PAST and present monarchs, veterans and young calypsonians turned up to show love and celebrate the 79th birthday of Leroy “Black Stalin” Calliste on Republic Day at a virtual benefit concert that was streamed live.
Stalin’s classic Come with It, performed by calypso and soca royalty Terri Lyons and College Boy Jesse, brought the house down.
Along with performances, tributes also came from Minister of Tourism, Culture and the Arts Randall Mitchell and international singer Eddy Grant.
The energy on the stage at Wack Radio 90.1 FM, Coffee Street, San Fernando, was evident as thousands of fans across the world viewed the live stream, raising $24,604 for the ailing calypso icon who had suffered a stroke in 2014.
Wack’s owner and CEO Kenny Phillips said he did not have to wait until Calypso History Month, which is observed in October, to celebrate the pioneers, and the series of concerts initiated months ago was to help artistes unable to work because of the covid19 pandemic. Over 75 concerts have been held to date.
Former calypso monarch Sandra "Singing Sandra" DesVignes-Millington paid tribute to Stalin who, she said, took on the role as father giver at her wedding. Accompanied by the band Temperature, which provided musical accompaniment for most of the cast, she serenaded the calypso icon with one of his own gems, We can make it if we Try. She was joined by 2020 reigning extempo champion Brian London, who performed a special birthday song, extempo style, and later a spirited performance of Sufferers.
There was no shortage of royalty as former calypso kings Duane O’Connor, Luta (Morell Peters) and NWAC Calypso Queen Makeda Darius all willingly lent support for Stalin’s cause.
Monarch finalist attorney Rondell Donowa chose the immortal Black Man doh get nothing Easy, while his brother Andre serenaded Stalin on the violin with Black Man feeling to Party and Bring back the old time Days.
Lady Adana chose a spiritual piece to show her love, while Ras Kommanda honoured Stalin with the still relevant Run Something, in which Stalin pleaded so many years ago for Mr Divider (the Finance Minister) to give him a “piece of the action” (a slice of the economic pie) before the oil money ran low.
The sweet voice of all-time people’s calypsonian, veteran Brother Valentino offered two of his timeless pieces for his brother artiste.
Ace pannist and arranger Duvone Stewart had global audiences dancing to his interpretation of Bun Dem on his treasured pan.
Young people influenced by Stalin’s craft also joined in paying tribute to Stalin, among them calypso winners Joshua and Caleb Hinds.
Junior extempo champion and Stalin’s grandson Kevan Calliste, was among a pan trio, which included child prodigy Atiba Williams, now all grown up.
Guyanese-British singer and songwriter Eddy Grant who helped shape Stalin’s career, could not be at the concert but sent a recorded message.
“I have known a lot of calypsonians, Leroy 'Black Stalin' Calliste is one of the greatest human beings it has been my pleasure to know in and around our craft. Stalin has been at the pinnacle of that great calypso art form that so few really know about today.”
He said a testament of Stalin’s greatness is his ability as a serious, political, social commentary type of calypsonian to write love songs dedicated to his wife, Patsy – A trait few calypsonians achieve.
“I think we have hit the jackpot, my brother,” he said, referring to the fact that they both have wives who have stood the test of time by their sides.
“I also think we hit the jackpot of bad health because you have been to the precipice and so have I.
“Today is a holy day, in terms of us the black people out of Africa. You have made us so proud. That name Black Stalin chosen at a time when even to mention the world black guaranteed you were not going to get anywhere in your craft.”
Grant said Stalin progressed because he stood his ground for which he has been loved by all people who love calypso.
“You remained black. As a matter of fact, you are black till you are blue and you have brought a lot of grace to the word ‘Black’ in front of your sobriquet ‘Stalin’.
“I am your friend. I am one who has loved you and loved your music. You are a big boy now, 79. Stay well, stay firm and write me a calypso.”
In paying tribute, Culture Minister Mitchell said Stalin's unique sound and style make him an icon on the kaiso stage.
“An unapologetic critic of colonial hangovers, his witty and thought-provoking music boldly expresses his defiance.
“With musical hits like Black Man Come out to Party and We can make it if we Try, his lyrical prowess and musical majesty speak to Black Stalin’s cultural consciousness,” Mitchell said in a message.
Stalin’s wife Patsy who witnessed the live recording in the studio, thanked all the artistes, the Emancipation Support Committee of TT, the Oilfields Workers Trade Union and especially Phillip for his vision.