The Mike Men of Trinidad and Tobago by Dr. Primnath Gooptar, a 2020 publication (ISBN: 978-976-96529-0-3), is a documentation of the significant role played by the mike men in the social and cultural life of the community. The Mike Men has an introduction by Professor Emeritus Brinsley Samaroo and messages by Independent Senator and First Vice President of the National Council of Indian Culture (NCIC) Deoroop Teemal, Randy Kissoon, President of the Trinidad and Tobago Mobile Paging Association and Anand Kissoon, President of the Mike Men Association of Trinidad and Tobago.
Senator Teemal wrote: “There are times when a culture is guilty for taking for granted movements that have shaped and contributed significantly to its growth and development in unique, distinct and intangible ways.” By writing this book, Dr. Primnath Gooptar has acknowledged and placed in perspective the contributions that the mike men have made to the society. Most significantly, the mike men have done so without depending on contribution from the State or other patrons but for the love of culture.
We live in a society where we are made to feel ashamed of our background. This is symptomatic in a high propensity to recognize greatness outside the community and to decry excellence from within. This unconscious reaction or fear to value ourselves may be done to please the outsiders for fear of us being branded chauvinistic. Such a fear to praise our own must be banished and Dr. Gooptar has demonstrated that not by empty rhetoric but by quietly putting pen to paper.
I recalled working with the Sundar Popo Monument Committee to erect a statue of Sundar Popo when a member of the Committee questioned: “Why don’t we include a statue of Cecil Fonrose?” The Committee emphasized that its focus was to build a statue of Sundar Popo. The gentleman abandoned the Committee. Our Committee erected the Sundar Popo statue but the gentleman was never to be seen again.
The Mike Men of Trinidad and Tobago has eight chapters: Chapter 1 -The Arrival of the Mike Men; Chapter 2-The Mike Men and Hindu Weddings; Chapter 3- Hindi Film Songs and the Mike Man; Chapter 4-The Mike Men Sound-offs; Chapter 5-Maintenance and Upgrading of a Mike System; Chapter 6-Social and Political Impact; Chapter 7- Identity Markers and Chapter 8- The Mike and the Mike Men.
Gooptar wrote: “Horns were the earliest form of sound amplification used by man…horn instruments or funnels derived its name, and were obtained from the horns of sheep, cows or other wild animals.” This chapter traced the technical evolution of the mike from the 1930s with the gramophone horns to the 1940s when amplifiers were added. This evolution demonstrated the ambition and innovativeness of the Mike Men to keep abreast of technical strides in the industry.
The Mike Men in Hindu Wedding is a high point in the life of a mike man. He was viewed as a star boy and the entire wedding hinges on his presence. While there were other entertainments such as the Indar Sabha and Raja Harichandra dramas, the guests were always keen on listening to the latest filmi music.
Dr. Gooptar captures a significant aspect of the mike men which is the weekly sound off or banter. These clashes first took place in the traces of the cane fields but have now found a venue at the Preysal Recreation Ground, Couva with the names of the mike system emblazoned on the funnels in bold prints. Some names identified were: Balo and Sons, Maraj & Sons, Imtiaz, Hurricane, Tomahawk, Guns of Navarone, etc. The inclusion of “and Sons” demonstrated the seriousness of the enterprise. By providing pictures of the mikes on vehicles in more than ten pages in a single chapter, Dr. Gooptar has certainly elevated the significant contributions of these mike men to the community.
The several roles played by the mike men is now embossed in this publication. In addition to weddings, the other roles include death announcements, religious meeting such as yagyas, advertising of bazaars and sales, public health notices by the municipal corporation such as the spraying for mosquitoes, announcement of political rallies and other cultural entertainments. In the 1950s to the 1980s the mike played a major role in advertising in the villages the latest Hindi film releases.
It was a fine gesture by Dr. Gooptar to put the names of mike men along with the photos and addresses. This is certainly going to put a sense of pride in their lives and silence many critics who have negative opinions of these ambassadors of our culture. Many wives who were unhappy with their husbands’ weekly rendezvous away from home, may now become apologetic.
Dr. Gooptar has done a significant piece of cultural research and documentation for posterity. With the rapidly changing pace of technology the mike men culture may be phased out in less than a decade. Nevertheless, The Mike Men of Trinidad and Tobago helps to preserve the contribution of these cultural pioneers and enthusiasts.
To this end Dr. Gooptar has broached with several mike men the establishment of a Mike Museum and the NCIC was suggested as the ideal venue to house such a project. Many are enthusiastic and have pledged their fullest support for such a project.
Dr. Gooptar is quite a prolific writer on Indian cultural practices such as the mike men, Ramleela and cinema because he has been playing a significant role in these aspects of our culture. He is an endorsement of the truism that a writer can only write on familiar subjects. I certainly look forward to Dr. Gooptar capturing in print the contribution of our roti makers, our orchestras, our folk singers and others who have contributed so much in the preservation and propagation of our heritage.
I want to endorse this latest publication which is now available at the little store in Curepe and Chaguanas. For further information, you may contact Praimnath Gooptar at 470-0133/663-0435 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.