hills.

Mweh ka allay!



Liane Spicer said...

Your blogs are beautiful, thoughtful, inspiring. They give me hope. Thank you.

Guanaguanare said...

Compay Liane, thank you so much for the gifts of your visit and generous comment. Congratulations to you on the official release of your book Café au Lait and I wish you success with the reviews and sales.
Blessings always to you!

Anonymous said...

How do I subscribe to this blog?

Guanaguanare said...

Thanks for visiting and for your interest in the blog. The links are not prominently displayed but they do exist near the bottom of the left sidebar of this blog. You can subscribe by e-mail or by clicking on the RSS button.

Mictlantecuhtli said...

What a great blog! Here in Louisiana, over Carnival, we had a nice time but still wished we were in Trin - not necessarily for Carnival, just in general. This is what caused me to surf around the Internet looking for calypsonians, and I found you. I sort of want to copy your Legba symbol ...
maybe I can find my own. Cheers!

Guanaguanare said...

Thanks for visiting and taking the time to leave a comment. So glad that you are enjoying the music. What was the most popular song played at your Louisiana Carnival this year? About the Legba symbol, it's not mine. I "borrowed" it from somewhere so feel free to do the same from this site!

Z said...

Cool! You know, one difference between Louisiana and other Carnivals is that we don't get new songs - but take delight in old ones - it is strange since the classics must have been new at some time, but it's not at Carnival that they come out. In the country, the #1 song is "La chanson de Mardi Gras", which begins "Les Mardi Gras s'en viennent de tout partout." In N.O. the #1 has got to be Professor Longhair, "Go to the Mardi Gras." [
"You will see the Zulu king down on St. Claude and Dumaine."]

I'm taking your Legba symbol, then, because it's just too good to leave alone.

Mictlantecuhtli said...

This is the Professor Longhair number: http://youtu.be/iXAE0NmeVh4

Guanaguanare said...

Thanks for sharing this information with me. I would have just assumed that new songs are composed every year. In Trinidad and Tobago we also enjoy the older songs at Carnival time and they are played along with the new music in some bands.

I have already listened to Professor Longhair's "Go to the Mardi Gras." and I will now look for "La chanson de Mardi Gras." This is all so very interesting.

I read your post, "Indians!" and I wonder if you are aware that we also have Indian mas' in the T&T Carnival.
Legba symbol looking gooood!
Thanks so much for sharing.

Mictlantecuhtli said...

Indians there look like Indians here! Ours are supposed to have created themselves based on Plains Indians but they have to have Caribbean roots, too. This famous Indian song http://youtu.be/IKPmk4OCIBQ sounds in parts exactly like Rum and Coca-Cola. Indians have a secret language, which to me sounds vaguely Yoruba ("fee-na-ney," for instance, when the Brazilian salutation to my protectress Oya-Iansan is "epa-hey").

Guanaguanare said...

You have a good ear. That song borrows from Rum and Coca-Cola. Does the song have a name?

About our Indian mas' Rawle Gibbons says on pg. 148 in his chapter: "Trinidad Sailor Mas":

"The most significant connection between New Orleans Mardi Gras and Trinidad Carnival lies in the dual invocation of African-Native connectivity in the Black Indain mas. Black Indians are found among the panorama of Indian tribes in Trinidad mas, but the history is not one of solidarity and miscegenation as it is in New Orleans. Instead, they are connected with the African 9predominantly Yoruba) yards. In some instances - for example, Wild Indians in St.Kittts and Santo Domingo - the link between these performance forms are easily established as migratory, but others, I suspect, may take us back to the depth structures of an African sensibility or aesthetic that renders experience in certain common, recognizable ways."
SOURCE: "Intercultural performance in the Caribbean and the U.S. South." Edited by Jessica Adams et al, University of Virginia Press, 2007.

Some of the bands here do speak "Indian language" but I don't know to what extent it is invented or how heavily it borrows from our French patois or African languages.

Hélène Bellour and Samuel Kinser also did research on Amerindian masking in Trinidad's Carnival and they looked specifically at "The House of Black Elk" in San Fernando. Among other questions which they explore are:

"Why did the Black Elk group choose to portray North American Plains Indians? Why didn't they choose to depict Amerindians of their own past, in their own geographical area at the foot of the sacred hill? Why did they choose to mask themselves as Indians at all? And why in any case did the Plains Indian costuming become so popular in Trinidad in the decades just before and after World War II?"
You can find their article in "Culture in action - the Trinidad experience." Edited by Milla Cozart Riggio, NY: Routledge, 2004

Some videos:
- Victoria Square Mas 2008
- Queen of Carnival 2010 Wakanisha: The Sacred Water - The Sacred Water Bearer


Mictlantecuhtli said...

I have to get these texts!!! Really quickly, check this out which shocked me because I had not thought of it before - the antecedent of the Lord Invader song in melody is Son de la Loma (composed Cuba 1925, and I wonder with what antecedents) -

Indian songs - there's Iko Iko and Meet the Boys on the Battlefront, for starters. Iko Iko when you think about it has the same melody
"Look at my king all dressed in read, iko iko ade; Bet you five dollars he kill you dead, chokimo feena nay."

Dixie Cups (60s): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l6rDdWPYdgg

And then there are other versions, by people like Dr. John, etc.

Mictlantecuhtli said...

P.S. Now I'm being told that it's because everyone using clave rhythms (that's the Cuban word, I don't know if it's used elsewhere) that come from sub-Saharan Africa.

Guanaguanare said...

This is all so interesting. All I keep thinking is, "What a wonderful world!!" About the clave rhythm, yes, I think I can recognise it but how would that explain the similarity in melody between "Rum and Coca Cola" and "Son de la Loma"? Is the melody also something typical of sub-Saharan Africa?

Just for information, in this discussion, it is reported that calypsonian Lord Executor (real name Philip Garcia and born in the mid 1880's) testified during the Rum and Coca-Cola litigation that he had personal knowledge of the melody before Lionel Belasco said he composed it in 1906. He claimed that he had known this melody since about 1893 when he was a little boy living in Port of Spain. It was a popular song of that period called "L'Anne Passe" - a folk song originally from Martinique. I don't know "L'Anne Passe" so I cannot say if the melody was the same or similar to Rum and Coca-Cola.

We live and we learn!


Mictlantecuhtli said...

Aha - here it says the first 8 bars of l'annee passee do in fact use the same melody! http://www.rumandcocacolareader.com/RumAndCocaCola/Leighla_Whipper.html

In son de la loma, the sung part has a different melody. But the introduction and in between singing parts are an instrumental that is the rum and coca-cola melody. Below that you have the rhythm section.

Melodies, it seems to me that all these interrelated songs don't use that many notes, and keep recycling snatches of melody between each other.

This is fascinating, though!

Guanaguanare said...

This is fascinating to try to figure out which came first. Whether we decide it was the chicken or the egg, I just have to agree with K'naan's conclusion: "In the beginning there was a hum..." This melody is probably ancient. Can't help thinking that someone on the other side of the Atlantic would be able to tell us with certainty where it originated.

Z said...

Well, here's a video from Pacific Colombia, close to the source of clave: http://youtu.be/i7uS7DxBcyg

Guanaguanare said...

What a beautiful video! I went on to look at others about the Palenque de San Basilio. I had not known about this community but many of the scenes are very familiar to me just from growing up in Trinidad and Tobago. I applaud their determination to preserve their culture. Thank you for sharing this with me. Maybe I will post something about this.

Mictlantecuhtli said...

:-) and guess what else - listening to the radio, I just heard the old N.O. classic Eh la bas and realized it, too, was rum and coca-cola. Not the intrumental choruses, the sung part

Mon cher cousin ma chere cousine /
elle reste a la rue Dauphine...

to the tune, essentially, of -
When the Yankees came to Trinidad, etc.

Guanaguanare said...

I found "Eh la bas." on YouTube and listened to it a few times. To me there is some similarity in the rhythm but not so much in the melody, although I found myself almost expecting them to start singing Rum & Coca-Cola.

You are introducing me to some very interesting music and topics. I thank you for that.


Mictlantecuhtli (AKA Z) said...

Haha, I might be reaching, or maybe it's some of the versions of Eh la-bas I've heard. So I'll concede that but I still claim, the non chorus part of "Meet de boys on de battlefront," and Indian chant, is Rum and Coca-Cola exact! ;-)

Meanwhile I found this, on the Indians, it's really good http://youtu.be/WYCeQ4r3DvM ... there is footage of Indian practice and although I've seen lots of Indians I've never been to a practice and I see I *must* go - dances are so much like what you see in afoxe Carnival blocs in Brazil or in candomble rituals, even.

Also it says the chant "Indian Red" is the prayer that opens practice, to the Indian ... which is again interesting, since there are Indian spirits in Afro-Brazilian religion and if I'm not mistaken vodun ... I should not be surprised but I am always amazed nonetheless.

Z said...

P.S. It has also occurred to me that Eh la ba may really mean "O Legba."

Guanaguanare said...

This video is just beautiful! When people cross boundaries and prove that there were no boundaries to begin with, these are the rewards which make our world richer.

Many of us in the Caribbean have Amerindian ancestry and there are even some people here in the Caribbean who also descendants of North American First Nations. I haven't heard it suggested though that those links have had anything to do with our Indian masking in the Carnival.

At about position 1:57 in that video I am hearing a chant that resembles the chorus from that song "Hey Pocky Way" Is there are connection? I'd like to find the lyrics for Indian Red. I am interested in the way that some of the participants at the practice are striking the tambourines - not just the usual knocking against the hip or with the palm of the hand. I am reminded of First Nations hand drumming.

I have no doubt that the meeting of African and First Nations cultures resulted in many examples of religious syncretism. I recently learned of the Venezuelan cult of María Lionza. If you haven't already heard of it, there are several pages and videos about it on the Internet.

Like you, I am often blown away by the beauty that human beings create just by living. Because of what you have shared, I am thinking tonight about transcendence.


Z said...

Maria Lionza, fascinating!

Hey Pocky Way *is* an Indian chant!
Hey hey, hey pocky a-way
my big chief got a golden crown,

Indian Red starts:

Mighty cooty fiyo, hey la hey, hey la hey
Mighty cooty fiyo, hey la hey, hey la hey
I've got a Big Chief, Big Chief
Big Chief of the nation
The wild, wild creation
He won't bow down
Down on the ground
Oh, how I love to hear
Him call for Indian Red.

I've got a spy boy, spy boy
Spy boy of the nations
The wild, wild creation
won't bow down
down on the ground
oh how I love to hear you
talk about Indian Red.

Then there is more, about "hunda wunda wunda" and I have heard there is now some venue in N.O. called "Hunda Wunda" - at 2d and Drayades, and that is a central city neighborhood of the type Indians live in, very indigenous.

Very interesting re tambourines, I am going to have to watch for this!

Guanaguanare said...

I am laughing as I reply. I never, never would have guessed that "Hey Pocky Way" was an Indian chant if you had not shared that video with me and explained what I heard in the background.

Thanks so much for the lyrics for Indian Red. I love these lines especially:

"The wild, wild creation
won't bow down
down on the ground..

It's not just the beauty of their fancy wear that is being represented in our masking but also the pride/nobility that is associated with these nations.


vidya n said...

So glad I stumbled upon this blog. It so lives! Going through the posts, one by one. Thanks!

Guanaguanare said...

Thanks for visiting and commenting. Please feel free to share more about your interests and ideas.

Host said...

I ran across your blog while researching the meaning of 'mama looka boo boo dey,' used in the song made popular by Harry Belafonte. Your commentary on the lyrics was so enlightening, so well-formed, and such a pleasure to read that I felt compelled to look deeper into who you might be; which led me to your 'About' page were you say:

"Someone decided that Hope is Extinct and people are despairing because they are beginning to believe the myths, that human kindness is dead, that the option of a simpler, less punishing lifestyle is a lost cause, that Trinidad and Tobago is going down the tubes, that law breakers and inconvenient human foetuses are better off dead, that all efforts to reverse the tailspin will amount to nothing.

That sentiment rang strangely familiar as I considered perceptions by many of us here in the United States, in concerning the status of our own seemingly declining culture. In your words I felt a kinship, and yes- 'Hope' in that all may not be so irreversible as it might seem. thank you for your very thoughtful perspective. I look forward to reading more!

Guanaguanare said...

Host, I am humbled. Thank you so much for taking the time to communicate with me. I am thinking about all the bloggers putting their messages into bottles, constantly pinging the universe asking, "Are you out there?" And when a reply comes back, sometimes years after, the gratitude to know not just that there are kindred spirits out there but that they are making the effort to reach out to you. Thank you for your kindness. In Pandora's box of horrors, HOPE, Elpis, was the one shining, mitigating promise that was left behind, almost like an afterthought. What if HOPE could be made the most prominent?

Unknown said...

How do I submit lyrics for a parang soca song?

Guanaguanare said...

Dear Ro Ed,
Apologies for the delay. I do not check comments as frequently as I used to.

You may submit lyrics by simply sending a comment with the lyrics. I will not publish the comment but I will extract the lyrics and then acknowledge your contribution.

I tend to transcribe lyrics from uploaded videos which I eventually embed so it would be helpful if you could also let me know if there is a video or music file available online to link to or embed.

Thanks for your interest in contributing to the site.


no said...

Hi! Is it possible to get in touch with you via email?

Guanaguanare said...

Thanks for your visit, no. Visitors can contact me through the Comments section. Just tell me at the start that it is not a comment for public viewing and I will treat it as a private message. All comments are moderated so there is no danger that your message will be automatically published or that I will overlook your wishes.