N.A.C.C. Young Kings Calypso Monarch Competition 2015
On the 2nd February, 2015, the Grand Stand in the Queen’s Park Savannah filled with kaiso enthusiasts who vied for the best seats from which to view the Young King’s Calypso Competition 2015. The show was dedicated to late culture activist and NJAC stalwart Brother Bankole and banners were hung on the stage blazed with the words “In Tribute to Brother Bankole”. Founder of the Hindu Prachaar Kendra, Ravi Ji, was present to offer the opening prayer and benediction on the artistic inheritance which the artistes were bestowing upon the public through the kaiso art form. The show started at approximately 7.30 p.m. and the welcome address by Chairman of the National Action Cultural Committee, Brother Aiyegoro Ome touched many. He greeted the specially invited guests and several dignitaries present, including His Excellency Chief Servant, Makandal Daaga, Caricom Cultural Ambassador, the Honourable Embau Moheni, Deputy Political Leader of the National Joint Action Committee, Brother Kwasi Mutema, political leader of the National Joint Action Committee, Brother M. Kwamina, Head of the Treasury of the National Joint Action Committee, Mrs. Stephanie Charles, President of the Women’s Joint Action Committee and Ms. Ife Alleyne, President of the National Youth Action Committee.
Brother Ome lauded the efforts of the late Brother Bankole who had, in his lifetime, lit many lights towards the development of the musical arts in various genres including parang, soca, chutney, calypso and steelpan to name a few. Brother Bankole was a familiar face at many events. Those who were under his guidance are entertainers and activists today. The Young King’s Calypso Show 2015 was a posthumous nod to his contribution. It was then announced that the monies which had been collected at his wake and funeral would be given to the Anum Bankole Foundation for Youths and the Arts fund which was launched after his passing. His brother, Lance Baptiste, accepted the cheque on behalf of the fund and donations had already amounted to ten thousand dollars.
The Master and Mistress of Ceremonies were Mr. Duane O’Connor and Ms. Shirlane Hendrickson and they both demonstrated themselves up to the task of hosting the show in fine form and style. They did a commendable job as a team: Shirlane Hendrickson’s velvety, smooth voice purred over the crowd balancing with Duane O’Connor’s charm. David Rudder (Young King 1986) was the guest artiste and much to the delight of the audience he performed classics such as “Calypso Music” and “The Hammer”.
The young bards then took centre stage as they vied for the title of Young King. These griots of Trinidad and Tobago pranced and sang as they chanted their compositions much to the enjoyment of the crowd. The first competitor was Sheldon Nugget. He took to the stage attired in a smart, sailor outfit, dancing as he sang about the wastage of public funds and how every day had become Carnival in Trinidad in his song “We Livin’ in Carnival”. The national discussion to stop Carnival during the ebola outbreak was embellished by his take on the matter. He expressed that not even ebola could stop the daily mas as Trinbagonians live and breathe the bacchanalia of Carnival in our everyday lives. His performance was a strong start for the competition.
He was followed by Sekon Alves who sang “Take Me Back”, a slow, brassy tune which lamented the social breakdown in Trinidad and the fading of moral standards. He stated that corruption has become a standard which has the “Trini soul on the rack” and is now so commonplace that “tiefing ministers refuse to resign”.
Mr. Caston Cupid was next with the song, “What Next?” He utilized a creative skit to open his song with a scene of a science experiment gone wrong. The brass rang out as he sang that Pandora’s Box had opened and its ailments now afflicted the world in many ways. He referenced the global wars raging today as he sang the refrain “What’s next? What’s next?” with palpable emotion.
Dexter ‘Blaxx’ Stewart followed with his composition entitled, “Place in Life”. He was greeted with enthusiastic applause as he took to the stage. His quick tempo had the audience swaying appreciatively as he moved across the stage with characteristic confidence. His melody carried a sweetness as he sang, “I come here to take my place this night”, sharing with the audience his hard work and the success he now enjoyed.
Terrence ‘Jaiga’ Callender came on with “Soca Story”. It was a solid performance and stood as an example of melodic storytelling. He started his piece with a skit of himself in bed, and a nursery rhyme was orated depicting him as a ‘Trini’ Ebenezer Scrooge with the story remade in Trinbagonian nuances. This was entertaining as three ghosts appeared: the Ghost of Carnival Past who warned him that he had a legacy to live up to; the Ghost of Carnival Future who threw picong about Blaxx; and the Ghost of Carnival Present appeared who appealed for him to tell his story and be heard. He then gave an energetic performance describing how the soca art form beckons him, and how the hard work that all artistes put into this music belonged to all.
Niklas Gosine followed with his popular “Perspective of Black”. He stunned the audience with his rendition which bore an eerie resemblance to the style of the Mighty Baron. He gave a simple and faultless performance and there was a clear and easy rapport between himself and the audience. His chorus of “black will rise” moved many in the crowd and they stung their palms in appreciation as he exited the stage.
Jerry Dane ‘Jadee’ Sellier sang “Do Not Trouble Trouble”, a ditty which merged expressions of the past with the present. He opened with an all-star cast: Nikki Crosby channelling Granny, and soca star Destra who appeared in a school girl uniform. He gave a positive performance, drawing on the lessons of yesteryear to manage today’s life, thereby making the point that wisdom carries no expiration date.
Deneison ‘Dee Diamond’ Moses sang “Big Yard”. His composition invoked the feisty rhythm and competitive spirit of the pan yards as his quick tempo set the tone reminiscent of Trinidad Carnival in the Savannah. He pointed out that The Big Yard is after all, where the musical genius congregates with the fans and history is made. His lyrics in the song “Pelham does meet a Boogsie”, could be appreciated by those familar with Trinbago culture in order to grasp how iconic the Queen’s Park Savannah is on all points, “East and west, north and south”. His song was a creative take on this aspect of musical heritage in Trinidad.
Gary ‘M’ba’ Thomasos sang “All-Inclusive Fete”. This seasoned calypsonian did well in his foray on stage. He had the audience laughing at his skit which portrayed a “piper” trying to enter an all-inclusive fete. He cut a dapper figure in black and white as he sang about the money being made in the soca arena, and even more in the government offices. It was, however, a strong condemnation of how much thievery is afflicting Trinidad and Tobago, so much so that the country had become an all-inclusive fete for the people involved in corruption. He made humorous references to his calypso colleague cum politician, Winston ‘Gypsy’ Peters and threw picong about the political situation, wittily observing, “Bandits of all description in a conga line section”.
Phil ‘Philman’ Brown was next, offering the song “Don’t Let Them Fool You”, setting the tone to his theme on African empowerment with the beating of African drums. He sang of the injustices which persons in the African diaspora were subjected to today in the post-slavery world and the lies which they were taught as “history”. He sang a warning, “Don’t let them fool you. Show them that you wiser!” He appealed to people to be “wise like Mandela, Daaga [and] Buzz Butler”. He further named black heroes who had struggled for an African identity and called for Mama Africa to be respected and honoured. His song sharply rebuked historical inaccuracies and he pleaded for wisdom.
Jhevon Jackson followed with his song, “Kaiso Baby”. He created a “musical storm” with his contribution and spoke about his love of kaiso which started from his mother’s womb where he would dance as an embryo. He sang of music as a part of his destiny.
Ezekiel Yorke followed singing “Equality”, which was a poignant narrative about the social stigma faced by those who aspire towards a white collar career but are challenged because of the stigma of where they live; the proverbial crime hotspots. He spoke of heated national themes which are very much the sign of a nation in distress: discrimination and prejudice. He pleaded for “equality of treatment” and crooned his dream of “a nation’s people”.
Jesse ‘College Boy Jesse’ Steward sang “The Untouchables”. This piece centred around the financiers of crime and portrayed how crime in Trinidad and Tobago has evolved to become a sort of untouchable corporation. He fiercely declared that no one is above the law and no one is supposed to be untouchable, saying, “It’s incredible why we little black boys expendable; it’s incredible that the real gangster untouchable!” He sang the refrain “It’s incredible”, highlighting incredulity that despite the innovative and polished crime plans of governments, the petty crimes and criminals were the ones being targeted while the largescale operations are largely left untouched by the police.
Kenson ‘Ninja’ Neptune performed, “Level de Playing Field”, a ditty which was dedicated to the lesbians he now had to compete against in the dating scene. He offered, “Dem gyal eh leaving nothing for man to do”; a statement on the changing times where women are now competing for women. He used his words to mock the status quo which has him confused about who is “the cock and who is the hen”.
Nyol Manswell sang next with “Endemic Failure”. He greeted the audience cheerfully before starting his contribution singing about the failure of a people to empower themselves past the colonial controls of yesteryear. His contribution was informed by a desire for racial unity which he said cannot be achieved until the African community owns itself and its history, and in so doing, address the present day injustices suffered in society. It was a serious song and the crowd applauded in appreciation.
Lennox Sampson followed with “Three Score and Ten”. This song was dedicated to the goal of long life and this generation’s commitment to being a statistic of early death with very few reaching three score and ten. The delivery was mellow as he gave a solid performance.
William “Dr. Will B” Bannister sang “In the Savannah”. His song was another ode to the Queen’s Park Savannah and how integral it has become as a part of the socio/cultural psyche of the Trinbagonian. He cited the many activities which take place in the savannah, observing how diversely it satisfies the needs of the people who patronize it daily.
Arnold Jordan sang “This Is My Life”. This could only be described as a power ballad which spoke to the themes of violence, greed and poverty, portraying the social decline afflicting the youths in more impoverished areas. He offered the observation that despite the presence of adults who knew better and tried to do better, these youths had already resolved to take the wrong path and die for it.
Eric James presented “Quarry Operator” and was appropriately dressed in coveralls. He sang in double entendre about the quarrying which goes on in Trinidad, with officials seeking answers under every stone about controversies and corruption. “No stone will be left unturned” he sang, as he described the attitude of the Police Commissioner in addressing these criminal reports.
Helon Francis closed the show with a song called, “Stalwart”. This piece invoked the kaiso greats of yesteryear in the golden spotlight of their heyday. He closed the show with a rousing performance which demonstrated a fusion between old-time kaiso and today’s faster pace, showcasing the journey from beginner to kaiso stalwart. The legends who developed the present-day generation of kaisonians were mentioned and he described how the kingdom of kaiso continues to grow from strength to strength with every contribution.
The audience showed it’s appreciation with enthusiastic bouts of applause as one by one the young bards created musical history. Technology was utilized, updates were broadcast and culture disseminated and sustained through internet and social media. The show was a success and had lived up to the promise of good kaiso.
Artiste / Song (In Order of Appearance)
Sheldon Bullen (Sheldon Nugget) / We Living in Carnival
Sekon Alves / Take me Back
Caston Cupid / What Next
Dexter Steward (Blaxx) / A Place in Life
Terrence Callender (Jaiga) / Soca Story
Nicklas Gosine / Perspective of Black
Jerry Dane Sellier (Jadee) / Do not Trouble Trouble
Deneison Moses (Dee Diamond) / Big Yard
Gary Thomasos (M’ba) / All-Inclusive Fete
Phil Browne (Philman) / Don’t let them Fool You
Jhevon Jackson / Kaiso Baby
Ezekiel Yorke / Equality
Jesse Steward (College Boy Jesse) / The Untouchables
Kenson Neptune (Ninja) / Level de Playing Field
Lennox Sampson / Score and Ten
William Bannister (Dr. Will B) / In the Savannah
Nyol Manswell / Endemic Failure
Arnold Jordan / This is my Life
Eric James / Quarry Operator
Helon Francis / Stalwart