Thursday, 4 October 2007

Lignum Vitae

The Lignum vitae tree is one of my favourite trees. When it bursts into lavender blooms with orange berries, it is usually completely surrounded by white butterflies. There is obviously a symbiotic relationship between the two and it helps to add to the magical charm of this tree. These two trees caught my eye when I was driving past the St James Police Barracks. This old building is lovely and it is in the very back of the compound. This pair are two of the largest that I have ever seen and they are completely covered in blooms. This combined with the old architecture made this one of those scenes that you stumble on that makes the whole day worthwhile. I had to get special permission to get into this area of the compound because of security reasons and my camera. But once in, the policemen could not have been nicer. They were all thrilled to learn what the trees were and, of course, they knew all about Lignum vitae because of Roaring Lion's song - was it Nettie Nettie? or Miss Dorothy? Anyway I had quite a bunch of groupies around me by the end of it all.

I have given a bio on Roaring Lion below but this is the one quote that I love:

Early victim of record bans by colonial authorities: 'Netty, Netty' was banned '36 by Commissioner of Police on grounds of 'immorality'; Collector of Customs dumped entire first shipment of the record in Port of Spain Harbour; however the will of Carnival revellers prevailed over censorship the following year when they made 'Netty, Netty' the Road March. Following Atilla's election to Trinidad and Tobago's (T&T) Legislative Council '50, he singled out 'Netty, Netty' in his historical speech '51 attempting to move an amendment to the notorious Theatre and Dance Halls Ordinance '34, used to regulate the performance of calypso during colonial days: 'The police heard ''Netty, Netty, gie me de ting you have in you belly.'' And they said they wanted the words changed to: ''Netty, Netty, give me the article in your abdomen.''
This the bark of the tree . The wood is so hard it is legendary. I 'm still trying to find lyrics see which song the Lignum vitae was featured. If anyone knows, please blog and let me know.

For those who do not know- Roaring Lion was one of the earliest calypsonians and performed in the 1930's and 40's. Here is an excerpt from his bio which appeared on
LION, Roaring
(b Hubert Raphael Charles, Feb. '10, Belmont, Port of Spain, Trinidad; renamed Raphael Charles de Leon c'51, then Rafael Arias Cairi Llama de Leon early '60s) Calypsonian, former clarinettist; among first generation to record during calypso's so-called '30s--'40s 'Golden Age', still active in '90s; versatile calypsonian with a penchant for bawdy calypsos; always a snappy dresser: described as the Beau Brummel of calypso by Atilla the Hun (Raymond Quevedo). Lion's personal accounts of his early career vary, but probably debuted c'29 in a small beginners' calypso tent in Belmont. Dubbed Lion Flaps c'31 by Lord Beginner (Egbert Moore: 1904-- 80); changed to the Roaring Metro Lion '33 when he joined 'Chieftain' Walter Douglas's Railroad Millionaires 'Crystal Palace' tent. Had prevailing unofficial Road March (or leggo as it was known then) most years '34--8 with 'Wanga' '34, 'Advantage Mussolini' '36 (bouncy condemnation of Italian Fascists' '35 invasion of Abyssinia [Ethiopia], set to the melody of Don Azpiaz£'s international '31 Cuban hit 'El Manisero', 'The Peanut Vendor'), 'Ask No Questions' '36 (recorded in a trio with King Radio and Growling Tiger), 'Netty, Netty' '37, 'Nora Darling' '38. He and Atilla were the first local artists sent to NYC to record '34 by local Portuguese businessman Eduardo Sa Gomes; Bing Crosby and Rudy Vallee attended the sessions. During the trip Lion performed 'Ugly Woman' on Vallee's network radio show, the appearance celebrated in duo's calypso 'Guests Of Rudy Vallee' '38, and entertained President Roosevelt at NYC's Waldorf Astoria hotel. He continued to record annually in NYC from '36 until sessions were curtailed '42 due to WWII, making 95 sides in total.


Sandra said...

Hi Sharon.
Sandra from Denmark is here.
I just remembered your page. It's so nice to see all your fantastic pictures!! They are so beautiful.
I really miss Trinidad! I really do. Im looking forward to visit your fantastic country again one day.
When I see all your pictures it reminds of so many things, I experienced "down there". So that's very nice.
I hope everything's good. Love to your family.

Love Sandra

seaphoenix said...

If this helps, it's a quote from Wikipedia:

"Pioneering calypsonian/vaudevillian Sam Manning recorded a song entitled "Lignum Vitae" in the 1920s. His reference was doubly salacious, referring to both the bark tea's contraceptive qualities and the phallic symbolism of the hard wood."

Great article.

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