After years in the calypso wilderness without winning any major title, Kenroy “Jakie” Jack finally realized his dream Sunday morning in dethroning Michelle “Hibiscus” Hillocks by capturing the Vincy New Song Competition title at the Gallis Lounge in East Flatbush, Brooklyn.
“This has been a long time coming,” exclaimed Jakie, after Master of Ceremonies Ulric “Soca” Jones, Jr., a popular Vincentian entertainment promoter in Brooklyn, declared him the winner at 3:45 am. The crowd approved boisterously.
Singing “This Carnival” before an ebullient crowd, and paying tribute to 40 years of Vincy Mas in July, Jakie also brushed aside challenges from veterans, such as John Dougan, Phil Patch and Striker, to grab the Soca Devil Trophy, which is awarded to the winner of the New Song Competition. The late Cyril “Soca Devil” Trophy, who succumbed to throat cancer in the 1990s, was one of the early winners of Vincentian calypso/soca competition in New York.
Jakie told Caribbean Life in a brief post-show interview that “this one [song] was special,” stating that it conveyed several elements of carnival, such as music and mas.
“It’s carnival time / can the people jam / can the people jamming,” Jakie sang partially in the chorus on his way to capturing the crown, attributing his success to invaluable help from, among others, musical arranger Adrian Bailey; Winston Soso, renowned as the “Rolls Royce of Calypso,” who wrote “This Carnival,” and Edson “Lively” McDonald, a former New York Vincy New Song Monarch.
The trio, as well as Jakie’s “First Lady,” Joy Jack, then converged on stage with Jakie, flanked by hordes of supporters, celebrating his triumph.
The Philadelphia-based Hibiscus — who had debuted last year in the 11-year-old competition, organized by the Brooklyn-based Level Vibes Promotions, headed by Ainsley Primus – fizzled with “Hard Wood,” without even attaining a spot among the top three contenders. Her animated performance last year earned her that year’s crown.
Dougan — perennial contender in the National Calypso Competition in Vincy Mas, who sang “Long Time” – was adjudged first runner-up, telling patrons that “ah long time ah want to wine on ah bounsie,” demonstrating his yearning with a young lady at song’s end.
Striker was second runner-up with “Labba Labba,” a reference to gossip and ill-will, singing in part: “Life is too short / just leave me alone / just live your life / and shut your mouth / some people does want to mess up yo’ life / so leave your business alone.”
The other contenders were Phil Patch with “Carnival in July,” Hilford Hurst, adorned as a “Roman soldier,” singing “Put on the armor/wearing armor,” and Man Kemmie, a former Junior Calypso King in the National Calypso Competition in Vincy Mas, with “Sit down pon it.”
The show — which kicked off at 12:15 am Sunday, coinciding with the official launch of Vincy Mas 2017 at home — also featured Road March titles from yesteryears — 1977 to 2003 — highlighting hits primarily from, among others, Becket (“Teaser,” “Cocoa,” “Tone,” “Ah Want Soca” and “10 years”); Poser (“Up in Dey,” “In ah me Moma” and “Hairy Bank”); and Touch (“Jam Dem,” “Puss Man,” “Move yo Front,” “Murdoo” and “Butt.”)
“For Vincy Mas, it’s a great achievement,” said Primus in his opening remarks. “We’re proud to bring Vincy Mas for 11 years.”
“Tonight, we have seven calypsonians,” new New York Consul General Howie Prince, a calypsonian in his own right, told patrons, and a former member of the National Carnival Association. “Tonight also marks the official launch of Vincy Mas.”
Additionally, DJ Supa Eyes, an executive member of Level Vibes Promotions, played, and some artistes sang hits from calypsonians / soca artistes, who have gone to the great beyond. These included Soca Devil, Tommy T, Annice Carew, Don Simon, Otis Teshiera and Walter Porter.
Capping off the show, described by patrons as “one of the best in years,” were performances from Vincy Calypso / Soca “All Stars,” some of whom had not taken to the stage in years. They comprised Ziggy (“Sweet Sappadilla,” “Vincy Sweet” and “Ouch”); and Ron Pompey (“Keep Loving Me,” “Rock De Party,” “Shake,” “Miss Tin Tin” and “Banana Police”).
Other “All Stars” performers were Cauldric Forbes (“Carnival Party” and “Jam De Soca”; and Winston Soso, who brought the house down with “Woman in De Pan Yard,” “Big Bottom” and his signature “I Don’t Mind.”
Primus presented awards to many whom he said assisted him over the years, and contributed significantly to Vincy calypso / music culture in New York, such as Supa Eyes, Hailes Castello, Lady M and Bennett Straker.
Vincy calypso aficionados will get more from the artform, on Sat., June 10, at Café Omar, at the corner of Nostrand Avenue and Clarendon Road in Brooklyn, when the Dynamite Calypso Tent, the sole Vincentian mas tent in North America, headed also by Primus, holds preliminary judging for Vincy Mas 2017.