Rock the vote! Calypsonians push candidates with song

Many felt they were on the campaign trail Saturday night, as the election fever in St. Vincent and the Grenadines gripped the Dynamite Calypso Tent in Brooklyn, with a significant number of Vincentian calypsonians quickly and uninhibitedly declaring their preference and essentially telling voters for whom they should cast ballots in the forthcoming poll.

Unequivocally, there were friendly rivalry and banter between calypsonians and the appreciative audience during the launch of the tent — the lone Vincentian calypso tent in North America — at Café Omar.

The night spot in Brooklyn is owned and operated by Dr. Kendall Stewart, a former New York City councilman and younger brother of Glenford Stewart, an erstwhile government minister in the now opposition New Democratic Party (NDP) in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

While some calypsonians shied away from politics altogether in their social commentaries, at least half of the dozen rendered fearless, satirical lyrics on the political status quo in their native land.

Undisputedly, Mervin “Bob MC” Bobb and Joel “Navel String” Bartholomew, a native of Union Island in the southern St. Vincent Grenadines, provided more than enough fuel for the political maelstrom.

With an uncharacteristically upbeat tempo, melody and rendition, Bob MC ignited the flame with “Comrade,” as some supporters of the incumbent Unity Labor Party (ULP) gave resounding thumbs-down, while NDP supporters enthusiastically embraced the song.

“Comrade, why you treat us so / Comrade boy, yo have to go,” sang Bob MC, clearly referring to Prime Minister Dr. Ralph E. Gonsalves, often alluded to affectionately as “The Comrade.” “The same people who put you up / Go bring you down.”

With the rising temperature, some in the audience asked for an encore, as Garnes Byron, an unapologetic, staunch ULP supporter, emerged from the bar, at the back of the hall, to join Bob MC on stage.

As the crowd roared and rolled, Byron held up four fingers, signaling a potential fourth, five-year term in office for the incumbent Gonsalves-led administration.

But the firestorm reached a climax when Navel String, a three-time Union Island Calypso King, appealed to nationals to “Come out and Vote.”

With good melody, Navel String, who currently resides in East Windsor, New Jersey, was also unrueful, declaring: “Ralphie (Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves) is “The man / Come out and Vote.

“No killing / Come out and vote,” he sang. “Ralphie is the man / The man with de brain.

“So vote for de man / The man with de brain / Let’s vote him again,” continued Navel String, as the hall erupted in sheer cacophony, with ULP and NDP supporters drowning out each other, shouting which party should be victorious in the next general elections, constitutionally due early next year.

Navel String’s stance prompted co-Master of Ceremony Hailes Castello, who had initially remarked that he was not getting involved in politics, to declare: “I thought the Grenadines was not ULP.”

The other Master of Ceremony was Bennett Straker.

Traditionally, the two Grenadines seats have overwhelmingly voted for the NDP.

But, even with the audience seemingly, evenly split along party lines, other calypsonians, doubtlessly, in their social commentaries, were opposed to the current administration.

Four-time National Calypso Monarch Leroy “De Man Age” Rose, with “the Beggar Man,” claimed that “you can’t beg your way to progress.

“Don’t make him fool you with talks,” he sang. “Beggar man / You need a better plan / I suggest you get down on yo knees / And beg de Almighty.”

Gregory “Brother Dan” Oliver was also biting with “Poor People Tired.”

“He treating we like a fool / Riding we like a mule,” he sang. “Be we nah taking it no more / It’s election / yo have to go.”

Jeffrey Providence, an ardent NDP supporter, who carries the calypso sobriquet “Fabulous T,” also felt “Change is Coming.”

“It’s coming / Change is coming,” he sang in his second number; the first being “Ah Working.” “You better believe / I’m begging you to take heed / For I believe the voters will speak.”

But for veteran calypsonian Earl “Exposer” Isles, the spiraling “crime wave” in the nation “must stop.”

“To every Vincentian / I am making this plea / Whether you from town or the country / Gun na ha no brain,” he sang under the caption, “Gun No Ha No Brain.”

Others were less controversial. Singer, songwriter and musician Oscar James felt the “Argyle International Airport” would be “a blessing”; Dennis Bowman, in a reflective mood, was concerned about “Calypso Best Friend”; John “The Truth” Dougan was “Here to Stay”; Philip “Phil Patch” Baptiste was “Jamming” for Vincy Mas; while John Cato was preoccupied with “Tri-Tri Coming Down.”

Jose Juan, Rejector, Jakie, I-Madd and Chang-I, among others, did not participate in the launch. They, however, hope to compete in the preliminary judging for Vincy Mas 2015, at the same venue, Friday, May 29.

“It was entertaining; it was nice and informative,” Dougan told Caribbean Life in a post-show interview. “Elections are coming; supporters of each party are carrying the banner.”

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