The sweltering heat last Saturday night did not prevent 17 calypsonians from impressing a boisterous crowd – and, perhaps, the judges – during the first preliminary round of the St. Vincent and the Grenadines’ National Calypso Competition at Café Omar in Brooklyn.
The air conditioners were, clearly, insufficient in cooling down patrons and artistes, as they withstood the unbearable heat for about five hours.
As the carnival mood rises in the Big Apple, patrons even tolerated the heat for a few more hours after the judging, with guest performances by the legendary Winston Soso, dubbed the “Rolls Royce of Calypso,” and Cyril “Scorcher” Thomas. Vincentian carnival judging returned to New York this year after years-long hiatus.
Three judges – Earl Paynter, Roderick Dowers and Daniel Hall – trekked from home in determining who will compete from the Dynamite Calypso Tent, the only calypso tent in North America, in the National Semifinals at Carnival City, Victoria Park, Kingstown, the Vincentian capital on “Fantastic Friday,” June 21.
National Calypso Association President Anne Miller, the Canouan-born first woman ever to hold that position, and Culture Minister Cecil “Ces” McKie were also on hand to witness the long-anticipated event.
McKie, primarily in New York for the Caribbean Tourism Organization’s “Caribbean Week,” arrived from John F. Kennedy International Airport just a few minutes before the competition got underway at midnight.
The calypsonians, backed by the Grenadian-owned band, Lambert and the Matadores, were judged on one song in the following order: Tyrone “Fabulous T” Perry with “Carnival is My Thing”; Carlos “The Rejector” Providence with “Push The Pan”; Errol “D Man Age” Rose with “Calypsonian MIA (Missing In Action)”; Paul “I-Madd” Scrubb with “Jumbie”; Kenroy “Jakie” Jack with “It’s Carnival”; David “Chang-I” Morgan with “100 Percent Vincy”; Delahanty “Singing Della” Isles with “Pay Attention;” and John “D Truth” Dougan with “Betrayal.”
The others in that order were: Phillip “Phill Patch” Baptiste with “What’s Up with You”; Ramon “Jose Juan” Diaz with “International Airport”; Dennis Bowman with “Way e Dey”; Delano “Detector” Joseph with “I Will Be Happy”; Ronald “Puff-T” McDonald with “Wendy”; Anthony “Ras-X” Soleyn with “My Navel String Down in Vincyland”; Marvin “Bob MC” McDonald with “Mommy and Daddy”; Franklyn “Supadex” Richards with “Things I Will Like To See” and Gregory “Brother Don” Olive with “When is Lie is Lie, When is Truth is Truth.”
Perennial contenders Earl “Exposer” Isles pulled out at the last minute because of hoarseness, and Vincent “Groovy D” Kenny is recovering from a recent stroke.
Unsurprisingly, all calypsonians, with whom Caribbean Life spoke after their respective performance, expressed confidence in making the semifinal round, notwithstanding the judges’ final say.
“I feel good about the performance,” said Bowman, the 2005 3rd place finalist in the National Calypso Competition, about his rendition that lamented the dearth of bill boards and signs about national hero, Garifuna Chief Joseph Chatoyer.
“The song was well-rendered,” added Bowman, a Kingstown Park native, who has been singing calypso for nine years and was an original member of the defunct band Blak Sand.
“I am confident that I will make the semifinals and finals, especially from the feedback I got after coming on stage,” he added.
About Chatoyer, Bowman said: “What he did for St. Vincent and the Grenadines, when you look around, you can hardly find a trace (information on bill boards and signs).