Trinidadians are divided by race in politics and in death

I wish to express my deep and sincere condolences to the family and friends of popular Trinidad and Tobago entertainer, Dennis “Sprangalang” Hall.

The 71-year old cultural icon passed away recently on 2nd October, 2020. He was a comedian, actor and radio talk show host. “Spang” and I worked together during my short stint as a co-presenter in the local television magazine show “Gayelle”.

Also passing away during this COVID-19 pandemic was national cultural icon Sam Boodram. Hailed as the “Lion of Cumuto”, Boodram was an Indian classical and traditional chutney singer who recorded over 6,000 songs.

He started singing publicly in 1947 at the age of 14 and died on June 30, 2020 at 86, chalking up a career as a public entertainer for 72 years which spanned over three generations.

Boodram was also a high priest (mahant) in the Kabir Panth Hindu sect and was married to the sister of former Prime Minister Basdeo Panday. Boodram certainly cannot measure up nationally in popularity with “Sprang” in the multi-ethnic society, but he was known by Indo-Trinidadian music lovers.

Sam Boodram (L) and Dennis Sprangalang Hall (R) – Source: facebook

It is instructive to look at the differences in treatment soon after their death.

Sprang’s funeral took place at the Government-owned and controlled City Hall Auditorium in Harris Promenade in San Fernando. Boodram’s service took place at his home and continued at the Caroni Cremation Site. There was no Government support for Boodram.

The Tourism, Culture and Arts Minister, Randall Mitchell, and San Fernando Mayor Junia Regrello were among the pallbearers who carried the casket of Sprang. Former Minister of Community Development Joan Yuille-Williams also attended the ceremony. No (former) Government Minister or Mayor was present for Boodram’s funeral.

Expressing loss for Sprang in the Sunday Guardian (dated 11/10/2020) were Diana Candy Director Ronald Grosberg, Jamaat Al Muslimeen Leader Yasin Abu Bakr, Calypso President “Brother Resistance”, calypsonians Karen Eccles, Karen Ache and Cro Cro Weston Rawlins, actor Wendell Etienne and fellow comedian Errol Fabien.

Only three people were reported paying respects to Boodram: his great granddaughter Samantha Boodram-Wolff, The National Council of Indian Culture of TT’s (NCIC) PRO Surujdeo Mangaroo, and singer Raymond Ramnarine (in Newsday dated 2/7/2020 and Express dated 1/7/2020).

In the Sunday Newsday and Sunday Express (dated 11/10/2020) feature articles and columns were written on “Sprang” by Yvonne Webb, Colin Robinson and Nikita Braxton-Benjamin. No feature article or column in any newspaper was dedicated in honour of Boodram, even by Indo-Trinidadian writers.

These differences must be framed in the theory of cultural hegemony in which a powerful group dominates society – through the Government, media and schools – by influencing the values, norms, ideas, expectations and behaviour of people.

An Italian philosopher named Antonio Gramsci (1891-1937) developed the theory of cultural hegemony based on class. However, in Trinidad and Tobago, the theory can also be applied to the racial and political dynamics in the multi-ethnic society.


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About the Author

Dr. Kumar Mahabir
Dr. Kumar Mahabir, Assistant Professor University of Trinidad and Tobago (UTT) Chairman, Indo-Caribbean Cultural Centre Co. Ltd. (ICC) E-mail: [email protected]