Biased media coverage: Dr Abracadabra disappears but Blaxx lives on
In the final week of March 2022, Trinidad mourned the passing of two sons of the soil and legendary performing artists. Whereas tributes poured in en masse following the Covid-19 related deaths of Soca artiste Blaxx, Dr Abracadabra, the magician, has been relegated to a sideline piece in local newspapers. Pages and pages of newspapers for days and days on Blaxx, but only one little piece on the renowned magician, Deoraj Sieunarine; regular TV and radio news updates, items and features on Blaxx, but only one short funeral note for the Doc – on one day only.
Blaxx benefited from frequent engagement with the Port-of Spain centric media. People heard him on radio, while stuck in traffic or attended a fete in which he performed. His hits include “Breathless” (2008), “Tusty” (2009), “Leh Go” (2013), “Hulk” (2018), “Gyal Owner” (2019) and “Who God Bless” (2021). He was a singing artist. Despite the popularity of his music, he never managed to capture either Soca Monarch or Road March titles. Nonetheless, for his service to culture, the calypso organization, TUCO, has advocated a State funeral in his honour.
On the other hand, Dr. Abracadabra was given just one appearance in the media and was consigned to invisibility for eternity after. During his lifetime, he appeared in almost every primary school in Trinidad and Tobago, making a one-day super special and was gone to another school again. What a joy it must have been to mesmerise children with the mystery of magic, to be a travelling salesman of wonder. He traversed every part of the country for some 50 years, giving generations of children an unforgettable day, that as adults, they have never forgotten.
Besides school children, the Doc entertained Prime Ministers Manning and Panday, President Clarke, and other members of that era’s local pantheon. He was fluent in Hindi, Urdu and Bhojpuri – a language near local extinction. Together with Dr Visham Bhimull, extensive hours were expended in an effort to archive Caribbean Hindustani. In recognition of his life’s work, Dr Abracadabra was awarded the Medal of Merit (Silver) in 2003 for his Outstanding and Meritorious Service to the nation. A book has been written on his life and magic by Dool Hanomansingh.
Despite this abridged list of achievements, where is the grandiose local outpouring of gratitude and appreciation for his service to the arts in the local media – mainstream radio, TV and newspaper? While God bless Carnival and calypso, there is an entire side of culture at risk of erasure and no one bats an eye. Indo-Trinidadian artists such as Dr Abracadabra are victims of a biased traditional media, with the abetting and abetting of the Government of Trinidad and Tobago. So many other Indo artists are living and dying without fair, equitable and just media coverage in this multi-ethnic society. It is a sad story that has been told for generations with no end in sight.
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