The 2017 calypso season has been a somewhat strangely interesting, successful one thus far. I say thus far since we still have the finals which will bring down the curtains on Saturday July 15. But from my vantage point that too seems poised to be a wonderful event, bar the venue.
There are many factors that have led to my approval and principled stance on this year’s season; chief among them is that there were three fewer tents this year. With just Ambassadors Calypso Tent, South Calypso Tent and the merging of the Take Over Tent with Soca Village (Take Over Village), the three were able to prune their vines and select the best crop of performers for opening night and the quarterfinals. For the patrons this meant less shows for which they had to fork out EC$30 a night. This also meant there was no time to ‘try a ting’ on unsuspecting patrons. Either the calypsonians came good or were sent home. And so bumper crowds showed up for the six shows ahead of the finals, giving all three tents the thumbs up.
With the Carnival Management Committee (CMC) appointed by government in 2016 still in place to oversee the events, the overall management of the product was much improved. The back-up band, calypsonians and MC, knowing that their rewards were guaranteed, delivered their best efforts. So I say, kudos to the CMC!
Now onto the performers and their songs. This season proved calypso is no longer the purview of a select few; a number of young, talented newcomers proved that to be true. Names like T-Blacks, Oshun, Chocolate and Lil Nick proved night after night they deserved their place right alongside veterans like De Ashanti, Invader, Educator, Walleigh and Pep. The judges agreed. Some of the newcomers have made it all the way to the semi-finals and finals.
Paramount among my reasons of intrigue at this year’s calypso season was the main fodder which fueled many of the songs. For me, this had everything to do with the masterful stroke played by Prime Minister Allen Chastanet, albeit unwittingly. It had nothing to do with the amount of money he put into carnival or calypso; it has everything to do with the PM resisting calls to fire his finance guru in the wake of ‘Blackmailgate’. Stay with me now!
For all of his sins – real or imagined – no calypso centred on him directly. In Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago, and right here in Saint Lucia it is often commonplace for politicians, including prime ministers, to come under scathing attack from calypsonians during the tents. In this “Great Divide” as Solange puts it, it would seem Chastanet was spared the rod or even Oshun’s whip. True, there were songs like Morgie’s ‘Mwen Pe’ and Herb Black’s ‘Mwen Fachay’ but it seemed the songwriters saved their vitriol for just one particular minister and a certain school principal with an insatiable appetite for virgins.
‘Blackmailgate’ inspired no less than a dozen songs, to the obvious delight of prurient patrons. At the semi-finals there were at least six songs with the same theme. Even the MCs made the horny blackmail victim the brunt of their jokes. Four songs in the semi-finals were reserved for the beleaguered school principal, himself also a calypsonian. Perhaps it was mere coincidence but more than one observer commented on the fact that some 70 percent of last Sunday’s Cultural Centre audience was female. Then again, perhaps they showed up in the name of womanpower. After all there were the sisters Ready, Solange, Oshun and Chocolate who all made their mark at Sunday’s semi-finals.
Now, onto the finals which this year will be held at the Sab (Vigie Playing Field). Rumour is that in appreciation of being left out of this year’s scandal pot, the prime minister will allow the Vigie performers to use the facilities at his nearby official residence as changing lounges. (Just kiddin’, folks; just kiddin’!)
The ten finalists for next Saturday’s showdown are Ready, Morgie, Solange, Oshun, Nintus, TC Brown, Herb Black, Educator, Mighty Pep and Journalist. Last year’s winner Menel has decided not to defend her title this year. May the best performer win (for a change?)