People shouldn’t only end up in this column when I sing a calypso on them. Whether it’s Cydelle Crosby, Collis Duranty, Joan Dayal, Vaughnette Bigford, Marlon Bascombe, Joyce Pierre, Nickolai Salcedo, Sonja Dumas, Vin and Boom, Suzette and her daughter Candace, or Ms Merritt at bMobile, this is equally a space for praisesongs.
So this week I am celebrating Dike Rostant.
I’m not like Seth Sylvester. With the exception perhaps of Gyasi Merrique, I find it hard to get excited about our local broadcasters. But with a face made for TV and a voice made for radio, you can’t help but lean in when you first encounter Rostant over the airwaves. Our initial meeting was on the Good Morning T&T set, where he hosted regularly after Senator Paul Richards resigned. It was one of those sleep-deprived, too early morning slots no guest wants. But Rostant woke me up; he was poised, prepared, engaged.
Another occasion when I got up to watch this new talent, he played calypsos during the breaks. And, like DJ Rawkus when he stood near me at the foot of the stage at David Rudder’s birthday concert singing every word of every song, I asked myself: Who is this young man?
So I was thrilled to hear his baritone filling up my car the other day, this time on radio, anchoring Talk City’s morning magazine, Frontline, chatting up old ladies, doing informative interviews and playing more local music. This week, after he had me on the show, I got a chance to sit down and ask him directly just who this calypso lover with the careful diction and the sultry tone is.
His vision as a broadcaster, he shared, centres on the idea that there are some stories that have not yet been told—or told in a way people can access. So, let me tell a little of his story.
At 36, he’s older than he looks, a father of three children, seven, six and six, married to a woman he’s known since he was a teenager. His on-air days go back to announcing on NBN, the closure of which, he says, pushed him out of the nest and into a summer programme at the Caribbean Institute of Media & Communication (CARIMAC) on UWI’s Mona campus. A role hosting the July 2014 Lara Promenade tribute to Nelson Mandela proved a point of re-entry, following the couple’s decision to move back home to allow their kids a connection to family through hugs instead of Skype, after nine years following each other around the Caribbean.
Gasparillo is an enormous part of his grounding. Happy Hill. Where everyone eats fire, dances, plays drums, so much so that he never realised growing up that not everyone does. Where stickfighting happens across from the market. Vos Government, he answers, sharing his primary school when asked where he went to school. Presentation Chaguanas was a convenience, a single trip each day for both him and his father, the principal—a man often mistaken by parents who’d come to look for him at home after school, bareback and cutting grass, much like he would be on mornings before school during his childhood. Margaret and Simon’s child, Rostant called himself throughout our interview; then later called back to draw attention to his mother’s death when he was 14, and share how that too grounded him. She scored music for people who couldn’t read it, and some of those compositions ended up in the Caribbean Hymnal.
When pressed about whether his firm embrace of creole culture is something remarkable, he says he is just old people children.
In addition to Gasparillo, I also see the contours of the years doing community education and cultural outreach at Montserrat’s volcano observatory and with Belize’s national institutions. Jamaica was where he learned to ascribe value to culture, he says, citing Rex Nettleford’s marvellous word smadification, the verb, in my opinion for the rights concept of “human dignity.”
Although, he says, he really wants to get out from being “in front” of the microphone, and to provide a platform for people to have conversations about themselves, it’s Rostant’s voice that is one of his most powerful talents. Uttering a opening line offstage at the start of a “Man Better Man” production landed him a stint on SportsMax.
Rostant doesn’t want to voice other people’s stories, and ask them if they agree, however; his goal is to have a person tell their own story: “The nation needs to work to look in the mirror and be glad with who we see.”
On over-full airwaves where mediocrity, nonchalance, ignorance and crassness crowd each other out, Dike Rostant is a delight any media house should treasure and put to good use.