Nation-building songs, social commentary and a yearning for the values and traditions of yesteryear dominated the opening of Kaiso House on Saturday night at Globe Cinema, Port of Spain.
And its cast, some of whom are former monarchs, did not disappoint.
In fact, they more than lived up to the tent’s slogan, Where Excellence is a Tradition, offering an unashamedly raw glimpse into the realities of modern-day TT before a sizeable and appreciative audience.
For its 2018 opening night, the flagship tent of the Trinbago Unified Calypsonians Organisation (TUCO) did not appear to be affected by poor patronage as several of the other tents reported within the past week.
It may very well have been a welcome reprieve to the stellar cast, who, perhaps aware of the impact of the economic downturn on the artform, feared the worst.
But, most of the seats in the cinema’s main space were filled with die-hard calypso lovers, who not only lapped up the performances but prompted encores throughout the four-hour long show.
Karene Asche, who created history in 2011 by winning the Calypso Monarch competition’s $2 million first prize, was one such recipient.
Performing in position 11, Asche, dressed in a flowing white floor-length dress, belted out Song of Inspiration, a piece about crime, social injustice and other ills plaguing the society. But the tune was also a call to action, encouraging citizens to reclaim the country by not giving in to what she referred to as “demon urges.” Throwing her heart and soul into the presentation, Asche connected with the audience and they responded overwhelmingly.
Asche was quickly followed by another heavyweight, Duanne O’Connor, who dethroned her as monarch in 2012.
Dressed in an abstract-pattered, slim-fit suit, complete with bow-tie, O’Connor, in No Front Page, bemoaned what he considered to be the penchant of print media houses to highlight only negative news as their lead stories.
In the song’s closing line, O’Connor even jokingly referred to the controversy surrounding Chief Justice Ivor Archie.
Veteran calypsonian Winston “Gypsy” Peters, gave a sobering view of the problems confronting the country in Only Heaven Can Save Us Now.
Alluding to corruption, crime and wasteful spending over the years, Peters surmised that politicians cannot resolve all of the issues in the country. He said divine intervention was the only answer.
Dee Diamond (Denesian Moses) urged parents to focus on the youth in his piece, Teach Them, while the legendary BrotherValentino (Anthony Emrold Phillip) issued a lament for vintage calypso.
Mistah Shak (Selvon Noel), who wound up the first segment of the show with an energetic performance of Rebellion, also lamented the state of calypso __ biased judging and favouritism __ but vowed to remain true to the artform, regardless of the consequences.
Bunny B’s (Neville Brown’s) In The Name of Love, which revisited the events surrounding Vicky Boodram’s escape from prison and subsequent incarceration, proved to be one of the more humorous and popular selections of the night as was Brother Mudada’s (Allan Fortune’s) Hospital Affairs, which spoke to the absence of medication in the nation’s health facilities.
Smut also made its way into Kaiso House’s line up by way of Calypso Kerr’s (Carlston Kerr’s) When Last and Exposer’s (Moses Monroe) No Boundaries.
Among those making up the first half of the show were Sista Ava (Ruth Ava Shallow) with Rise Up; Black Sage’s (Phillip Murray’s) Food Fraud; Sharlan Bailey’s High Times and Mr King’s (Marvin Lewis’) D’Horn and Lani-K’s (Jalani Kojo’s) Ambition.
Two-time monarch Roderick Chuck Gordon delivered his usual spirited performance as did Snakey (Heaven Charles) in the second half of the show.