"Liber" - Oswin Chin Behilia

Oswin Chin Behilia
cover Liber (OTB010)
Oswin Chin Behilia in concert photo Martin van Etten


During a songwriting career that began in the early 1960s Oswin Chin Behilia has been a chronicler of his times besides writing about love and nature. Many of his songs engage the social aspects of life on Curacao in a genre he calls his “social lyrics”. On this third Otrabanda release several of his songs deal quite specifically and with a greater sense of urgency with recent major historical developments in the political relationship between his native Curacao and the Netherlands. In the time honoured fashion of a protest folk singer, through radio play, concert appearances, and even recently on local high school curricula, his lyrics reach both his home audience and Antillean immigrants in the Netherlands, often to chagrin of the powers that be on both sides of the Atlantic.
Much like the calypso that chronicled the goings on of the erstwhile British West Indies, Behilia has penned quite a few Dutch Caribbean classic tracks, often choosing the native Curacaoan tumba and sehú forms or Cuban son montuno as vehicles to tell his tales.

In the opening (Zikinzá) and closing Sigi traha e Bom (Keep Working on the Bomb), Behilia passionately and eloquently takes issue with specific historical developments that, in his view, are in the process of ushering in a second phase of (neo)colonial rule. Zikinzá is both the title of a Curacoan children’s song as well as the onomatopoeia in Papiamentu for the sound of sawing wood. The metaphor being that the legs are being sawed out from under the table. Liber, (Free)the title track is an Antillean waltz that pithily sums up Chin’s artistic philosophy: Sing for friendship and joy/Sing to bring peace and harmony/Enjoy life, live now/Sing a song as long as you can/For singing will help forget the pain/Sing with me now/You are free you are free from frustration/Let singing set you free/Sing and let your message be known/Sing do not be afraid now/Censor evil support good/ Don’t be afraid to state your opinion/For singing will help you forget the pain/Sing and break the chains of sorrow/You are free you are free from frustration/Let singing set you free

Behilia has never been afraid to tell it like it is, often criticizing the shortcomings of his own island as songs like Zona mi protesta and Bendishon disfrasá on previous Otrabanda releases attest, as well as the track Korupshon included here. First and foremost his songs are just plain good music to listen to, sometimes to dance to and more often than not, food for thought.