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Vincentian calypsonians face judges in New York

Vincentian calypsonians face judges in New York

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by Maxwell Haywood

Even though Vincentian calypsonians in North America are thousands of miles away from St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG), for 15 years the Dynamite Calypso Tent has found a way to make outstanding contributions to the development of SVG’s premier cultural arts festival, dubbed “Vincy Mas”.{{more}}

This was recognized in statements made during the opening ceremony by Ainsley Primus, president of the Dynamite Calypso Tent; Earl Bennett, president of SVG Calypso Association; Selmon Walters, SVG Consul General in the USA; and Cecil Mckie, SVG Minister of Sports, Tourism and Culture. This year, the Dynamites have once again provided evidence of their contribution to Vincy Mas, and culture in general.

Despite the band Lambert and the Matadors and the sound system not doing full justice to the Dynamite calypsonians throughout the show, the calypsonians still displayed professionalism and for more than one hour, 15 calypsonians performed one calypso each before judges Osborne Bowen, Earl Paynter, Wollis Christopher, Cecil ‘Blazer’ Williams, and Daniel Hall. These judges travelled from SVG to New York to judge the calypsonians of the Dynamite Calypso Tent, as they performed in the preliminary judging stage of St Vincent and the Grenadines Calypso Monarch Competition. It all happened at Cafe Omar in Brooklyn, New York on Saturday, June 4, 2016.

The first artiste to take the stage was Vincent ‘Groovy D’ Kennedy, who, in his song “Natural Beauty,” highlighted the significance of people, especially Black women, being conscious of their natural beauty and put away their hatred against it. He pointed out that people will go to any extent to change their natural look and their natural hair. Then Michelle ‘Hibiscus’ Hillocks, the winner of both the New Song Competition and the New Break-out Artiste prizes of the Launch of Vincy Mas in the USA on May 7, 2016, took to the stage and delivered her well-received calypso titled “No honour,” in which she critiqued the attitude and practice in SVG where Vincentian-born calypsonians who live outside SVG in the diaspora are given no honour in their country of birth. She reminded the audience that calypsonians are true representatives of SVG; they are the grassroots of the people, yet they are treated badly. She urged the nation to move away from this sort of disrespect. Dennis Bowman was next to deliver his calypso offering, titled ‘Take Care of SVG’. He made a firm appeal to Vincentians to forget about politics and remember what Hairouna means to them. He urged the people to further develop their community spirit and they must show more love and cooperation in order to take care of SVG. He reminded Vincentians that they are custodians of SVG.

In a well-liked performance and hard-hitting political commentary, Joel ‘Navel String’ Bartholomew, in his song “Power Hungry,” directed his critique at the NDP and Opposition Leader Arnhim Eustace. He chided him for his approach to the recently held general elections in SVG. He charged him for his refusal to accept the results of the elections and asked if “you think is so man does win a country.” Moving from the hard core political commentary, John ‘The Truth’ Dougan, in a social commentary calypso titled “Togetherness,” gave his message for the immediate post-election phase in SVG. He appealed to our better sense of harmony and begged us to give unity a chance. He pleaded to Vincentians to unite and to effectively address challenges such as: insensitive ways of expressing ourselves, political party divisiveness, and stereotyping of SVG.

Performing for the first time in the Dynamite Calypso Tent, Prim Adonna, in a reflective and critical mood, delivered a soulful rendition titled “Crisis”, in which she highlighted the criticisms levelled against her, but she claimed she have “no business with that,” because it is her world and she shapes it how she wants to. She pointed out that people criticize her status in the calypso art form, her sexiness, and might criticize her kind of hair and her light-skinned complexion, but she does not make that worry her. Delano ‘D-Tecta’ Joseph, in his offering, titled “Welcome to SVG,” posited that despite the doom and gloom disseminated by some people about SVG, there was much that can be paid tribute to in SVG. With pride he declared SVG is a magical place to be. He spotlighted SVG’s clean water, absence of acid rain, mind relaxation atmosphere, freedom to go anywhere, and emerging infrastructure like roads that will unite the country more. However, he recognized the road is long and challenging, but many things about SVG are getting better.

In a lamentation rendition titled ‘Cyring fuh me country’, Ramon ‘Jose Juan’ Diaz wailed about the law and order, and political situation in SVG and the deterioration of social stability. This situation forced him to cry. He singled out “wicked politicians” who are making the situation worse. But he then warned the nation that crying will not change anything, unless the people get serious about changing the conditions that make them cry. Francis ‘Stryker’ Brown, in his song ‘The unexplained,’ expressed dislike for the way some Vincentians go about giving their country of birth a bad name. He declared that he is ashamed of how some people behave so negatively. According to him, these sorts of attitude and behaviour are unexplainable.Oscar James was in a teacher’s mood with his song “Mathematics”. He promoted the importance of mathematics and urged us to appreciate mathematics by highlighting the historical development of mathematics and some uses of mathematics that we take for granted. Earl ‘Exposer’ Isles in his song “D Comrade still dey” highlighted the resilience of PM Gonsalves, who despite the criticism against him, the Comrade still dey. He noted they talk about corruption but the Comrade still dey. They say morality falling down and they say the airport is to fool Vincentians yet the Comrade still dey. He pointed out that the fanatics are now more than ever, but the Comrade still dey. Pressure in the country and the politics of division but the Comrade still dey. NDP say ULP thief the elections yet the Comrade still dey.

In a crowd pleaser, Maxwell ‘Zeagay’ Samuel in his offering titled “Cocaine by the kilo” described the impact of the terrible cocaine phenomenon in SVG killing off and mashing up the people. He reminded the audience that when the healing of the nation was dominant things were much better; but now is cocaine by the kilo mashing up SVG. Not even the Jack Iron was bad like this cocaine. He lamented that cocaine is wreaking havoc in the ghetto. He called for liberation away from cocaine. Kenroy ‘Jakie’ Jack in his song “Do it now” demands that Vincentians do more to stop the problems facing the populace. He stressed that all over the country is murder, robbery, and hunger. He demanded that the people do something to stop these social evils and all the crying. He emphasized to do it now! Do it now! Make the country happy again.

In his song ‘Get off me’, Mervin ‘Bobb M.C’ Bobb shared an experience with a romantic cheating affair where the woman is cheating on her husband; and being urged to get off him before her husband comes home. Ending the competition was Carlos David ‘Chang I’ Morgan, who, in his song “Mama,” paid an emotional and energetic tribute to his Mother. He proudly declared that no matter where he roams he will always show love to his mother. Her love and advice is his guiding light. She made him the man he is. He shared with the audience his mother’s experience working hard in the fields to provide for her family.

The calypsonians of the Dynamite Calypso Tent in North America have now delivered their offerings for Vincy Mas 2016. The judges will soon make their selections public. Will Dynamites get the same number of picks or more as they did last year? It is left to be seen!

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