Calypsonian Hibiscus performing at the preliminaries.
Photo by Nelson A. King

Fifteen Vincentian calypsonians Saturday night / Sunday morning thrilled an appreciative crowd in the preliminary round of the St. Vincent and the Grenadines National Calypso Competition at Café Omar in Brooklyn.

A packed house witnessed the performance of several veterans and a few newcomers in the calypso business in the Brooklyn-based Dynamite Calypso Tent, as they competed for a spot in the semifinals in the calypso competition in Vincy Mas 2016.

Five judges — two more than in previous years — trekked from home to adjudicate in the tent, the sole Vincentian calypso tent in North America.

The competitors were perennial artistes: Groovy D (Vincent Kennedy); Dennis Bowman; John “D Truth” Dougan; Jose Juan (Ramon Diaz); Exposer (Earl Isles); Jakie (Kenroy Jack); Bob MC (Mervin Bobb); Chang-I (David Morgan); Navel String (Joel Bartholomew); D-Tecta (Delano Joseph); Stryker (Francis Brown); and Oscar James.

Newcomers were: Hibiscus (Michelle-Ann Hillocks), Prim Adona (Primadonna Bascombe) and Zae Gay (Maxwell Samuel).

After a stuttered start, caused by technical issues with the back-up band, Lambert and the Matadors, resulting in some artistes re-starting their songs, the competition ended at 3:30 am Sunday.

Most calypsonians offered biting commentaries on the socio-political status quo at home, rendering takes according to their political affiliations or inclinations.

Others, however, dealt with social issues or offered calypso-soca combinations.

Adorned in a red hat and suit, with a red and white vest — red is the color of the incumbent Unity Labor Party (ULP) of Prime Minister Dr. Ralph E. Gonsalves – Union Island-born Navel String took unequivocal swipes at the main opposition New Democratic Party (NDP), claiming: “You too power hungry.”

The NDP has been staging a series of protests over what it characterized as fraudulent general elections on Dec. 9 last year, in which the ULP was returned to power with an 8-7 majority in Parliament — the same figure as in the previous general elections five years ago.

Jose Juan, on the other hand, was “Crying Fuh Me Country.

“My country is in total disarray,” he sang. “Look how me country come.”

Exposers expressed bewilderment over the origin of what he regarded as moral breakdown in his native land.

“I just have one wish for the young people/propaganda and everything you hearing/you don’t know who to trust/or to believe,” he sang, adding, “You have to be a mathematician to win the election / NDP saying it’s thiefing.”

With good stage performance, Jakie implored: “Do something to stop the crying / do it now / do it now.”

With an admixture of rhapsody and soca, Primadona said: “Whey you feeling / it’s a crisis.”

The Philadelphia-based Hibiscus — winner of the Dynamite Calypso Tent’s new song competition last month that coincided with the launch of Vincy Mas at home — claimed that there was “no honor” for calypsonians in her country.

“We calypsonians have no power in we own country,” she claimed. “Look how we own people does treat we.”

Zae Gay claimed that “cocaine by de kilo / mashing down / killing ah we people.”

But Stryker reasoned that “people will say what they want to say” in the up-tempo “The Unexplained.”

Bowman and Dougan called for national unity in “Take Care of SVG” and “Togetherness,” respectfully; while D-Tecta “Welcome(d) [Everyone] to SVG.”

James expounded on the significance of “Mathematics”; Groovy D preferred “Your Natural Beauty;” while Bob MC offered a rather risqué “Get off Ah Me.”

But, for Chang-I, the Toronto-based winner of Dynamite’s New Song Competition last year — he did not compete this year — a tribute to his mom, Patsy, was most appropriate.

In his new CD, “Mama,” Chang-I complimented his mom for “all the hard work and sacrifices she’s made.

“It’s is also a tribute to her tenacity as a single woman, raising six children with the help of my grandmother,” he wrote on the CD label.

The artistes were judged on lyrics (30 points), melody (30), rendition (30), presentation (10) and originality (10).

The judges were: Cecil “Blazer” Williams, Earl Paynter, Osborne Bowens, Daniel Hall and Wollis Christopher.

Calypsonian Navel String performs at the St. Vincent and the Grenadines National Calypso Competition at Café Omar in Brooklyn.
Photo by Nelson A. King

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