Calypso Fiesta 2015
On Saturday 7th March, 2015, the day dawned fiercely bright under a cloudless sky and the kaiso faithful gathered once more on the green sprawl of Skinner Park to partake in Calypso Fiesta2015. “High Noon!” shouted one man. “We ready! We ready!” chanted others. “Sweetness!” screamed another eager fellow. “It comin’, it comin’,” soothed the Master of Ceremonies, Mr. Wendell Etienne with a mischievous grin as he commented on the “niceness” he was seeing in the restive crowd. The live band warmed their instruments into Balroop’s sound system which boomed the music across the park. Before the launch of the competition, guest artistes Neil Baptiste and Dorrill Hector performed successively onstage, appeasing the crowd which was growling hungrily for kaiso. “These extempo men like to show off,” Etienne teased. Despite the mounting restlessness of the thickening crowds, patrons waved and jumped with the music, gearing up for the show.
Shortly after 12.30 p.m., the first act appeared in the form of Garth St. Clair presenting “Decision Pending.” His was a committed performance, with an entire cricket team of support on stage and the audience laughed heartily at his lyrical content. “Dem fellas serious,” joked Etienne and kaiso waxed hot as Joanne “Tigress” Rowley followed, perfoming her piece, “What You Willing To Die For.” Moko Jumbies danced in national colours with giant posters of Wayne Kublalsingh, Dana Seetahal, a Newsday headline and Marcia Henville. Tigress alternately purred and roared her query into the microphone as she celebrated icons, fallen or falling in the service of their country. Dana’s smile hung poignantly over the crowd at Skinner Park as Tigress closed her piece. She was followed by Kerrine “Tiny” Williams with the song “How Much?” Tiny addressed the social breakdown manifesting through juvenile delinquency and her effort was met with appreciation from the audience.
Alicia Richards was next performing, “Suits For Sale.” She firstappeared dressed in a formal suit but removed shirts, ties and trousers to reveal a striped shirt and pants reminiscent of a jailbird’s outfit, parodying the fate of government ministers who pander to corruption in public office. Ife Alleyne took to the stage thereafter, presenting her “Child of Liberty,” a powerful song about African pride and heritage in the diaspora. The crowd swayed in approval as she delivered a moving performance, calling on their spirits to restore ancestral pride. Fists pumped collectively in the air with her own as she chanted the chorus from the stage, “Give me the power so anything I can conquer!” Georgia Mc Intyre appeared and dedicated her rendition of “The Voice” to Marcia Henville whose presence walked the stage through McIntyre’s contribution which referenced her life’s work, ensuring that in the midst of the revelry, the plight of those she represented would not be forgotten.
Delanie “Lady Baynes” Baynes was next with her song, “Sister/Sister.” She engaged the audience with warmth as she sang about the relationship between Trinidad and Tobago, speaking to the need for equity and political autonomy in the sister isle. She too, was well-received. Veteran of the kaiso tradition, Anthony “All Rounder” Hendrickson appeared with his composition, “What Maestro Say Is True.” The All Rounder delivered a faultless performance in fine form as his daughters Lady Wonder and Shirlayne Hendrickson supported him in the back up line. Nicole Thomas followed with “Drums of Hope,” offering words of encouragement for those listening to self-empower through cultural participation. Candice Robinson’s offering of “True Democracy,” also took a sombre tone, calling for our democracy to evolve past the ‘isms’ of present day society. Winston “The Original De Fosto Himself” Scarborough performed thereafter with his contribution of “Games”: an astute commentary on the conversion of governance to games in Trinidad and Tobago. He too was well-supported by the audience. Ezekiel Yorke presented “Equality” which was ballad-like in delivery but he admirably held his own in the searing heat on stage.
Heather McIntosh was next performing “Ah Gone”. This song was a shrewdly crafted statement drawing on her student experiences in Latin America to illustrate how the management of crime in Trinidad had deteriorated to such a degree that she, a patriot for her country, was now forced to migrate to Brazil. Neville “Bunny B” Brown matched her showmanship with his song, “Multi Crisis,” knocking and mocking the Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago for flying out of the country to attend international summits and pledging Trinidad and Tobago’s support in the fight against ISIS when there is so much crime being produced by her Cabinet at home, cautioning against her style of “promotion by selfie.” Wendell Frederick took to the stage with his rendition of “Lock Dem Up,” expressing the frustration of the public with the many instances of corruption in public office leading to his cry to lock “dem” up and throw away the key when it comes to corrupt officials. His song found favour with the crowd which danced and sang under the blazing sun. The programme was indeed a lengthy one and the several Masters of Ceremonies adroitly spaced their different styles of stewardship over various parts of the programme, thereby ensuring that no part of the show became tedious or repetitive. The MCs for the event included local personalities Sprangalang, Tommy Joseph, Wendell Etienne, Gillian Smith, Victor “Pelf” St. Louis, Damion Melville, Godfrey Pierre and Derek Silman.
Dianne “Lady Wonder” Hendrickson approached the audience with the song, “Get Rid Of Dem Mockers,” speaking to the double standards and hypocrisy manifesting in different spheres in the society and expressing the need to get rid of said perpetrators. Mark “Contender” John followed with “Senior Citizen”, a commentary from the perspective of a senior citizen observing young people doing the wrong thing. Devon Seales was next with the wildly popular “My Humble Plea.” The crowd sang in unison as he presented his infectious hook of “Go…Nah…Plee-ase!” Flags waved and folks cheered for his return long after this crowd-pleaser left the stage. Victoria “Queen Victoria” Cooper performed her song “Venting” and she truly vented about recent controversies involving government corruption and ministerial mismanagement of public resources. Brian London closed the first half with his song, “Wishful,” a slow and hymn-like medley which did not carry the same energy and fire of his artistic predecessors on the stage but it was nonetheless appreciated by the enthusiastic audience. Marcia Henville and Dana Seetahal were again manifested in poster portraits, flanking the stage for his performance, both standing as an ever present testament to their activism, now immortalized in bardic tradition of calypso.
Elon “Cardinal” Bagoo opened the second half dressed as the First Lady, Reema Carmona, wearing a female wig, a short, black lacy jacket which left his midriff “sexily” exposed over a short, black skirt and a pair of high heels in which he managed to perform quite skillfully. He provoked immense laughter with his antics as he roasted her fashionista style with his comedic song, “Dressed To Suit.” Stephan “Stephan Mas” Marcelle followed with “If It Ain’t One Thing, Is Another.” Audio problems delayed his performance by a few minutes but he gave a spirited show, referencing various government scandals. The crowd responded freely to his song, cheering him on as he offered an animated performance. Michael “Sugar Aloes” Osouna took to the stage with his song, “Bounce Back,” a composition which offered philosophical insight and encouragement on how to overcome life’s drawbacks and obstacles. Despite the positivity of his contribution, the crowd jeered and masses of toilet paper were produced, floating in the breeze with ironic beauty over Skinner Park, as the lengths of white paper caught the brilliant pink glow of the setting sun. However, he was good-natured in the face of this rejection and left the stage with grace despite being booed. Kurt “The Last Badjohn Of Calypso” Allen was next, coincidentally with his presentation, “King #2,” an ode to his ongoing professional success over the last few years of being placed second place in many calypso competitions, punning the use of toilet paper and popping out of a galvanized latrine which had been wheeled onto the stage as a part of his act. His performance was amusing and the crowd roared with laughter as he jumped back into his latrine to depart the stage in much the same way as he had arrived.
Marcia Henville’s presence once more graced the stage as another smiling portrait of her beamed from the stage while Sean “The Psalmist” Daniel performed a strong tribute to her life’s work via his song, “Peace Seeker.” Lynette “Lady Gypsy” Steele followed with her anti-abortion missive, “Voice Of The Aborted.” Lesley-Ann Ellis offered “Twice A Child,” a song which portrayed the need for respect for the aged and senior citizens in the society, calling on families to look after the elderly instead of exploiting and bullying them. Kenneth “Punchin” Thomas followed with, “Bullying Phenomenon,” preaching against the bullying of citizens by politicians, avowing that he would not allow himself to be bullied. Shirlayne Hendrickson was next with her rendition of “The Hills Thrills,” infecting the crowd with her energy as she sang and danced with cool self-confidence, offering an effervescent display of showmanship. She was followed by Karene Asche with “Every Knee Shall Bow.” Karene performed this piece with maturity and when paired with her dancers, her presentation took on a gospel-like tone as she stood with calm assurance while the audience reacted with keen excitement. Arnold “Jaw D” Jordan followed with a moving performance of his song, “Dis Is My Life.” He offered a dramatic and charismatic narrative on a national topic from a perspective that is rarely explored and his act was certainly a standout.
Selvon “Mistah Shak” Noel was up next with his song, “Target.” The “lyrical hitman” had the rowdy audience singing along lustily as he “killed” with his lyrics, aiming his words with deadly precision at the antics of the present administration in government. Helon Francis offered “Stalwart” which proved to be a nostalgic piece invoking memories of the golden kaiso of yesteryear. Dillon “Dilly Suede” Thomas was next with “CounterStrike,” an amusing commentary which referenced Ravi Maharaj’s counter-activism to Wayne Kublalsingh’s hunger strike last year. Karen Eccles Thomas followed this with her song, “Our Red Carpet,” a clever piece of wordplay wittily referencing the human tongue as a red carpet which should be used to uplift others rather than cut them down. Duane O’Connor was next with “Citizen’s Pride” which celebrated nationalism and promoted patriotism in multiple ways. Sonia Ann Moses also moved the audience with “The Essence of Building,” a slower tempo with clear enunciation. Myron “The Incredible Myron B” Bruce discussed the refusal of locals to ban the Carnival despite the recent panic in Trinidad and Tobago circles over the threat of ebola reaching our shores in saucy double entendre with his song “Ebola Scare.” Many politicians were lampooned but the crowd reacted with glee over his portrayal of the recent marital scandal attached to Anil Roberts’ wife and her relationship with a certain radio disc jockey. Rosemary “The Young Rose” Mitchell appeared on stage in a beautiful costume festooned with hearts as she performed “Love Song,” which could only be described as a love song to her country. The audience caught the hook and sang it with her, “Trinbago I looove you…” Winston “The Mighty Shadow” Bailey offered a steady performance through his song, “Dey Sticking,” which saw the crowd stepping to the beat in unison. Lornette “FYA Empress” Nedd closed the show with her ballad “Hold on T&T,” an optimistic melody which offered hope for the future.
The protective services were in constant movement through the crowd ensuring that all was in order. Also, the promoters for the show had set up a special tent which catered for breathalyzer tests, signalling how times have changed. With the recent amendments to the laws on drunk driving, patrons were repeatedly encouraged throughout the show to avail themselves of the service offered in the breathalyzer testing tent.
The rhythm-section was in energetic form and the after-party swung swiftly into play once the final competitor had departed the stage. Calypso Fiesta 2015 has once more proved its mettle showcasing kaiso talent engaging diverse themes affecting Trinidad and Tobago.