By George Alleyne
He entertained while ever mindful of his impoverished beginnings which enabled him to grace the world stage with humility, now those unpretentious qualities have resulted in the man known as Reg Plastic Bag being recognised by the highest university in the Caribbean.
‘RPB’ or ‘Bag’ as he is commonly known among his fans, but whose real name is Stedson Wiltshire, was over the weekend conferred with an Honorary Doctor of Letters by the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus, at the annual graduation ceremony.
Delivering the feature address at the ceremony, he dispensed some of the self-effacement that guided him through a career from 1979 by telling the audience that there is no shame in starting life from the bottom, and it should in no way limit goals for the future.
“Your beginning is not as important as your becoming. Your income is not as important as your outcome. Wealth is not only financial, but also spiritual.”
Bag said that the caring nature of the fishing village of Bayfield, St. Philip, Barbados, where he was born among 10 siblings gave him a sense of community and belonging which built his character.
RPB used music to express himself and in 1982 at age 21 became the youngest winner of the national calypso title, Pic-O-De- Crop, which he went on to win another nine times. His other national titles are Tune of the Crop and Sweet Soca, having won both two times each.
Reflecting on where life has taken him RPB said, “by 1994, the strange name Red Plastic Bag had become well known in the world of calypso as the song Ragga Ragga became popular across the globe.
“I was performing in places I thought I would never see and saw smiling faces I did not know”.
He also revealed to a sobering moment of reflection that gripped him just before a scheduled performance in the Big Apple.
“One Mother’s Day I sat in my dressing room at Radio City Music Hall in New York, one of the most famous performing centres of the world. I was waiting to go on stage and I couldn’t stop the tears from flowing … Time suddenly stood still as my mind went right back to Bayfield.
“I saw myself as a little boy with no shoes walking the uneven terrain by the pond. I heard my mother’s voice saying, ‘Son, believe, believe there is a God’.”
Now this humble entertainer can be called Dr. Bag.