Cro Cro: Calypsonians not always right

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Weston “Cro Cro” Rawlins

FOUR-time Calypso Monarch Weston “Cro Cro” Rawlins says calypsonians are not infallible.

“We can’t always be right,” he said in a phone interview shortly after he was ordered to pay businessman Inshan Ishmael for defamatory statements in his 2023 calypso Another Sat is Outside Again.

On January 29, Justice Frank Seepersad held that Rawlins abused his creative licence when he sang about Ishmael.

Ishmael sued Rawlins in 2023 after video recordings of the former monarch’s performance at a TUCO competition went viral. He claimed the calypso, performed on February 5, 2023, directly named and defamed him.

On Monday, Rawlins seemed to be in good spirits despite the ruling.

“What can I say? Justice was handed down. Now I have to get money to pay.”

Rawlins was ordered to pay Ishmael $250,000 in compensation. He also said he would have to consult his lawyers on a possible appeal.

He was somewhat confused by certain comments the judge made about him.

In his ruling, Seepersad said it was “regrettable” that Rawlins, a former calypso monarch, “felt entitled to perform derogatory and defamatory content” at the Calypso Monarch preliminaries and that it was “possible his previous victories emboldened him.”

“Although he previously faced some measure of public disquiet, angst and/or criticism for alleged divisive and discriminatory content, he was never called upon to justify his previous compositions but he was heralded as a victor and was paid premium prize money from the public purse.”

Rawlins viewed this as “strange.”

He also could not say what the ruling would mean for the art form, in particular political and social-commentary calypsoes.

“I am not sure how others will take it.”

For his part, he said, “I will have to watch it.”

Meanwhile, Ishmael viewed the ruling as “historic” and one that “saved calypsoes.”

“We have paved the way for real calypsoes to re-enter the tents and for people to feel comfortable.”

He said in the past, no one, particularly politicians, saw fit to take legal action against calypsonians.

“This ruling heralds a new wave. They (calypsonians) would now have to watch what they say.

“We look forward to going back to the tents.”

His attorney, Richard Jaggasar, said the case was important for the country.

“This case settles the highly-debated issue of freedom of speech versus defamation. The judgment protects calypso and reminds us of its democratic origins.

“It is in that vein I say, as a young person, I do not wish to see division in our country; not by religion, by gender and certainly not race.

“We are all one people, one nation.”

He said those who profit from division would seek out racial lines. However, he said, “To them, I say remember the words of Dr Eric Williams.”

Paraphrasing Williams’s Independence Day address in 1962, Jaggasar said, “Democracy is the protection of individual rights over the subordination of any one race to the right of the human race, and let us build a nation where we can always say how good it is for brethren to dwell with brethren in unity.”

Williams said in 1962 that democracy means “the subordination of the right of any race to the overriding right of the human race.”