Carnival “empowers and fuels” carnival-lovers around the world and to lose it for 2021 is defeating.
This is why the 2015 Groovy International Soca Monarch, Olatunji Yearwood, has taken up the call, Don’t Stop Carnival.
“Everyone should know by now I consider myself a calypsonian in the truest sense of the word. So I see it as my duty to say to my people, ‘Leh we take back we power and embrace whatever incarnation the festival has to presented, be it virtual or otherwise. No yuh cyah stop de Carnival.’”
He told Sunday Newsday a virtual Carnival is something the country should be able to pull off with concerts and a showcase of different locations in TT. In this way local artistes can make an income and market TT for when the borders reopen.
“Our thing is so rich in culture. We’re talking about mas, pan, moko jumbies, chutney – we have so many things we have to showcase so we will need sponsors to get on board to make this happen. Even if it happens in April, that’s still something.”
Olatunji explained that the chorus of Don’t Stop Carnival was taken from Lord Invader’s (Rupert Westmore Grant) 1939 composition, Don’t Stop The Carnival. He added lyrics and the song was produced by Kevin “Vexmony” Beharry of System 32.
In the song, he is having a phone conversation with a Trini woman who lives in the US. She is lamenting that he has not dressed up and gone to a party in a long time. She misses her country and Carnival.
Hear she bawl/ Long time, long time/ She eh have a nice time, nice time/ Dress up and go outside, outside/ Party in a boat ride/ She say no way, no way/ Let meh tell yuh Tunji/ Long time me eh party in meh country/ Ah real go miss de J'ouvert.
He said the melody and lavway of the song is powerful, describing it as “familiar meets surprise.” That kind of music, he said, will always be a hit because it is connected to the blood of the people of TT.
“The song keeps connecting to people over the years. Because of the chaos and confusion (of the covid19 pandemic), this is the right song to bring back for this time. The song is timely because of the cancellation of the Carnival in the mecca of Carnival. And we don’t even know when is the next one. So I feel now is the time to revitalise it (the song), and pay homage, and really tell stories right now. That’s what I really want to do.”
Olatunji discovered the song by accident. Since he has not been performing during the pandemic he has used the time to listen to music.
“I have always been passionate about calypso and I always liked kaiso and the stories they tell, the authentic melodies, the brass and the live instruments they used. I went back to some of the names (of older calypsonians) and while doing that happened on this song.”
He said he knew Lord Invader from the song Rum and Coca Cola, and was surprised when he came across Don’t Stop The Carnival. He did more research and found out many other musicians, including Harry Belafonte, The Mighty Sparrow, and international jazz musicians did their own renditions.
Don’t Stop The Carnival was inspired more by the Duke of Iron’s (Cecil Anderson) version. He sang it in 1945 when Governor Sir Hubert Young decided to ban all Carnival festivities during World War II.
Olatunji said it has long been the job of calypsonians to restore faith in times of hopelessness and empower people when they feel defeated. That is one of the reasons he believes artistes should be “releasing music like crazy” now.
He said people expect new music from TT around this time so artistes should get their music online. In fact, he believes people are “starving for our music” during this time of frustration and stress.
In addition, he said people like to say soca is seasonal but if artistes want to evolve and prove their versatility, they should release music and tell stories during this pandemic.
So far, Olatunji has released four songs. His first was Angel, a groovy song with a “soulful feeling” that has an Afro-beat with a “soca bounce.” Angel is on the Tender Touch Riddim along with Patrice Roberts, Nailah Blackman, Melly Rose, and others.
Other recent releases were Doing It, described as old school kaiso mixed with dance hall, and Black Liberation.
He intends to release more music and is very excited about his next release, which he is keeping a secret for now.