Kaiso House Calypso Tent Judging Night 2015
The atmosphere in Kaiso House on 27th January, 2015, was electric. Patrons swarmed to their seats in the cooled confines of the auditorium, and as the sound men checked the system, singers psyched themselves up for the evening of competition ahead.
Mr. Phillip Nicholas and Ms. Evelyn Jones come to the tent every year. Phillip Nicholas explained that the Kaiso House offered one of his favourite shows for the season because, “it’s royalty and you always get royalty coming here.” He also lauded the beautiful décor for the tent, pointing out that his companion, Ms. Evelyn Jones, was the decorator. She smiled as she explained that her motivation for the colours and arrangements came from a divine source saying, “God give me that inspiration. When I come here I don’t’ come with a plan, I just walk with things and he gives me all the ideas.” Her friend Mr. Nicholas added, “It’s good to see our culture stepping forward in such a nice atmosphere.”
Ms. Jones was another attendee at the show. A long-time resident of Port of Spain, she declared that she had followed the tent since its first opening. She has noted its evolution from its early days saying, “It’s a good change … a very good change. It’s nice … the ambience and everything … it’s nice. It’s much better. The artistes here does be really, really good, and most artistes does come here.” Mr. Earl Reyes of Success Village was there as well. He commended the lovely decorations which festooned the great hall and described the tent as, “top grade and I love it!” He opined that kaiso and tents like Kaiso House were still relevant in a time when Carnival seems to be evolving away from early traditions and towards beads and sequins.
As the crowd settled expectantly in their seats, officials swiftly executed their final tasks in preparation for the start of the show. Communications Assistant of TUCO, Ms. Chantelle Thomas, indicated that at least twenty-five persons would be performing on this night. The other performers in the cast were entertainment. She explained that, “Kaiso House is the flagship house of all the other calypso tents. This is the largest House where we have reigning monarchs such as Karene Asche who won the two million prize, we have Dwayne O’Connor, we have Chucky.” The tent boasts an eclectic mix of artistes, varying in styles. In this regard, Thomas stated, “We are trying to bridge the gap between the young and the old artistes. We have upcoming artistes such as Jelani Kojo and Shradah McIntyre, Snakey [and] Kevin Charles. We’re bridging the gap with the young and the old. Then we have the veterans: we have Singing Sandra … she is like the mother of calypso because most young female artistes look up to her. People enjoy coming to this tent because we give them a complete package; you don’t just get calypso, you get humour, dance … You [also] get a mixture of pan and we have chutney, so we try and bring together different genres. We also have rapso, and in the rapso you have persons like Sharlan Bailey.” She applauded the management team headed by Lutalo ‘Brother Resistance’ Masimba for his tireless dedication to the betterment of the calypso fraternity. She noted that it was largely due to the efforts of Brother Resistance, who has been recruiting youths who show potential and promise in kaiso, for building the culture from the roots of the land.
The show started with the playing of the National Anthem. The two Masters of Ceremonies, personified in the form of Tommy Joseph and Pelf, did a fine job of entertaining the audience in between sets. Predictably, the government of the day came in for a sound tongue-lashing and the vitriol was palpably returned by the audience at times. However, the themes were varied and the competition was stimulating in its presentation of artistic diversity.
The opening act came from Gene Toney with his song, “My Name is Calypso”. He offered a lilting delivery which had many patrons bobbing their heads as he sang. He was followed by Doodnath ‘De Guru’ Radhakisoon with “Journey of Life is Yours”. Attired in an Indian-styled kurta, his performance was his first contribution on the Kaiso House stage.
The Black Sage was next with a song entitled, “Banditism”, a less than subtle jab at the corruption in government. His experience as a calypsonian was showcased in this performance. He was followed by Lady Aiesha singing, “Plus Sized Woman”. She gave a saucy performance as she sang her naughty lyrics: “It’s exciting, you don’t know what you’re missing”, much to the delight of the audience. Brother Musa was next with “Wake Up and Smell the Coffee”. He despaired the apathy in the nation and called for all to wake up and fight for a cause stating “Fight back, the country is yours!” This was well-received by the crowd. “Confused Global Warming” by Allan Welch was a clever and ironic pun about the many unsolved crimes in the country that are allowed to go “cold”. His recitation included the Dana Seetahal murder; the doctor who removed the cocaine pellets from a drug mule; the oil which spilled for which no one was was answerable and the cocaine in juice scandal.
“Take Warning” by Exposer was another socially-minded song. Dressed all in white, he cut a fine figure as he commanded the stage. He used his time to sound a warning about the things which need to be fixed in the society and appealed for the public to do so. Marvellous Marva sang “Safe Hands”, an introspective composition in which she reflected on the power of kaiso in the national psyche. She was the consummate performer as she danced and strutted with confidence. Brown Boy appeared with his song, “Captain Rowley versus Penny”, a risque tome dedicated to the art of double entendre which had audience members yowling in their seats as he bawdily linked Penny to Rowley in sexual innuendo. He winked and twinkled his way through the performance. Sharlan Bailey, son of the Mighty Shadow, appeared with his song, “Land of Demons”. He gave a forceful performance, sounding a warning call about the Armageddon “we now live in”, commenting on how wrongdoing has become commonplace in our cultural psyche.
Bunny B appeared with his song “Multi Crisis”, an amusing portrayal of a serious theme, calling out the Prime Minister for her recent international declaration of war on ISIS while crime rages unabated in Trinidad and Tobago. He was followed by Duane O’Connor who performed “Stand Strong”. His contribution was topical and on point. He sang for all to stand strong for any cause “you believe in”, citing Kublalsingh’s hunger strike in his composition. Dressed sharply, he gave a characteristically smooth performance. “Bertie’s Dream” by Poser was different in that it represented a nod to Bertie Marshall’s dream of a Pan Institute. His song stood as a powerful piece of cultural history detailing this, Bertie’s dream and passion. Brother Valentino sang “Queen of Carnival”, which was definitely a celebration of all things Trinbagonian. He uplifted the rasta woman in the socio-cultural landscape of Trinidad and Tobago, as the true and rightful queen of the Carnival.
Winston ‘Gypsy’ Peters was next with his song, “Black Man, Yuh Crazy”. His performance was marred when he attempted an encore which the audience booed, causing him to launch into an extempo diatribe, refusing to accept this rejection. However, he had to accept his fate and relinquish the mic to the next performer. Doppy followed with his hilarious “Road March Dying”. Audience members were left laughing for a long time after his performance as he successfully fused traditional kaiso and the “jump, wine and wave something” beats in a spirited performance demonstrating his point, that the public was accepting garbage in lieu of good kaiso. Mistah Shak performed his “Target” hereafter and the lyrical hitman was in killing form with his rendition, lambasting the government for its ineptitude and double standards of leadership. Explainer was next with “A Rainbow Country”, an ode to the multi-ethnic society which so many dream about for our country, pleading for all to come together in racial unity.
Rodrick ‘Chucky’ Gordon submitted his offering to the competition in the form of “The Rose”, a song which slyly spoke to the apparent vanity of the Prime Minister, observing how her image seemed to be more important to her than her actual function. He was followed by Brother Mudada singing, “Nobody Eh See”, a song which blazed the communities which protected and shielded criminals in their midst while they joined hands to decry police brutality. Karene Asche followed performing “Every Knee Shall Bow”, a gospelypso type of song to which the audience responded heartily. Young Lani K offered “Engine Room” and he gave an energized performance which had many in the audience leaping to their feet and dancing. Genelle Bharat was next with “Chords”, an ode to her love of steelpan and her training in the art form. Her contribution carried a catchy beat and her performance was accentuated by her playing of a steelpan whilst blindfolded.
Soft Touch sang “Call the Police”, a statement on how rampant the crime has become in Trinidad, so much so that the repeated refrain in the communities is now “Call the Police!” College Boy Jessie followed this with “The Untouchables”, a song which summed up the despair he felt about sophisticated crime plans targeting petty crime while the large operation criminals seemed largely untouched by crime fighting initiatives. His performance was fierce and well-received by the crowd. Spicey was next with her song, “D’Advice”, a refreshing narrative on how important learning to walk away when a relationship no longer works for either party, instead of clinging to something which can turn into violence. Gary Cordner sang “Reality” which knocked the reality being faced by the grassroots community which is forced to bear witness to the millions being funded into corrupt projects, punning on the “you ent see,” aspect of governmental failure. He was followed by Shradah McIntyre who sang “This Country”, decrying the criminal aspects of our everyday life which is being touted as Trinidadian culture. Snakey lifted the mood with his “Cyar Rhyme” which had many people laughing over his clownish antics, demonstrating his skill as a wordsmith. Dee Diamond sang “Big Yard Music” which was an interesting interpretation of how the Big Yard, situated in the Queen’s Park Savannah, has assumed an iconic status for unifying the musical elements of culture. Veteran performer, Calypso Kerr followed with his “Tempo and Energy” which certainly introduced just that into the audience. He gave a sprightly performance which showed how strong a performer he is after thirty-three years in the business. Wolde Dawit closed the show with his dance number, “Show Me Yuh Motion”.
The show proved to be highly entertaining and it offered a selection of talent which did not fail to excite the adoration of the kaiso enthusiasts in the audience.
Cast of Competitors / Songs
Gene Toney / My Name Is Calypso
Doodnath “De Guru” Radhakisoon / Journey of Life is Yours
Phillip “Black Sage” Murray / Banditism
Elizabeth “Lady Aiesha” George / Plus Size Lover
Anson “Brother Musa” Alleng / Wake Up and Smell The Coffee
Allan Welch / Confused Global Warming
Moses “Xposer” Munroe / Taking Warning
Marva “Marvellous Marva” Joseph / Safe Hands
Knolly “Brown Boy” Brown / Captain Rowley vs Penny
Sharlan Bailey / Land of Demons
Neville “Bunny B” Brown / Multi Crisis
Duane O’Connor / Stand Strong
Sylvester “Poser” Lockhart / Bertie’s Dream
Anthony Emerald “Brother Valentino” Phillips / Queen of the Carnival
Winston “Gypsy” Peters / Black Man You Crazy
Wayne “Doppy” Dopson / Road March Dying
Selvon “Mistah Shak” Noel / Target
Winston “Explainer” Henry / A Rainbow Country
Roderick “Chucky Gordon” Gordon / The Rose
Allan “Brother Mudada” Fortune / Nobody Eh See
Karene Asche / Every Knee Shall Bow
Jalani “Lani K” Kojo / Engine Room
Genelle Bharat / Chords
Emrol “Soft Touch” Peter / Call the Police
Jessie “College Boy Jessie” Stewart / The Untouchables
Tammico “Spicey” Moore / D’Advice
Gary Cordner / Reality
Shradah McIntyre / This Country
Heaven “Snakey” Charles / Cyah Rhyme
Deneison “Dee Diamond” Moses / Big Yard Music
Carlston “Calypso Kerr” Kerr / Tempo and Energy
David “Wolde Dawit” Thompson / Show Me Yuh Motion