After being weary of what he had characterized as failure to select, over the years, very deserving calypsonians from his tent, the president of the Brooklyn-based Dynamite Calypso Tent, Ainsley Primus, has expressed delight with the number of selections for this year’s semifinal round in the National Calypso Competition in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
“It’s a good feeling,” Primus told Caribbean Life after the National Calypso Association last Friday announced six calypsonians from the Dynamite Calypso Tent to compete in the semifinal at Carnival City, Victoria Park, Kingstown, the Vincentian capital, on Saturday night.
The selectees are former monarch De Man Age, perennial semifinalist and finalist Dennis Bowman, John Dougan, Drakie, Navel String and Fabulous T.
“We deserve these six picks,” said Primus, who had been very critical of what he had described as the “mistreatment”, by local calypso authorities, of calypsonians from his tent. “The guys were great. We had a good preliminary (round at Café Omar in Brooklyn late last month).”
After the preliminary round, Primus had declined to predict the number of calypsonians that would be selected from the Dynamite Calypso Tent, reiterating his disappointment with last year’s selection.
“I stop predicting,” he told Caribbean Life then. “Last year, I predicted five, and they give us three.
“The way the judging is set up, the Dynamite Calypso Tent is at a disadvantage,” he added. “The guys (calypsonians) live up here; they don’t have to face them [the judges at home] every day.”
In addition, Primus said calypsonians from his tent are judged earlier than their counterparts at home and that there is a two-week gap before the local judging.
“It should not be two weeks, and it just leaves four days [from the announcement of the semifinal results] for the guys here to practice,” he said. “Last year, we protested it, and they [Calypso Association] go back and do the same thing.
“We have jobs up here, where we have to put in for time off [in advance],” Primus added. “You [calypsonians] have family, you have to arrange for certain things, you have to buy airline tickets. It’s ridiculous.
“We’re doing something for our country in the Diaspora,” he continued. “We just want a level playing field. We’re looking for the same rights as anybody (calypsonian) down there.”
Now, Primus is almost singing a different song, stating that though other calypsonians merited selection in the semifinal round this year, “they (judges, obviously,) couldn’t select everybody.
“The judges are looking for variation, too,” he said during Monday’s interview. “Remember, they have to look at other tents, too. I think they’re looking at a balance.
“Last year, I think they didn’t give us justice,” he added. “I think the selection was better this year.”
Bowman – who had predicted at least five of the 14 calypsonians, including himself, who participated in the preliminary round, to be selected for the semifinal – said his only disappointment was the omission of Rejecter.
“The only person I had (selected) who, unfortunately, didn’t make it was Rejecter,” he said. “I did a pretty good performance on the night (preliminary). I can’t see what could have prevented me from making the semifinals.”
But another calypsonian, Mervin “Bob MC” Bobb, did not hide his displeasure with his non-selection.
Bob MC – who took a dig at Prime Minister Ralph E. Gonsalves in “Comrade”, urging that he has “to go” when the next general elections, constitutionally due early next year, are called – said he was bewildered by the judges’ decision.
“I can’t explain; I thought I had about 90 percent chance of making the semifinals,” said Bob MC, who made the semifinal for the first time in 2007, with “See Me Woman,” in a Caribbean Life interview.
“I feel real disappointed with the judges,” he added. “I believe politics plays a big role in calypso (the selection of calypsonians in the competitive stages).
“You must have freedom of speech,” continued Bob MC, exhibiting a seeming air of self-pity. “I did not violate anybody’s rights; I talked (sang) the truth. I didn’t cuss no body (curse anybody); I was just singing the truth.”
But Union Island native Navel String – who, like Bob MC, was very popular with the crowd and was very supportive of the prime minister in “Come Out and Vote” – was selected.
Despite their selection, De Man Age and Drakie will not be competing on Saturday night because of personal and work commitments.
“I ain’t going down,” De Man Age told Caribbean Life on Tuesday. “I have things to do. I have some personal things long before the season (calypso). That’s how life goes.”