HUNDREDS turned out for the TT country night on the penultimate day of Carifesta XIV which featured a spectacular show by soca star Neil “Iwer” George and a number of other crowd-pleasing performances.
The host nation’s four-hour show, held at the Grand Stand, Queen’s Park Savannah, began promptly at 7 pm on Friday and the first performance was steelpan courtesy of the Caribbean Youth Orchestra, which consists of budding musicians who participated in the Culture Ministry’s Music Schools in the Community programme.
The group gave a strong showing, with music mixing classical with local influences. That would be the sole occasion that the national instrument would be in the spotlight as the pan would only feature as accompaniment in a few other performances.
Following the orchestra there was a drum group, a touch of mas courtesy Tribal Connection Cultural Promotion and their Indian characters, and some powerful African dancing and drumming. The African drummers were joined by tassa courtesy of the First Citizens Dragon Boys Tassa Group and the two groups delighted the audience as they played and “answered” each other.
The Indian culture continued with reigning Junior Chutney Soca Monarch Avindha Singh who was all swagger and confidence as he sang about the importance of education. He was followed by his secondary school counterpart Machkaydon Charles who sang in praise of Police Commissioner Gary Griffith.
At 8.45 pm, there was a lull in the proceedings where music was played, then silence and the music again. Eventually 2018 Calypso Monarch Helon Francis took the stage and sang in a nation-building calypso. This was followed by another lull without music and then calysponians Sexy Suzy (Natasha Nurse) and Spicy (Tammico Moore) abruptly took to the stage with no introduction and invited the audience to “tell me where yuh from”. The duo sang briefly and left and the crowd just stood watching and then delivered a muted round of applause.
The emcee informed the audience the theme of the night was about celebrating the youth and she stressed the importance of encouraging their passion for the arts. The emcee also announced Los Alumnos de San Juan but it would be about ten minutes before the group would take the stage and deliver a vibrant, energising parang medley including their fun remix of Despacito. At one point, however, during the performance the microphone volume for the lead singer dropped. There would be microphone problems as well in the following segment as two youths stood on stage and said the national pledge.
After the pledge was another calypso performance, the dominant art form of the night, and on this occasion by 2019 Junior Calypso Monarch Rivaldo London. This was followed by an emotional dance performance by the Ibis Dancers, who dramatised a shooting and mother’s pain.
It was then back to calypso with Brian London’s tribute to Stalin and his rendition of the popular “we could make it if we try” which had the appreciative crowd singing along. He also commented on the TT country night saying, “The greatness and splendour of the nation is really on show. This is the best Carifesta we ever had.”
London had bele dancers from the Tobago Performing Arts Company on stage and, in one of the smoother transitions of the night, they then delivered a lively performance. This was followed by a traditional Indian dance by Anastasia Salickram and her group.
The Camejo clan then took the stage with former Junior Calypso Monarch Sharissa Camejo singing Denyse Plummer’s Nah Leaving and was then joined by her brothers for her own nation-building song.
The crowd lit up as I-Sasha sang Red, white and black and of the delights of Trini food and visiting Tobago. The Tobago Performing Arts Company returned with a limbo performance which did not feature much limbo but did have the crowd cheering as one dancer stood atop two poles being held horizontally by male dancers and danced in a skiing motion.
The Malick Folk Performers then had a multicultural dance set and Chuck Gordon delivered the final calypso of the night, “bleeding red white and black.”
The two most crowd-pleasing performances of the night were easily, Rodney “Benjai” Le Blanc, who delivered a patriotic and gyration-filled rendition of Trini, and Iwer George. The latter performed a medley of his songs, repeatedly “blessed” the audience with water who had the crowd ignoring the fire officers’ caution to clear the front of the stage and following his every instruction. At the end of his performance he noted the next Carifesta will be in Antigua and introduced Antiguan singer Tanzania “Tizzy” Sebastian. She gave a solid performance of her hit Expose but it was a bit of anticlimactic end to TT’s country night after George’s massive set.