Eleven calypsonians from the Dynamite Calypso Tent in New York, considered the sole Vincentian calypso tent in North America, gave a good account of themselves Saturday night in the preliminary judging in the National Calypso Competition in Vincy Mas 2018.
Minister of Culture Cecil “Ces” McKie and U.S. Consul General Howie Prince joined the ebullient crowd at Café Omar on Nostrand Avenue in Brooklyn, as five judges from home — Vin Stewart, Earl Paynter, Roddy Dowers, Aubrey Gould and Daniel Hall — screened the calypsonians for selection in the semifinal round.
The calypsonians, most of whom are veterans in the artform, had either qualified, in previous years, for the semifinals or made it to the grand finale at Carnival City, Victoria Park, in capital city Kingstown.
Perennial competitors — Denis Bowman, Carlos “Rejector” Providence, John “D Truth” Dougan, Ramon “Jose Juan” Diaz and Joel “Navel String” Bartholomew — as well as Oscar James, Allan “Field Marshall” Marshall, Kenroy “Jakie” Jack, Delahanty Isles, Daniel “Dan Radix” Providence and Michelle-Ann “Hibiscus” Hillocks were impressive in lyrical content and stage performance, for the most part.
James bemoaned the ravages of hurricanes in the region with “Hurricane,” singing: “We in pain/Don’t come back again/We shall rise again.”
Field Marshall was deeply concerned about the proliferation of “Guns” in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
“I trying to understand/What’s going on in the land/So much life at play/too much to bare,” he sang to loud applause.
Bowman urged patrons to “Wake Me Up” with the “amount of murders ah seeing,” adding: “Wake me up/cause ah sleeping.”
Navel String, the five-time Union Island Calypso King, refused to eat “Saltfish,” stating: “Yo saltfish too salt/I don’t want it at all.”
Jakie said he was “getting tired of all dem lions.”
He recommended that they be thrown in the “Lions Den,” the title of his rendition.
Singing about “Gonzitis,” Rejector, a former national calypso monarch, bedecked in hospital scrubs, with a stethoscope hanging from his neck, evoked loud applause, claiming “so much pain/ Gonzitis in de place.”
Delahanty, the daughter of veteran calypsonian Earl “Exposer” Isles, queried: “What are we fighting for?”
“It’s the country that suffering/What are we fighting for/You shooting you brother dead,” she sang.
Despite the spiraling crime wave, Dan Radix said the nation was still a “Beautiful land/beautiful land of freedom.”
Bespectacled Jose Juan appealed to “Light it Up,” prompting co-Master of Ceremonies Hailes Castello to remark at song’s end: “I thought it was weed he was referring to.” The other Master of Ceremonies was Atiba Williams.
Hibiscus, a former winner in the New York “New Song Competition,” who trekked from Philadelphia, urged nationals to “take action before you think,” adding: “It’s never too late.
“Just blame yoself/blame nobody else,” she sang in “Blame Yoself.”
D Truth was “Afraid,” adding, however, that “we are in this thing together.
“It could be your father or your brother/So do what is right,” he sang.
In a post-show interview, D Truth, president of the Dynamite Calypso Tent, told Caribbean Life that “the crowd reacted positively to the performers, because all songs were of a high standard.”
He, however, said that, while the tent expects to be “heavily represented in this year’s semifinals, we learned after the show that judges were having difficulty hearing some of the lyrics.
“We hope this does not affect the selection process,” he cautioned.”
D Truth said Dynamite Calypso Tent continues to exist “to keep SVG [St. Vincent and the Grenadines] culture alive in the Diaspora.”