Divas Calypso Cabaret International 2015 Judging Night

Ushers at the Little Carib Theatre

Ushers at the Little Carib Theatre

On Saturday 17th January 2015, the Divas Calypso Cabaret International Judging Night was held in the Little Carib Theatre situated in Woodbrook. As the box office opened and artistes put the last minute touches on their preparations for the upcoming show, Mr. Joseph Adams, Operations Manager of TUCO took the time to chat lightly about the work which went into producing a show of this calibre. He stated, “This evening’s event is the preliminary judging of the Calypso Divas Tent. I think they have a wonderful cast of calypsonians and I am looking forward to them putting their best feet forward so that they can really emerge victorious.” Adams noted the significance of an exclusively female tent is significant stating, “I think that it’s a great achievement. As you know Lady Trinidad is one of our stalwarts in calypso. She did, I think, one of the first female calypso recordings, so women play a very vital role in calypso [and] this tent is doing a wonderful job in promoting that. Therefore, the judging tonight, I think, reflects what women can do.”

Crystal Charles performs 'Rainbow Fallacy'

Crystal Charles performs “Rainbow Fallacy”

Public support for the show has been slow in prior years but he opined:

“This is one of the premier calypso tents in the land and this is the only female calypso tent [that is] all female; even the band is led by a female. So I think that people should come out during the season and support. The show is five or six years old. Many young women are getting involved and this is good for the art form and for the women of calypso to see young women coming out to support the art.”

Calika Grayson performs 'Gyal Party'

Calika Grayson performs “Gyal Party”

Mr. Wayne Cassman McDonald is the General Secretary of TUCO and he too was on hand to discuss his thoughts about the Divas in Concert. He stated:

“This preliminary event kicks off the adjudication process in the preliminary round. It will be a two week exercise and it goes around at the various tents in Trinidad and Tobago where the final forty persons are selected for Skinner Park. Adjudication starts with a selection process where people are invited to come forward as adjudicators then they are interviewed to find out which areas their particular skill lie because we judge on music, lyrics and presentation. Then there is a training session, a weekend seminar where they are trained and then eventually they are chosen for their stages of the event. There is preliminary, there is semi-finals and there is final. So that’s on the adjudication side of it.”

Manager of the Divas Calypso Cabaret International, Mr. Rudolph Ottley

Manager of the Divas Calypso Cabaret International, Mr. Rudolph Ottley

The importance of an event like this in the cultural landscape of Trinidad and Tobago isn’t lost on him as he notes, “It’s significant because this is the only all-female cast. And it’s an attempt by the leader of the tent Mr. Rudolph Ottley to show the contribution women have made in the calypso arena.” Mr. Ottley also stands as the Vice Chairman of TUCO. He revealed that the inspiration for the show was partly historical, expounding:

“Well basically, given the history of calypso, it has evolved over the years. It did appear as if it were a male domain and a lot of women suffered because of the gender bias in terms of the selection of the cast and so on and so forth, so we felt that maybe we need to address that by having a gender specific tent. It’s also linked to history, whereby in the barrack yard and the days of the Gayelle, the women were central to the role of calypso but after nineteen twenty something, women lost their prominence in the Gayelle because of the social stigma attached to the calypso, which saw calypso [perceived] as an activity for wayward homeless sagaboys who didn’t have a parrot on a stick as they say; women didn’t want to be associated in that. It was a number of things caused that, so we decided, let us address that and form this all female tent which we started in 2004.”

Stacey Sobers Abraham performs 'A special Day'

Stacey Sobers Abraham performs “A special Day”

He noted its contribution to the musical art form over the years, sharing:

“I think it has impacted a lot on the calypso in the calypso tents because in 2004, most of the tents may have had two or three women, but in 2015, the average tent has about eight women. So I think that people and the managers in the tent have begun to recognize that it’s important that you have a gender mix because before that, unless you had a novel act—Calypso Rose, Denyse Plummer or Denise Belfon— the ordinary average female calypsonian wasn’t given a chance. But now they’re willing to take a chance on an ordinary female calypsonian.”

Karen Eccles Thomas performs 'Back like Heaven'

Karen Eccles Thomas performs “Back like Heaven”

He lamented the slow support from the public since the show’s inception, observing, “Most of the naysayers or the people who object to the format have been women. Interestingly, women find it boring to come and listen to a bunch of women sing. So even [in] the corporate world when I interact with the corporate communications people and people in the higher echelons of society they world always ask, “Why should I come and spend a whole night watching a bunch of women sing?” However, I think this [show] is the catalyst that has resulted in those kinds of shows [Battle of the Sexes, Ladies Night Out, etc.] which may be seen as part of the cultural landscape because prior to 2004 it didn’t have those kinds of shows. I do wish more women would be supportive of the show, especially women in the corporate world.”

Calypso Monarch, Karene Asche

Calypso Monarch, Karene Asche

The show started shortly after 8 p.m. Although the crowd was not large, it was enthusiastic, swapping animated banter with the Mistress of Ceremonies, the lively Ms. Gillian Smith who kept the audience entertained with a running repertoire of Trinbagonian picong. The competing divas turned out in glamorous style and presented a solid evening of entertainment, drawing various themes from recent local policies in the political arena to social commentary. The musical offerings at the Divas Calypso International Cabaret were crisp and well-received as it has once more made a grand stride in this year’s contribution to the 2015 Kaiso arena.

First Half of the competition:

Artiste / Song

Dilena ‘Dilena Diamond’ Flemming / Portrait of Trinidad – (Not for competition)
Vornique Benjamin / Drum Call – (Monarch/Social Commentary)
Sherisse Collymore / Mysteries of life – (Monarch/Social Commentary)
Crystal Charles / Rainbow Fallacy – (Monarch/Social Commentary)
Tenaj Smith / I Gone – (Monarch/Social Commentary)
Meguella Simon / Breathe – (Monarch/Social Commentary)
Calika Grayson / Gyal Party – (Social Commentary)
Karen Eccles Thomas / Our Red Carpet – (Monarch/Social Commentary)
Stacey Sobers Abraham / A special Day – (Monarch/Social Commentary)
Sherisse Collymore / Toco Band – (Not for Competition)

Second Half:

Sharon Alexis / My Defense – (Monarch/Social commentary)
Lyncia ‘Black Diamond’ Morris Bennet / Politicians Doh Come – (Monarch/Political Commentary)
Kerice ‘KK’ Pascall / The End of the Saga – (Monarch/Political Commentary)
Kadija Jeremiah / The Eyes Have It – (Monarch/Political Commentary)
Crystal Charles / Your Popo is Yours – (Not for Competition)
Meguella Simon / Doh Hold Me – (Monarch/Social Commentary)
Karen Eccles Thomas / Back like Heaven – (Not for Competition)
Jenaj Smith / Ancient Rhythm – (Not for Competition)
Stacey Sobers Abraham / Dingolay – (Not for Competition)

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