THE atmosphere inside the Southern Academy for the Performing Arts (SAPA) on February 6 defied the reality that Carnival 2021 celebrations had been cancelled.
All the elements identified with “the greatest show on earth” were on parade. Veterans and youths, representing the steelbands – CAL Skiffle and Skiffle Protégés – horn and rhythm sections, calypso, soca, chutney soca, sailors, gorillas and Indian mas, all characterised the moment.
The blue devils were prevented from making a stage appearance out of concern that their powder would stain the floor. Kaisoca moko jumbies towered at the entrance of the venue to welcome guests for the three-hour-long concert, Tempo in San Fernando.
From the spectacular opening act by the Shiv Shakti Dance Group dancing to the popular Jersusalema, to Nadia Batson ending with all the Carnival characters, patrons left satisfied with the Tempo in Sando Concert. It was the second virtual event put on by Skiffle since the safety restrictions enforced as a result of the covid19 pandemic. Some 250 patrons were allowed to view the show live at the Todd Street, San Fernando academy, in keeping with the protocol of half-capacity in venues.
San Fernando mayor and Skiffle CEO Junior Regrello, who recently had knee surgery, joined in the festivities doing the sailor dance. Regrello said the intention was to create a mini Carnival for those missing the celebration.
Among the performers were 2020 Soca Monarch champion College Boy Jesse with his Happy Song, multiple-crowned International Soca Monarch Aaron "Voice" St Louis, and reigning Chutney Soca Monarch Imran "GI" Beharry who performed the song with which he will be defending his title on February 13. Rising star Christo, Savanna, and female choir Voix Riches also added the youth factor to the line-up.
Had it not been for the pandemic, Calypso Fiesta would have been on February 6, prompting some of the artiste – Ras Kommanda, Brian London, Cro Cro and even MC Rachel Price – to deliberately or accidentally address the audience as “Skinner Park,” the fiesta’s venue.
Skiffle members, dressed in all white, were introduced on stage with their banner from two years ago when they placed second at the Panorama finals with their rendition of Hello. The band then moved right into the Backyard Jam, accompanying Farmer Nappy on this and another unrehearsed selection – Hookin Meh.
Volinist Anselm Walters was brought on stage by Regrello to perform Amparito Roca, which was not on Skiffle’s playlist. But the performance was near flawless. The audience, mainly southerners, had no idea this was a spontaneous performance.
In between acts, Price kept the audience entertained with her raunchy humour and antics. But there were sombre moments as she and other artistes remembered the late Sandra “Singing Sandra” Des Vignes-Millington who died on January 28, and Andrea Bharatt who was kidnapped on January 29 and whose body was found down a precipice in Heights of Aripo on February 4.
Price paid tribute to Sandra in song as did 2020 King of the Extempo Brian London who had last performed with Sandra at a birthday concert for Black Stalin last year. London chose one of her signature songs, Nobody Wins a War in commemoration of her life.
Reigning NWAC Calypso Queen Makeda Darius, accompanied by iconic pannist Len “Boogsie” Sharpe and Skiffle gave a soulful rendition of Sandra’s powerful Die With My Dignity.
Cro Cro, a father of two daughters and a son, reminded the audience of the week of sadness leading up to the recovery of Bharatt’s body instead of her rescue. Like the rest of the nation, he, was touched by her demise and chose to perform one of his old gems, Hang them High, to reflect what should be done to murderers and rapists. He was also accompanied by Skiffle as he sang Where d Hell Pan Reach.