Klassic Ruso Calypso Tent Judging Night 2015
On Thursday 22nd January, 2015, the cry of “Kaiso Kaiso!” rang out in the auditorium of Issa’s Restaurant and Pub as the Klassic Ruso Calypso Tent opened its doors to thirty competitors in the calypso arena. As the artistes readied for the show, some of the patrons took the time to share their personal experiences and enjoyment in the tent over the years.
Margaret Barrington of Barataria was one such person. She attended the event two or three times last year and had this to say: “Oh gosh, it’s good! They treat you like family in here; that’s what’s nice about it. I really enjoy the show; I enjoy the way that the people relate to each other especially Lady Wonder and the family … it’s really nice. I feel at home with them; that is why we came last year and we came back again tonight.” She admitted that she was a fan of the calypsonian All Rounder and was anticipating his performance and that of his children at the tent that evening. She opined that the Klassic Ruso Calypso Tent differed from the other tents in that it offered a more intimate setting for the audience and entertainer to interact. She noted, “It’s different in size, but I think it’s a more one on one something. You go to the big tents and it’s like you pay, you go in and that’s it.” She bubbled from the excitement of winning a door prize both last year as well as this year and proclaimed her support for the tent, “all the way!”
Natalie Gill of Diego Martin was another patron who happily discussed her history with the tent. She has been supporting the tent since 2011 and she frankly owned that prior to her experiences in Klassic Ruso, her experience of live kaiso was limited, saying: “Well I wasn’t exposed to this side of calypso before, so it was a cultural awakening for me. I’ve enjoyed it thoroughly! I skipped one year, which was last year and I missed it thoroughly so I feel good to be back … it’s very enlightening.” She lauded the organization of the shows and the timely manner in which they started and finished shows, noting that the content of the live performances never became dull because both new and seasoned artistes were showcased, thus allowing for the spectator to get a peek at the up and coming talent in the arena. Gill thus stated, “They look for all the different genres of the talent and so you would have the political, the social, the comedy … all things they would use in a broad spectrum.” She commended the merging of calypso and culture on the stage and observed that young people could learn a great deal from being exposed to shows of this calibre, pointing out that being involved in the industry was not limited to being a performer since the spectator also offered a valid perspective in the living experience of culture.
Ms. C. Noel had travelled from Chaguanas to enjoy the show which she has been attending for several years. She stated, “From my experience, I find that it improved over the years. I’ve been around this tent for years so it’s more like my home tent to me. But overall I would say it’s one of the best, if not the best! I would advise anybody that if they want good calypso Klassic Ruso is the place to come.” Indeed the tent’s high octane presentation of calypso heritage has not gone unnoticed in the industry and it has attracted other professionals from different parts of the Caribbean who have borne witness to the well-oiled machinery of a good kaiso show. One such person was Devon Phillips, currently of Laventille. Mr. Phillips was born in Trinidad but he grew up in St. Vincent where he has performed kaiso for the last sixteen years. He expressed keen interest in the show and indicated that tents like the Klassic Ruso were important in the cultural construct of national identity.
Fifteen-year old Auset McClean was another person observing the show through multi-national lenses. This native of New York is presently a student of Fatima College. His Trinidadian mother was performing with the tent as a member of the Klassic Ruso Diamonds and he was there to give his support. He offered his thoughts on the show, indicating his interest in the lineup because “different styles are coming forward for the season.” He noted the importance of having a knowledge of current affairs to follow much of what passes on the stage, observing that kaiso is an art form that allows for much self-expression. He disclosed that his mother’s open conversations with him ensured that he had a fair understanding of the mature subject matter being broached on the stage.
Cherisse Necarra from San Juan is a back-up singer with the Klassic Ruso Diamonds. She shared her enthusiasm at having the opportunity to perform, saying, “I’m excited! It’s a really good mix: you’ve got the comedy, you’ve got the political, you’ve got the thought provoking pieces.” This trained singer holds a Bachelor’s in Music and she expressed her sincere love of kaiso, disclosing that, “Growing up, my mother used to take us to calypso tents like Spektacular … big and small … and I grew up with a love for calypso. I never sang it myself as a professional but I grew up with great love for it, especially the vintage kaiso.” She lamented the need for additional support from the public for shows like this and for the artistes who proudly fly the flag of local culture for so little, stating, “People need to keep coming out and supporting things like this because it’s one thing to say ‘Yeah, I love kaiso and you listen on the radio. But[/b] then, what are you really doing for people who are holding up that flag and waving it wide? They need the money so they have to go the extra step and really support the calypsonians!”
Trustee of TUCO North Zone and one of the managers of the tent, Bernice Carr was on hand to offer her thoughts on the evening’s show saying, “Tonight the judges will be here so we will be featuring the whole cast tonight, which is thirty artistes.” The selection process for the artistes they feature is simple, she proclaimed: “We have auditions and then we had a call back and we choose the thirty from that.” This veteran of the industry has been working with the Klassic Ruso Tent for approximately eight years and she added that, “It has grown. Unfortunately this year, we usually house it [Klassic Ruso] at City Hall but because of renovations at City Hall we had to come here and it is a smaller venue.” However, she notes that public support for the tent is “not bad.”
Indeed, the house was packed with only standing room available for those who arrived after the show’s commencement at 8 p.m. Mistress of Ceremonies, Ms. Shirlane Hendrickson ably held the attention of the audience between acts with her warm banter as she introduced artiste after artiste. The live band provided the smooth accompaniment for the artistes as they entered the arena and performed in a costumed array of sparkling sequins and colours under the soft house lights. Kaiso aficionados turned out in well-dressed numbers to support their favourite artistes. The themes explored in the music reflected ribald humour, politics, race and various social ills. The event showcased sharp commentary across the board.
Shawn “Dr. Rude Kaiso” McIntyre was one of the performers who competed that evening and the event proved to be a groundbreaking one for him. This was his first foray into political commentary and though he had been initially nervous, he felt encouraged by the receptivity of the audience. He expressed contentment with his performance saying, “I was pleased, seeing that I was doing it the first time. It could be improved upon, but yes, I was pleased with what I did.” Despite his earlier misgivings, he had made the attempt because he felt that his comedic style was something which would make others laugh and this is an aspect of his craft which he greatly enjoys.
The show continued with calypsonians taking to the stage, singing and swinging, jumping and chanting in a clever display of double entendre. Klassic Ruso lived up to its reputation of presenting the power of the spoken word met rhythm, continuing the legacy of the calypso tradition.
Klassic Ruso Calypso Tent 2015 Performing Cast:
Artiste / Song
Jameeka Munday / Life Eh No Sport
Edwin ‘Stockings’ Brown / ID
Michael ‘Mr. Nature’ John / Lover Boy
Lloyd ‘Quiet Prince’ Cupido / Our Country
Michael ‘Mr. Mike’ Schuller / Adult Toys
Rasheed Latiff / Advice to Dr Rowley
Kenneth ‘Kaiso Mac’ Mc Conney / Allegations
Rommel ‘Smurf D Jockey’ Francis / Tea Finish
Shawn ‘Dr. Rude Kaiso’ McIntyre / Beauty and De Donkey
Stanley Adams / The Power of the Balls
Hamidullah ‘Hamiddullah’ Wahid / Do something for you
Michael ‘Mechanic’ Brown / Sexy Granny
Cuthbert ‘Typher’ Blackett / Spankin
Dianne ‘Lady Wonder’ Hendrickson / Get Rid of Dem Mockers
Fitzroy ‘Ebony’ Joseph / Teach Them
William ‘Dr. Will B’ Bannister / In De Savannah
Carlton ‘Manchild’ Collins / Normal
Patrick ‘Revealer’ Lewis / Dear Kamla
Shirlane Hendrickson / The Hills Thrills
Mark ‘Contender’ John / Senior Citizen
Edwin ‘Crazy’ Ayoung / CEPEP Save Meh/Respect The Elders
Dorril ‘Versatile’ Hector / Is Not The Money
Anthony ‘All Rounder’ Hendrickson / What Maestro Say Is True/Take Some
Kenroy ‘Black Prince’ Smith / Console
Derek ‘Benny J’ Jones / Do You Believe
Rannie ‘King Soul’ Peters / Sex Speculators
John ‘Sideways’ Absalom / The Hog Dead
Geirre ‘Gary Hercules’ Hercules / Put It
Sergio ‘Young Sparrow’ Francisco / Just like Sparrow
Suzanne ‘Lioness’ John / Pan Fever