Multi-talented musician Garfield Blackman, better known as Ras Shorty I, was commemorated in a ceremony in San Fernando, Trinidad, on Thursday 28 July. The ceremony was to rename Short Street, that connects High Street with Pointe-a-Pierre Road, as Ras Shorty I Street. Mayor of the city of San Fernando, Junia Regrello, along with the children and extended family of the music legend, gathered at the street corner to witness the unveiling of the new sign.
Derron Attz of the Torrance Mohammed Foundation, who chaired the unveiling ceremony, explained that the foundation has a mission to expand knowledge, understanding and appreciation of arts and culture, and as such had determined that Ras Shorty I should be recognised, albeit 22 years after his passing. Crediting Attz for the sign, the musician’s eldest daughter, Abbi Blackman, observed, “Nothing happens before its time.”
Unfortunately, the sign was misspelt, but Abbi explained that the tears of the family were not brought on by the mishap but by the fact that her father had been recognised in such a momentous way. The mayor acknowledged the error and promised that the sign will be corrected.
Issac, Damon, Marge, Abbi and Nihelette honoured their father at the ceremony byperforming his well-known hits including Om Shanti Om and Watch Out My Children. The latter was adopted by the United Nations as the theme song for its campaign against the proliferation of drug abuse.
A measure of Ras Shorty I’s talent is that he created no fewer than three genres of music: soca, chutney-soca and jamoo. His peers in the calypso fraternity acknowledge his contribution to the calypso and soca artforms.
Shorty I fathered 23 children, and he passed his talent on to the next generation. Along with his wife, the late Claudette Blackman, he created a generation of musical wealth. Abbi stated: “Shorty I took us [his children] out of school to do music. He said the system was not geared for artistic children. His focus was on learning different instruments, singing, composing, music engineering and so much more.”
Issac is known for his hits such as To The Ceiling and Blessing Me, while Marge received worldwide recognition when she teamed up on the track Touch The Ground with Machel Montano at the recent Mahashivratri celebrations in India. Soca artist Nailah Blackman, Ras Shorty I’s granddaughter, paid tribute to him in her 2018 song Sokah.
Abbi revealed that after his death the family petitioned five different Ministers of Culture to open a museum and school of music and arts, preferably in his home town of Piparo or in San Fernando, but so far without success.
Nevertheless, his children have pledged to continue their campaign for the museum and school as a way to pass on their father’s legacy.