For DJ’s, reviewing and preparing music is a regular occurrence. In this process old songs find ways to creep into rotation in the most unsuspected of ways. This happened to me last week when preparing for “Backayard Sessions.”
While I did not spin the song at the event, “Dog Better Than Man” (by the Trinidadian calypso singer Viper) brings me the same laughter faintly heard in the background of the 1962 recording. Stronger than laughter are my feelings of agreement with its lyrics, which appear more relevant today than they likely were at the time they were sung.
Viper want to come back a dog.
People will say that I’m going crazy,
but as a dog I know I’ll be happy.
Friends of course you will be sure to know.
I’ll get the love and protection
wherever I go. That’s why
in the next creation,
I want to be a dog, not a human.
Laughter and agreement are common responses to calypso music, a music that intricately connects daily Caribbean life and daily Caribbean conditions together through simple language and diasporic melodies, often in a humorous and clever way. The humor (such as Viper’s references to dogs being on “cruises” and “satellites”) breeds a laughter that hides its cleverness (e.g., dogs are now actually brought on cruises and have been sent into earth’s orbit), making it ever more subversive, with or without intention. This difficult and widely misinterpreted task is precisely what Viper did when he sang about his desire to be a dog “in the next creation.” In the age of puppy day care and canine college, his words couldn’t be a more accurate reflection.
Backayard Sessions are held the second Saturday of every month at 739 Franklin Avenue in Crown Heights, Brooklyn.
— Jeremy Syrop, Zeteo Contributor
Photograph is of Laika, the first living creature to orbit the Earth, in 1957. Courtesy of BBC News.