Antigua and Barbuda’s Other-Other-Other ‘Anthem’

After hundreds of years of slavery
And colonialist domination
We are now politically free
In an independent nation
The dreams of our forefathers
Have finally come true
And the battle that they have fought
Are now benefiting me and you
If you really want
To show yuh appreciation
Raise your voices with me
And this pledge let’s sing along

Cho. We pledge to be good citizens from now on
Casting away victimization
Corruption will cease
Nepotism decrease
Throughout the whole nation
Our country then will be
Not just a society
But a just society
Let this be our pledge

But please beware my country men
Of the trappings of false liberty
For true liberation does not only lie in constitutionality
We have gained nothing
If all we do is pass from bondage
To a subtler task
Where foreign sharks
With their fangs exposed
Surround us with promises of a brighter world
For much too long
Have we the yolk of slavery borne
Now that massa days
Have gone
Let’s pledge to set aright all the wrong

Cho. We pledge to be good, good, good, good citizens from now on
Casting away victimization
Corruption will cease
Nepotism decrease
Throughout the whole nation
Our country then will be not just a society
But a just society
Let this be our pledge

Gird up your loins
Ever vigilant be
To curb injustice, graft, and vagrancy
The rights of each one must be recognized so that none will feel they’re ostracized
Equal opportunity for everyone
Each giving the other a helping hand
We want no more exploitation
From either foreign or the local man
We need our land
For our children yet unborn
So Antiguans and Barbudans
Let’s pledge to maintain our freedom

Cho. We pledge to be good, good, good, good citizens
From now on
Casting away victimization
Corruption will cease
Nepotism decrease
Throughout the whole nation
Our country then will be
Not just a society
But a just society
Let this be our pledge

Outro. My salute
I salute

And much as I love the lyrics and Short Shirt’s peerless interpretation and delivery, I salute the horn work in this, especially right there at the end….hey, remember when calypso musical arrangements used to be intricate and fun, the kind of fun you can only get from soca/party music these days.

Anyway, I decided to transcribe the lyrics to this Antiguan and Barbudan classic (and not just because lyrics to Antiguan and Barbudan classics are hard to find but because it was Independence season and I was feeling it). But I feel this one even out of season… this is easily one of my favourite Short Shirt tracks, and one of Antigua and Barbuda’s best, period; thanks Michelle for reminding me of that…I refer to it in this post as Antigua and Barbuda’s Other-Other-Other anthem because there’s the official (Novelle Richards-penned/Walter Chambers-composed)  anthem of course (hence the reason why this one is single quotes because no disrespect meant to the original), then there’s Bobby Margetson’s God Bless Antigua which is one of my favourite patriotic songs (with poignant lines like “where first I held a mother’s hand and learned to bend a knee” and “where land and sea make beauty, let every man be free to proudly hold his head up high and walk with dignity”); King Obstinate’s Believe (“in this land, its future, its purpose, believe in yourself most of all as one people”) also sings to me…so clearly it’s all subjective as others would have other patriotic favourites…but I feel there’s fair consensus that Short Shirt’s Pledge is second only to the official anthem in asserting who we aspire to be as a nation and so it holds default position as anthem-in-our-hearts.

It feels particularly urgent at Independence time as that’s the time of year we feel most of a single accord in celebrating our Antiguan and Barbudan-ness (Halloween parties aside). It is also a time for some reflection of our journey to date. Using Pledge as our yardstick, have we honoured our ancestors’ sacrifice, protected our children’s future; have we dodged the potholes and pitfalls of corruption, nepotism, victimization; have we, achieved some measure of uplift and equality; and most importantly, maintained our freedom?

Yes…no…maybe…a bitta both?

Well, bittersweet Pledge may be 34+ years in, but it remains a call to strive to be our best selves…which in the end is what independence is all about.

The authorship of the song has been… confusing (at least to me)…because  it’s been credited to a few people. Among them, an icon all Antiguans and Barbudans including me have nuff respect for, Reginald Samuel. I remember first coming across this credit while covering an awards ceremony at which he was being celebrated for the body of his contribution to culture and the arts (as sculptor, as national flag designer, as songwriter), as educator and gamesmaster, as activist, and so much more – it was mindblowing to learn all the ways this quiet and largely unlauded man had contributed to Antigua and Barbuda. His connection to the song was also cited in the poem Humble Hero by Cush David in his booklet The Dynamics of an Artistic Patriot: A Biography of Reginald Samuel: “Most people don’t know that you wrote the song PLEDGE for the monarch king Short Shirt…” But then in his more recent Short Shirt biography King Short Shirt: Nobody Go Run Me: the Life and Times of Sir Mclean Emanuel, Dorbrene O’Marde, calypso aficionado (writer, publisher of Calypso Talk magazine), wrote “Short Shirt and [Stanley] Humphreys…co-opt the ACLM manifesto vision ‘not just a society but a just society’ and produce what would become another calypso national anthem for Antigua and Barbuda’s independence celebrations – The Pledge”. And lest we think he’s referring to another Pledge, he quotes it as I have above. Just putting those two bits of reportage down  since they are in print and there for anyone to check…but I have to say this is one of the more frustrating parts of trying to canonize the Antiguan songbook, pinning down authorship of songs – often liner notes, where they exist, and they rarely do, are no help. Which reminds me, any help with verifying and building on the information in that section of the site would be welcomed (just trying to get the facts right for the record).

Meantime, enjoy and reflect on our other or other-other-other ‘anthem’.

Sidebar: in O’Marde’s accounting of the production of the song, Frankie McIntosh is credited for the musical arrangement including the “horn leads and fills” I was praising earlier, so big up Mr. McIntosh.

And Happy Independence, all. Belatedly (given that Independence Day is actually November 1st making this post a few days late).

As with all content on wadadlipen.wordpress.com, except otherwise noted, this is written by Joanne C. Hillhouse (author of The Boy from Willow Bend, Dancing Nude in the Moonlight, Musical Youth, Fish Outta Water, and Oh Gad!). All Rights Reserved. If you enjoyed it, check out my page on Amazon, WordPress, and/or Facebook, and help spread the word about Wadadli Pen and my books. You can also subscribe to the site to keep up with future updates. Thanks.

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Filed under A & B Lit News Plus, A & B WRITINGS, Literary Gallery

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