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Bassman Jumbie Hell

Published: 
Friday, February 5, 2016

Carnival Friday in the city of Port-of-Spain and, outside my window in the Bajan countryside, workmen are jamming a jack-hammer, the Hilti firing almost as rapidly as the computer-generated throwaway beats we now call soca without sneering, and 1974, my first Carnival not under parental supervision, comes back to me, gloriously.

What dreams and what energy Shadow’s Bass Man gave us! Since David Rudder took that baton, though, is there anyone he could hand it to that could run with it, instead of merely keeping time? Does anyone even discern they’re in a relay race? Is there anyone under age 50 in the Limers’ Republic who might yet anchor our hopes? (How old is Ataklan? Bunji? Nigel Rojas?) 

Will anyone in any power make a change instead of making change for every blue note they can get?

Bass Man was both our music and the world’s, like Satisfaction, like Sweet Child O’ Mine, like Hey Jude. Without it, Bahia Girl could not have been written; and, without Bahia Girl, there could not have been Get Something and Wave. 

It all turns, for me, with that Bass Man from Hell, turns and turns away in the widening gyre, until we cannot hear the Farrell on Green Corner.

On Carnival Friday, Trinidadians think even less than usual (and, born ingrates, rhyme “WB Yeats” with “toilet seats”). If the Arabs gave the world the concept of zero, Trinidadians at Carnival time give the world a sub-zero way of thinking: if Descartes was, because he thought, we’re not even firetrucking here. 

In that context, I offer this affectionate parody of the great moment, as a people, that this pivotal song represents. Because I know, though, how ignorant we are of ourselves today, I will include Shadow’s lyrics before my own extended version. 

Enjoy the Conny-Voll and the wee-wee trucks and the replacement of “All-o’-we-is-one” with “All-Inclusive-has-won”; and try to remember the former myth was at least one that was worth believing in.

Bass Man 

by Winston Bailey

I was planning to forget calypso

And go and plant peas in Tobago

But I am afraid Ah cyah 

make the grade.

’Cause every night I lie 

down in mih bed

Ah hearing a bass man 

in mih head

I don’t know how this 

thing get inside me

But every morning, he 

driving me crazy

Like he taking my head 

for a panyard

Morning and evening, like 

this fella gone mad

(Pim-pom) And if I 

don’t want to sing

(Pim-pom) When he start 

to do he thing

I don’t want to, but I have to sing-and-sing-and-sing-and-sing

(Pim-pom) And if I don’t 

want to dance

(Pim-pom) He does have me 

in a trance

I don’t want to, but I 

have to prance to his…

(Pom-pom-pom-pim-pom / Pidi-pom-pom…)

One night I said to the bass man

Give me your identification

He said “Is me, Farell,

Your bass man from Hell

You tell me you singing calypso

So I come up to pull 

some notes for you”

I went and I tell Dr Lee Yeung

That I want a brain operation

A man in my head

I want him to dead

He said it is my imagination

But I know I hearing 

the bass man

Base Man 

by Shadow Copycat BC

I was planning to forget Carnival

And binge-watch “Black Sails” 

in Maraval

And say, “Firetruck away” 

with fake soca today

At most, take een Jouve 

in Paramin

And chase my puncheon 

with aspirin

And stay ahead of both the stoosh and the dread

I don’t know how this 

thing just escape we

Two days that save the 

whole year going crazy

We throw ’way all the 

hope of the panyard

Carnival costume is 

now Chinese bastard

(Bling-bling) And it don’t 

matter what you sing

(Ka-ching!) Them does leggo to any-firetrucking-thing

I don’t want to, but I have to think-and-think-and-think

(Bling-bling) And if you give them half a chance

(Ka-ching!) They will monetise the romance

I don’t want to, but I 

hold a séance

to this…

(The money-the mon-ey, the money-the mon-ey, the money-the mon-ey, the money-the mon-ey/ Is all we want, is all we want, is all we want/ The dollar bills, the dollar bills, blue hundred dollar bills/ Paul, yuh mother can’t)

One night I said to 

the Trinidadian

Give me your identification

He said “You know 

firetrucking well

Is my own soul I will sell”

I praising Allah, Vishnu and 

Jesus Christ

Just to sell them out 

at the best price

I went and I tell Dr William

Is your Federation zero sum

That still punishing we

Lost West Indian identity

He said it was my imagination

But we feeling the lash 

of the base man

Who sell out we soul for 

Great House control

Your choice now is 

whip or be whipped

Man doesn’t bail a sinking ship

Lemmings prancing to the cliff, headlless chickens 

jumping up as if

Oil price bound to rise, 

we don’t compromise

I don’t know how this 

thing get inside me

Thinking what, with some thought, what we could be

I don’t know how 

this thing could elude we

Unchaining men does 

not set them free

(Bling-bling) And it 

don’t matter what I say

(Ka-ching!) The stoosh 

will jump up anyway

I don’t want to, but I have to turn-and-turn-and-turn away

(Bling-bling) And if you only 

look around

(Ka-ching!) You will see what right there be found

I don’t want to, but I going down-and-down-and-down-and-down

n BC Parodies is playing with Shadow’s great words in the heart of darkness.

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