After laboring in the calypso vineyard for almost two decades without a crown, Dennis Bowman has finally won a coveted title, beating back 12 challengers, including defending monarch John Dougan, to capture the Vincy New Song Calypso Competition title at the Matrix Lounge in Brooklyn last Saturday night.
“I feel great, and I win it,” Bowman, 48, told Caribbean Life in a post-show interview after entering the competition for the first time.
“I am very excited about winning the New Song Competition, especially being (that) it was a last-minute decision to enter,” added Bowman, who last won a significant title, Soca Monarch in Vincy Mas, in 1997, with “Voom Voom.”
“I was very happy to see that the crowd (was) enjoying the song and my performance,” continued the ex-lead vocalist with the bands Energy (five years), Blaksand (11 years) and X-tract (three years).
”This has given me more confidence for the upcoming shows,” said Bowman, who placed third in the Calypso Final in Vincy Mas 2013, with “Chatoyer,” a song about the national hero, stating that his triumph was also a “stepping stone” for competing in the finals (in the calypso competition in Vincy Mas 2014).
He said he was also “honored to be the proud holder” of the Soca Devil Trophy 2014, bestowed on the winner of the New York New Song Competition.
Ainsley Primus – founder and chairman of the New Song Competition, as well as president of the Brooklyn-based Dynamite Calypso Tent, the lone Vincentian calypso tent in New York – told Caribbean Life that the Soca Devil Trophy is named after a late, former Vincy New York Soca Monarch, who carried the calypso sobriquet “Soca Devil”. His real name was Cyril Lewis.
“I want to thank Level Vibes Production for another job well done,” said Bowman, referring to the organizing group of the New York Vincy New Song Competition, headed by Primus.
Bowman’s rendition, at the Matrix Lounge on Avenue H, was entitled “To Build Airport,” featuring and depicting “herculean” efforts made by Prime Minister Dr. Ralph E. Gonsalves and others in the construction of the nation’s international airport at Argyle.
During his performance, Bowman presented a slide show with images of the prime minister, Opposition Leader Arnhim Eustace, chairman of the Argyle International Airport Development Company Dr. Rudy Mathias, among others , as well as excavation efforts in the airport construction.
The chorus, with the audience chiming in, approvingly, runs:
We move mountain to build airport/We fill valleys, change rivers to build airport/We move a church and a cemetery/Just to build an airport fo we.
The relatively large crowd, with New York Consul General Selmon Walters in attendance, roared.
Bowman – who has been in the final for the past seven years in the Vincy National Calypso Competition, representing the Dynamite Calypso Tent, of which he also serves as treasurer – said he has always composed and rendered songs geared towards snatching the prestigious crown.
“When I enter calypso (competition), I look straight to the final,” he said. “That’s the approach you’re supposed to have.”
Bowman was in a class by himself Saturday night, out-performing even his nearest rival, the Toronto-based “Chang-I”, whose real name is David Morgan.
Bowman recorded 588 points to Chang-I’s 262 and third-placed competitor “Curtis-C’s” 247, whose real name is Curtis Vincent.
Chang-I rendered “Who is a Friend”, and Curtis-C sang “In My Arms.”
Other competitors and the title of their songs were: Dougan (“Only One Time”); Honey Boy Bells – Dennis Jackson (“Bells Coming”); Groovy D – Vincent Kennedy (“Love, Love, Love”); Phil Patch – Phil Baptiste (“Jump”); Gomery – Montgomery Frazier (“Whine up on Me”); Bob MC – Mervin Bobb (“Go Back in Day”); Fabulous T – Tyrone Pierre (“Jump Up and Catch It”); Stryker – Francis Brown (“Tweark”); Jakie – Kenroy Jack (“Plant Fire”); and Storm – Dansel Scott (“Karr Vex’).
Primus said the calypsonians were judged on lyrics, melody, rendition, presentation, originality and crowd response.
Lively, Vincy Mas Soca Monarch 2007 and first winner of the New York New Song Competition (that same year), and veteran calypsonian Cyril “Scorcher” Thomas also made guest appearances.
Primus told Caribbean Life that he was very pleased with the high level of competition and the crowd support.
“The show was well-attended,” he said. “Everybody was pleased with the result.”
“For the first time, all three judges agreed on the winner,” he added. “Generally, it was a nice show. From here on, it can only grow further.”
Primus also said the New Song Competition was a precursor for the grand opening of the Dynamite Calypso Tent, on May 16, at the Matrix Lounge and the preliminary judging for Vincy Mas 2014, on June 7, at Café Omar, on Nostrand Avenue in Brooklyn. At least three judges from home will trek to New York for the preliminary round.
Over the years, a significant number of calypsonians from the Dynamite Calypso Tent, including Bowman, have qualified to compete in the National Calypso Competition.
The Dynamite Calypso Tent was founded in 2002, Primus said.