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Saturday 21 September 2019
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Hail Helon

FIRE FOR DEM: Having has a bumper Carnival season with his Year For Love, Aaron “Voice” St Louis placed second in his first outing at the National Calypso Monarch final at Queen’s Park Savannah, Port of Spain on Sunday.
FIRE FOR DEM: Having has a bumper Carnival season with his Year For Love, Aaron “Voice” St Louis placed second in his first outing at the National Calypso Monarch final at Queen’s Park Savannah, Port of Spain on Sunday.

NEWLY-crowned National Calypso Monarch Helon Francis believes a greater attempt must be made to enable young artistes to write their own material.

“Work on the youths. I think that is the only thing we can do to keep the flag of calypso flying,” Francis, 24, told reporters after winning the competition, early yesterday, at the Dimanche Gras, Queen’s Park Savannah, Port of Spain.

“I mean, what we need to do is produce younger writers. That is what I think is actually securing the future of calypso, not just a younger singer.”

Francis, who composed his winning selection, Change, reasoned that existing writers will eventually pass on, leaving a void in one of the critical components of the artform.

“They would be gone and we don’t want calypso to go with them. So, I think once we produce younger writers, once we start producing that, we will be fine.”

The soft-spoken artiste acknowledged, though, some calypsonians were not skilled in writing the lyrics to their own songs.

“I think not everyone is gifted in the same way. There are some people who have the gift and don’t use it and there are some who are just kind of lazy.

A crowd favourite, Francis’ thought-provoking social commentary called on citizens to review the manner in which they did things on a national level.

He beat a stellar 17-member cast, including last year’s champion Dr Hollis “Chalkdust” Liverpool and three other former monarchs, to take home a first prize packet of $700,000.

Another hot contender, Aaron “Voice” St Louis, fresh from securing a hat-trick in Friday’s Soca Monarch competition, placed second with an exhilarating performance of his popular Year For Love. He received $400,000.

Former south monarch Rondell Donawa and Michael “Protector”Legerton, placed third and fourth respectively.

Donawa, who sang De Problem, a song which urged citizens to examine themselves, walked away with $200,000 while Legerton, a former president of the Trinbago Unified Calypsonians Organisation (TUCO), offered a sobering commentary on the country’s current state of affairs in We Could Do Better Than That. He got $100,000.

Former monarch Duane O’Connor, a last-minute addition to the line-up, placed seventh in the competition after Justice Ricky Rahim ruled in the High Court on Sunday that TUCO include him in the final.

O’Connor, who sings out of the Kaiso House tent, had sought an emergency injunction to prevent TUCO from denying him the right to participate in the show.

He contended in his lawsuit that one of the judges in the Calypso Fiesta at Skinner Park, San Fernando, had changed from 28 to 25 points, his score in the melody category, denying him the opportunity to be included in the final.

Had it not been for the change, O’Connor said, he would have made it to the final.

Making up the top ten were Myron Bruce (Myron B) and Joanne Rowley (Tigress) who tied for sixth place and Dexter Parsons (Stinger) and former monarch Karene Asche, who shared ninth spot.

Tenth place went to Kurt Allen, the Last Bardjohn of Calypso, with Circle Square Science.

Other solid performances came from Lady Watchman (Alana Sinette-Khan), Selvon “Mistah Shak” Noel and Stacey Sobers, a first-timer on the Dimanche Gras stage.

Sobers gave a lively tribute to Skinner Park, one of the country’s cultural meccas, earning her 13th place.

Sinette-Khan sang about deadbeat fathers while Noel examined the state of calypso in Rebellion. They placed 11th and 12th, respectively.

Michael “Sugar Aloes” Osuna placed 15th with his tribute to late calypso legend Lord Kitchener (Aldwyn Roberts) titled Finally.

Carlos “Skatie” James, with his song, Ah Cutback, and Liverpool with Eulogy, a tribute to late President George Maxwell Richards, brought up the rear, placing 16th and 17th, respectively.

But the night belonged to Francis who recently completed a Bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts at the University of TT (UTT).

Dressed simply in white, the 2016 Young King, performing in position 14, delivered a heartfelt rendition of Change which earned him a standing ovation from patrons in the Grand Stand.

After his victory was announced, the former Newtown Boys’ RC student, with head tilted upwards, eyes closed, placed his right hand on his heart as if thanking the heavens.

He told reporters the victory was the culmination of a lifelong dream.

“I am speechless. This is a childhood dream and to see it happen and manifest... I spoke to God about it many times and just to see that he answered my prayers, I am just eternally grateful.”

Francis urged aspiring calypsonians to come forward and take responsibility for the artform.

“Come forward and do what you supposed to do. Take your responsibility as a calypsonian. I mean, if you are a young, up and coming calypsonian, have no fear. Do what you have to do. Come forward as a calypsonian and state what you believe.”

Francis, who won the crown in his second appearance on a Dimanche Gras stage, said he takes his role as a calypsonian seriously.

“To be honest, I put in my work every year,” Francis said, adding he got the opportunity this year “to really sit and craft my music the way I would like to sit and craft it.”

He said the sky’s the limit.

“This (victory) is just the beginning of what I would like to do once God spares life.”

Asked how it felt to keep St Louis at bay in the competition, Francis joked: “He came on my home ground so he is allowed to lose this one.”

Francis said St Louis pulled off a fantastic performance “and I kind of understood that I had to come exceptionally well.”

He said he was very pleased with his performance and more so, the outcome.

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