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Parang in the 21st century

Published: 
Monday, December 14, 2015
TRINI TO D BONE
Stanley Jennings...parrandero extraordinaire.

My name is Stanley Jennings and I am a parrandero. But when I’m onstage, my sobriquet is Albertos Alvarales Consuelo. Stanley Jennings is mellow. But Albertos is cocky.

I’m born and raised in the West my whole life. My family is from Woodbrook. I live in Santa Cruz. When I was 17, I went Santa Cruz with a friend and said: “I’m going to buy my home in this place!” And that’s what I did.

“Jennings” is not a Panyol name but my grandfather, Daniel Noriega, is originally from Venezuela. He was actually the head judge in the first parang competition ever held in Trinidad and Tobago. So I come from genuine parang stock.

I honestly didn’t appreciate parang until I met the Thomas family from Diego Martin. I was playing in a rock band called Burn. Aaron Thomas and I worked in the bank together and, one Christmas, Aaron brought his cuatro and was strumming and we went around the bank, parang-ing A Piece of Pork. 

Aaron had two younger brothers, Aldon and Avelino, and this band Los Hombres Sexuales was formed. Burn was a five-member rock band and I wanted a five-member parang band. We started practising in Burn’s band  room. Stuart Franco booked our first Christmas gig in 2007.

The Hombres Sexuales are—Anthony Maillard, John Hussain on guitar, Jesse Fournillier on maracas and Aldon, Avelino and Aaron Thomas. Without Aaron, there would be no band. This year, Pastor Kelvin Thomas, the father of Aldon, Avelino and Aaron, passed away. We dedicate our performances to him and feel his vibe every time. 

We were chosen as the only parang group to play for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Conference. I asked them if they were drinking, because we’re a novelty act. I told them there were genuine parang groups, such as Lara Brothers, that could represent the art form (properly) but they wanted us because we brought something different.

We do covers of rock and other songs (including) a parang version of my favourite song, Sounds of Silence by Simon and Garfunkel. We give Don’t Stop Believing by Journey and David Rudder’s Bahia Girl the parang treatment. We do the Det commercial in parang. Because I real like Brigo.

Costaatt booked us (when), I used to walk with slips of paper because I couldn’t remember the song lyrics. We were actually singing, in Spanish, over-and-over, to make the song last longer, “No tengo dinero/ Quiero un gato/ Quiero una mujer con un gato,” literally, “I have no money/ I want a cat/ I want a woman with a cat.” We didn’t know there were a lot of Venezuelan students in the audience. They never rehired us.

I knew La Pascualidad, which every child learns in school, apparently, and Alegria by Daisy Voisin and liked that song. Otherwise, I didn’t have an affinity for parang at all. When I saw the passion that they expressed in the music, I figured, I want to respect the tradition—we doing that!—but I want to revolutionise the approach. So I’m channelling

Scott Weilland in parang. I wanted to call the band “The Sexy Men” in Spanish. I remembered “los hombres” from school but I wasn’t sure of the Spanish word for “sexy.” So I just said, Los Hombres Sexuales. Then I found out that really meant the Sexual Men. Ironically, I did Spanish at A-level.
One night, the DJ, trying to wild the band, introduced us as Los Homosexuales. Albertos went up there and said: “You figure it’s your father up here, but it’s Los Hombres Sexuales.”

We did seven gigs weekend before last. We’re making more money from parang than I was from rock. The most gigs we’ve played in a day is ten—but we weren’t having fun. Money’s not worth that. So the most gigs we’ll do in one day now is three.

Up to this year, I never missed a day at work at the bank; I’m real regimented about that. The more gigs we do, I want people to recognise even more that I’m on time for work. I get to the bank 5.30 some mornings. A Trini is a relaxed individual who doesn’t realise how simple things in life benefits him.  They have people in Trinidad who probably ent seen the beach for this year.

Trinidad and Tobago is a haven of peace and love that I appreciate very much.

• Read a longer version of this feature at www.BCRaw.com

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