Chang-I is certainly “feeling good in ah de neighborhood” after dethroning defending champion Dennis Bowman to snatch the Vincy New York New Song Competition Saturday night / Sunday morning at the Sugar Mill Night Club in Brooklyn.
Toronto-based Chang-I, 49, whose real name is David Morgan, stole the show in a field of nine competitors that also included veteran Vincentian soca artistes and calypsonians John “The Truth” Dougan, Fabulous T, Jakie and Bob MC.
“It’s a long time coming,” exclaimed Chang-I after Ainsley Primus, president of the Brooklyn-based organizing group, Level Vibes Promotions, presented him with the winning trophy about 2:55 a.m. on Sunday.
“I always tell myself that, if I work hard, I’ll get to the top,” the former vocalist with defunct Vincentian bands, Resurrection, of Barrouallie, and Asterisks, of Layou, later told Caribbean Life in an exclusive interview. “I realize that, whenever you work hard, it [reward] always comes to fruition.”
The former Barrouallie Secondary School (BSS) student, who sang his way to the grand finale in the National Calypso Competition in Vincy Mas 2013 – with “100 Percent Vincy” and “Who Feel De Pinch” – said he wanted to return to traditional soca songs with “Ah Feeing Good.”
“Traditional soca music is hardly being played these days,” said Chang-I, who is also the lead vocalist and co-founder of the Toronto-based Caribbean soca band, Moses Revolution.
“I said to my friend, Moses (Trinidadian with whom Chang-I co-founded the band in 1990), ‘we need the traditional soca songs,’” he added.
With a jumpy beat, the first verse of “Ah Feeling Good” goes: “It’s Friday evening, and I ain’t tired yet/Just finished working/Ah going home and rest/Ah jump in de shower/And ah start getting dress/Cause dis is de weekend we going out to fete.”
The chorus: “Ah feeling good/Yes, ah feeling good in the neighborhood/Tonight, in the neighborhood/Ah feeling nice/Yes, ah feeling alright in the neighborhood/Tonight, in the neighborhood.”
Chang-I, who began competing in the New Song Competition in New York in 2013 and was runner-up in 2013 and 2014 – losing by just one point to Dougan in 2013 and conceding to Bowman last year – said he was “feeling good” in capturing the crown for the first time.
“I want you to feel good with me,” added Chang-I, who trekked 12 hours by bus from Toronto to compete in the event that coincided with the launch of Vincy Mas 2015 and the local New Song Competition.
“Ah feel good that I won the crown,” he continued, stating that, before leaving Toronto, he had told his wife, Gomea-native Lorna Ryan-Morgan, and a few friends that he was “going to take the crown.”
The first cousin of former United Nations and United States Ambassador, Kingsley Layne, and second cousin of the “ABC of Calypso”, Alston “Becket” Cyrus, bemoaned what he described as the gradual diminution of traditional calypso and soca genres in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
“Our culture in St. Vincent and the Grenadines is heavily influenced by politics,” he lamented. “I realize the enormity of the politics. In this modern time, everything [songs opposing the powers-that-be] is seen as a threat.”
Consequently, unlike his fellow artiste and former school mate at BSS, Paul “I-Madd” Scrubb, Chang-I said he steers clear of including what could be misconstrued as controversial political lyrics in his songs.
He said he and I-Madd began singing calypsos and soca in 1980, when they competed, as students, at BSS. Chang-I said he placed second in that year’s competition.
Five years after migrating to Toronto in 1987, Chang-I said he entered the Soca Monarch Competition there for the first time, winning the title from a field of 35 contenders, most of whom were Trinidadians, with “Ge Me Soca.”
But he said he stopped competing five years later when the organizers complained that they lacked “funding.” In those years, however, Chang-I said he had placed no lower than third.
Ian Gordon, Chang-I’s Brooklyn-based manager and fellow musician with Resurrection, said Chang-I was at his best during this year’s New York New Song Competition.
“He’s very professional,” Gordon, a former police officer in the Royal St. Vincent and the Grenadines Police Force and erstwhile trombonist with the police band and Resurrection, told Caribbean Life. “He’s very experienced. He’s been singing for a while.”
Fabulous T, also known as Tyrone Pierre and Jeffrey Providence, was first runner-up, with “Ah Working”; and newcomer Nickeisha “Nickie D Diva” Pierre was second runner-up with “Weh Yuh Want.”
Chang-I recorded 268 points, Fabulous T 254 and Nickie D Diva 230.
The other contenders were: Bowman (“She Done Know”); Dougan (“One fo de Road”); Samuel “Stamina Smurf” Thomas (“Soca Rise”); Bob MC (“Comrade”); Jakie (“Everybody Waiting”); and Francis “Stryker” Brown (“Fish Lover”).
The artistes were judged on lyrics (25 points); melody (25); rendition (15); presentation (10); originality (10); and crowd response (25).
Calypsonian Cyril “Scorcher” Thomas, X-a-dus’ former vocalist Garfield Palmer and soca artiste Lively, the first winner in the Vincy New York New Song Competition in 2007, officiated as judges.
“Wise Guy” and “Problem Child” were guest artistes in the post-competition party.