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40 years of Calypso immortalised

40 years of Calypso immortalised

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Several Vincentian calypsonians have been immortalised in a 104-page publication produced by the Department of Culture.

“A Handbook of Calypso in St. Vincent and the Grenadines” was launched in a ceremony held at the offices of the Ministry of Culture at the Cruise Ship Berth on 16th March, 2009.{{more}} The publication documents the past 40 years in calypso history in the country, highlighting outstanding performances from Alston “Becket” Cyrus, Shaunelle “Singing Shaunelle” Mackenzie, Kenneth “Vibrating Scakes” Alleyne and Kevin Lyttle, among others. The publication also features full lyrics of over 40 songs, information on competition titles, articles by Olsen “Caribbean Pete” Peters and the late Winfield “Mighty Rey” Williams, and a list of the 25 most influential Vincentian Songs since Independence in 1979.

Principal architect of the publication, Cultural Officer Michael Peters, said the handbook was born out of necessity, to fill a void created by inadequate documenting of the art form since the 1960s.

Admitting this work was not exhaustive, Peters said he hoped the commemorative piece would inspire future projects along the same vein.

The handbook, two years in the making, proved somewhat challenging as many records from the Carnival Development Corporation have been lost over the years. In fact, Peters revealed that he compiled the lyrics of some songs included in the handbook by replaying tapes of his personal recordings.

Feature speaker at the launch, Minister of Culture René Baptiste, praised the handbook as a “landmark publication because it has not been done before.” She hoped that its introduction would bring calypso to the forefront more often.

She also wished it to be used as an instrument for teaching along with the upcoming companion teachers’ guide of calypso by Glenroy ‘Sulle’ Caesar.

Baptiste ended by saying she hoped the publication and others like it would encourage Vincentians to appreciate local artistes like neighbouring islands do their own.

President of the Calypsonian Association, Hassan Kennedy offered congratulatory remarks to the book’s producers and said colleagues in Trinidad were eagerly anticipating its publication.

At the ceremony, Jeffers ‘Mighty Sheller’ Alexis was presented with a Lifetime Achievement award by the Minister of Culture, for his contributions to calypso in St Vincent and the Grenadines. The 7-time Calypso Monarch thanked God for “blessing [him] with the talent” to produce records for over 30 years and thanked family, friends and fans for their continued support.

Alexis, who holds the record for most consecutive Calypso Monarch titles at 4 victories from 1970-1973, described his award as a bonus; “icing on the cake” in a career he loves from the heart.

He also praised Minister Baptiste for her dynamism in her capacity as Minister of Culture saying, “I think she is the most active and dynamic Minister of Culture in Saint Vincent and also in the region.”

Copyright issues prohibit the publication of the handbook’s songs in electronic format but Minister Baptiste promised to make the text widely accessible for perusal at various local throughout the island including the National Trust, the Archives and the Department of Libraries.(SC)

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