All things Calypso!

Invader’s winning 2010 Calypso song may relate more to this Calypso season than last!

The island’s Prime Minister may very well be the “King of the Band” as Invader sang in his winning Calypso of 2010, “Stay in Your Section.” After all PM King seems to be the one quelling most of the carnival fires and controversies from last year, since Allen Chastanet the man who pushed for an increase in Government’s subvention to Carnival bailed out on the event in lieu of a bigger prize.         In light of this, one has to wonder about the role of the department of culture, or even the CDF which was established by an act of parliament to see about all things cultural here including Carnival. And to make matters worse and blur the lines between the theatrics of politics and carnival even further, there was the Attorney General at the opening of Carnival on Monday June 13, making pronouncements that are not necessarily memorable at this point.
The mudslide this year started with a last minute announcement of the establishment by Cabinet of a Carnival Secretariat—to oversee carnival over the CDF—setting a questionable precedence about a Cabinet conclusion superseding an act of parliament. Curiously that Carnival secretariat title soon changed to a Carnival Committee working with the CDF in staging Carnival 2011.
That aside, the Carnival and Calypso season has been a real “manje’ cochon” to use the local parlance quite correctly and Ninja’s “Laboowe” quickly comes to mind as a song for the season. However those stuck knee deep in the mud will want to give the impression that everything is fine with carnival and Calypso but some of us know better. Not much thought seems to be going into some of the decisions taken this year as most of them were taken hastily after the make-shift committee was established.                 The move to host many events in Beausejour in the north of the island to my mind further pushes the event away from the masses, what with an already disorganized transportation system which marginalizes many persons living outside of Castries. This leaves one to wonder whether there is any such thing as a National Carnival, as most events juggle for about 5-6 thousand persons, ninety percent of whom are Castries and surrounding environs based. (More on this later.)
But for now, we are supposed to be within the belly of the beast of Calypso, with the Calypso quarter finals ending last week. But not before there was much rancor from within, about which Calypso tents deserved the Government’s subvention. Then just last week the tents debated going forward with their quarter finals after not getting definitive word about the Government’s subvention. Well that has come in thanks to the approval of the Minister of Finance (guess who) to the tune of EC$150, 000 to be divided amongst the seven Calypso tents; Soca Village International, Take Over Tent, South Calypso Tent, Ambassadors, NG Soca Stage, Spectrum and De Soca-lypso Revue Tent. But now a new dilemma; how to arrive at a formula to distribute the subvention since not all tents are apparently created equal, with one tent “Spectrum” barely able to host a quarter final event.
Then this week, another issue arose, with members of the Calypso Association’s council and the Carnival Committee split on a decision to accept a proposal from the band “Caribbean Connections” to back up the calypsonians at the semi-finals and finals. Those opposing the move were in favour of the usual festival band conducted by Gregory Piper, which also submitted a proposal to perform forEC$45,000 while that of Caribbean Connection was EC$10, 000 less the STAR has learnt. Those in support of the all star band say that Caribbean Connection is a Trinidadian band, but information reaching the STAR shows that the band will comprise four Trinidadians and eleven Saint Lucians including Augustin “Jab” Duplesis and Derede Wlliams.
A meeting which lasted over four hours Monday evening to resolve the issue after it had reached the desk of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, saw the acceptance of a compromise to allow Caribbean Connections to be the band for the semi-finals on Saturday in the interest of time and to review the matter going into the Calypso Finals. Speaking to the STAR Caron Tobiere chairperson of the Saint Lucia Calypso Association (2009) says that they are looking forward to a wonderful event this Saturday, July 2 at the National Cultural Center. “Well everything is now in place and we actually started rehearsals yesterday (Tuesday, June 28) with Caribbean Connections and this continues through Friday, July 1 when we will have our dress rehearsals,” Tobiere says.
The list of semi-finalists was released on Monday following the conclusion on the quarter final stage of the Calypso competition over the weekend. The list includes four members of the Ambassadors Calypso tent including tent Leader Bingo as well as Morgie, Jinx and Educator. The South Calypso tent is also fielding four semi-finalists. They are Menel, Nintus Animator and Duval. Herb Black and Saralee will represent TOT, Blaze from De Soca-Lypso revue and none from Spectrum. Soca Village International making a comeback this year tops the list with seven semi-finalists. They are Nicole David, Walleigh, TC Brown Robbie, Super Sweet, Lady K and T Carro.
Asked to comment on the tent’s success spokesperson Soca Village Vaughn Charles had this to say to the STAR:                 “Well we are very elated and this success is testimony of the hard work that the management team alongside the artistes and the band has put into this. It has been a long journey, long meetings rehearsals, working with the artistes, coaching them, guiding them even sourcing writers in some cases. And what is so wonderful about this is that the more experienced artistes worked with younger artistes with the band being very supportive and that is result. We are hoping we can take the same seven into finals. I know that is aiming high but that is what we are hoping to achieve.”
Sunday’s semi-finals will be held at the National Cultural Center from 7pm. From there the Calypso finals move to Beausejour July 17.
But ahead of this Caron Tobiere says that there is a packed program, which begins today Wednesday, June 29 with the staging of the Groovy Soca Prelims.
“This event will take the form of an after-work lime at Spinners where we will have 30 groovy Soca artistes performing some of the songs persons have been hearing on the radio so far, for a possible selection into the Finals the Groovy Soca Monarch finals,” Tobiere says. The finals will be held at Pointe Seraphine on Thursday July 14. Then there is the Power Soca monarch prelims on Sunday, July 3 at the Cultural center to be followed by the finals on Saturday, July 16 at Beausejour.
With just over two weeks left before Carnival winds down on July 18 and 19, 2011, it is anyone’s guess whether we have heard the last of the controversies and wrangling which this year seems to be adding to the dampening of the spirits.
Add that to the economic downturn and we will need more than a King, a finance minister and a few lawyers to wash the mud clean this time around.

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