The coronavirus pandemic seems to have given the art of extempo a global space.
Extempo Monarch Brian London said a global extempo challenge issued by him and his friend Andrew Baker Jr, who is from St Maarten, has given new life and respect for this ability to compose on the spot on any topic using the sans humanite tune.
On this occasion, the topic is covid19 and ordinary people and performers around the world have taken up the challenge posting videos of their own melodic and some not-so-tuneful perspectives on the virus.
Talking to Newsday on Wednesday, while at work at Trinidad Lake Asphalt, La Brea where he was awaiting word on whether or not his job was really in the essential category, London was happy “extempo was finally getting its space.” However, he was sad it had to take something drastic like the pandemic for this to happen.
“My aim all along was actually to take extempo to the Caribbean. I would have been told long ago extempo was big in the Caribbean islands. For whatever reason, it has lost that appeal. It’s not that big anymore, so, maybe this is an opportunity for extempo to take back its place in the Caribbean and maybe probably the world, where it should be.”
He clarified that the original idea came from Baker who actually did the first covid19 extempo, and a couple others in his country took up the challenge. London also did his video and added to the challenge but noticed more Bajans than Trinbagonians had accepted.
Last weekend, London intensified the challenge for people confined to their homes and looking for something to occupy their free time, to join in. He first posted the instrumental version of sans humanite and then gave instructions.
“Do a video, whether by yourself, with your family, with your friends. Give me an extempo on covid19, whether it be in the form of a prayer, whether it be just basic information, let me hear what you have,” he challenged locals.
“It has already started in Barbados, St Maarten, Grenada and other places. TT, this is your time for we to get global,” he said, adding “them Bajans killing we here, doing like if they own the extempo. Only six ah we (Trinis) and 20sum Bajans.”
“Run the track, play the track, you and your wifey, you and your children, you by yourself, do something. This is the covid19 coronavirus extempo challenge, do your thing nah,” he challenged in a WhatsApp message.
That approach bore fruit encouraging nationals like Justice Gillian Lucky, calypsonian Duane O’Connor, calypsonian/extempo artiste and pannist Kevan Calliste, musician Joey Rivers, Mighty Mellow from St Anthony’s College, among others taking up the challenge.
Government came in for some blows from “Carver in Moruga,” who sang that while the virus started in China it somehow reached Moruga, south Trinidad, and advanced and if Government had closed the borders early, he would have been able to celebrate Spiritual Shouter Baptist Liberation Day last Monday.
Barbadian calypsonian TC, an artiste who introduced himself as a two-time calypso monarch of St Maarten, another one from Anguilla and across the Caribbean, young and matured singers have rallied to the call.
“I think extempo is getting the platform it deserves. I have seen people do videos in total French. I have seen them do videos in total Spanish. The vibes just growing and every day more and more people are adding to the mix," London said.
“I have seen families, a father, mother and son doing it together. I have seen a mother and daughter just jumping into the mix.”
“What we are engaged in is a global fight, we are seeing what is happening around the world and people from as far as England, someone from Dubai, people from the United States of America, Canada, Europe, Asia, they are all loading up videos.”
London called on citizens to do the right thing in this fight for survival, to use the opportunity to make their peace with people they may have wronged and get closer to God.
“Reach out and tell someone you love them. We have family and friends who live in many different parts of the world, let them know we are here and we are concerned. It’s a global fight. TT is just a part of the thing.”
London has been using various social media platforms to throw out the challenge, including WhatsApp, Facebook and the FOYTT Xtempo FB pave. FOYTT is the acronym for Friends of the Youth of TT, a non-governmental organisation (NGO) he formed to teach and encourage young people to get involved in the art form. FOYTT is also the group that has been promoting the junior extempo competition over the past few years.
In terms of his job, he said from Friday workers will be sent home until the government lifts the stay-at-home order.