'New guard' state claim

Calypsonian Michelle Henry sings “Our National Watchwords” during Saturday’s Lord Brynner 50th Anniversary National Independence Calypso Competition at the Queen’s Park Savannah, Port of Spain.

by Adonijah

It seems the advance of the “new guard” in Trini calypso is being confirmed.

The results of the recent Lord Brynner Independence competition are as follows:

1 Chucky – Bear With Me

2 Michelle Henry – Our National Watchword

3 Karen Eccles – Give. I Will Reciprocate

4 Heather Mac Intosh – The Reason

5 Kizzy Ruiz – TnT Forever

6 Karene Asche – Casscadoo

7 Sugar Aloes – Team T And T

8 Singing Sandra – Red, White and Black

9 Duane O’Connor – Unity In Independence

10 Luta – “50/50”

The three veterans in the field, Sandra, Aloes and Luta, all former monarchs, all placed in the last four. When this is put together with the results in the Dimanche Gras monarch competition for Carnival 2K12, it seems something is indeed happening. The results then were:

1 Duane O’Connor

2 Kurt Allen

3 Karene Asche

4 Devon Seales

5 Heather McIntosh

6 Hollis Chalkdust Liverpool

7 Michael Sugar Aloes Osuna

8 Dexter Stinger Parsons

9 Brian London

10 Sandra Singing Sandra Des Vignes

11 Lesley Ann Ellis

12 Weston Cro Cro Rawlins

Again, veterans Sandra, Cro-Cro, Chalkdust and Aloes didn’t crack the top five. Now, just what does this mean? Is it fuel for the ones shouting “pass the ball”? Does it mean that the “oldsters” are past their prime and should give way to the “youngsters”?

I think not. Acknowledging straight up that I speak as an “oldster” in kaiso, having been in the thing for 31 years now, I see no reason to come to this conclusion.

The way

This is the way things are supposed to happen. Those who have been in the biz for a long time have that irreplaceable thing, experience, and there is nothing better than the combination of youthful zeal and experience, when it comes to a competition.

If anyone wants to remove the oldsters, the way to do it is to beat them! And I mean beat them fairly, not through manipulation because of an agenda on the part of the powers-that-be. And yes, such a thing has been known to happen, up to fairly recently, in fact.

To ask all the veterans to remove themselves is ridiculous. First of all, they bring a class and a mastery of craft that is now being learned by those who are younger. It fascinates me, even as a competitor, to witness the growing strength of young artistes. You see them when they are green and, year by year, they show increasing mastery of their craft until they take over the top of the list as has been the case now in the last two major competitions in T&T.

That is the reason I was so disappointed when Kerwin du Bois in that country made the switch to soca, albeit successfully. He had come through the ranks as a junior calypsonian and in his first appearance at Dimanche Gras was a powerhouse. I was looking forward to his taking the crown in a few years’ time; he was that good. He still has time on his side, though, and with the increased sharpening of his stage skills through soca, he will be unstoppable when he returns to kaiso.

And what about the local scene? After 30 years in the business, RPB still came out on top this year and Gabby, whom I came and found in kaiso, placed third. So in Barbados, the top five consisted of three veterans, including Adrian Clarke, and two youngsters, Ian Webster and Popsicle, whereas in T&T their top five in the monarchy was made up solely of youngsters.

What does this say? To me it just re-emphasises a hallmark of Trini kaiso, which is that almost every year we see another youngster breaking through to the big time. Here that doesn’t happen that often.

What is clearly common to both countries is that the veterans still have something to offer. When we speak of placings we often tend to forget that these are the top ten or 12 in the country, out of hundreds. So when the veterans make it to finals, they have proven that they are still among the country’s best.

Well enough

Change is inevitable and while I, for one, will not hang around if it becomes clear that what I have to offer is not relevant any more, no attempt should be made to push people out. So don’t get anxious, kaiso fans, the veterans in both countries obviously are still doing it well enough to be among the best.

Something that bothers me, though, is the prospect that a certain class the veterans possess is quite frankly not evident in some of the youngsters. I am seeing too many short-cuts being implemented, and people going for the lowest common denominator.

This is what I mean. Rather than crafting a calypso properly, with an introduction, development and a conclusion, too many are going for the one line that breaks up the place but often comes out of nothing. And, again quite frankly, I am not convinced that the calypso crowd here is always mature enough to spot that; I won’t even mention the judges.

Too often an artiste will deliver a crowd-pleasing line that is totally out of context and the crowd goes wild and expects that artiste to come out tops; often they are proved right. That’s not good for the art form and it leaves one to wonder what the scene will be like in 10 years’ time.

More exposure

One way, of course, to help ensure that the standards and quality don’t change is to expose more social commentary to a broader range of people. As I have said already, social commentary should make up about half of the Cavalcades. Let’s face it; there is no shortage of the bashment soca on the radio so there is no need to make that the majority of the Cavalcades.

Make sure that youngsters in the villages are exposed to classic social commentary, so that when they start to write and perform kaiso, they have a standard to which to aspire. We can’t expect to create more RPBs and Gabbys if all they are hearing is De Conducta.

That will never work.

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