Calypso Art Specialists keep the music playing for youths

Cindy Ann Bigford performs Stop Domestic Violence to win the 13-17 category of the virtual Junior Calypso Festival. -
Cindy Ann Bigford performs Stop Domestic Violence to win the 13-17 category of the virtual Junior Calypso Festival. -

After a successful inaugural Junior Calypso Festival, Joseph “Joey” Rivers has additional plans to keep young people involved in music throughout the year.

Rivers, 49, through his organisation Calypso Art Specialists TT (CASTT), launched the festival this Carnival season with its target competitors in two categories – 12-and under and 13-17.

The objectives were to encourage participation, mentorship and development in music for youths, and to provide an extra-curricular activity during the season after Carnival was cancelled because of covid19. As a result, there were no official children’s competitions.

The winners of the calypso festival were awarded their prizes on Saturday at Kafe Blue on Wrightson Road, Port of Spain.

Pleased with the initiative, Rivers said he was surprised by the momentum, acceptance and participation by competitors, performers and educators.

“It was extremely successful and our key performance indicators showed that the clients were satisfied, and the intended purpose of the programme was achieved.

“It was ahead of the game and there were features that were brand new and borderline controversial that were implemented that allowed people to explore outside of their comfort zones.”

He added that the competitors also stepped out to highlight current and troubling social issues and noted that the lyrical content showed their understanding.

Musician Joey Rivers, founder of Calypso Art Specialists TT -

“While these were not brand-new songs, the children understood the issues they chose to highlight. Domestic violence and gender-based violence were the main topics of the competition.

“They found creative angles to bring to the forefront, rights and respect for individuals. Even when the songs were submitted the current spate of events had just begun. But the students knew the importance of it.”

The performances, Joey explained, were emotional and were not rehearsed, empty deliveries because it was a competition.

“It was clear to me that the children were not just being puppets. When they rendered their songs, it was evident that they understood the issues. We all got the sense that they identified and were sensitive to the situations as opposed to just mouthing some words.”

Rivers, who is no stranger to the music fraternity, said CASTT would host similar events throughout the year and has targeted various genres.

He told Sunday Newsday that the events, while in the form of competitions, were not meant to be competitions but to foster holistic development in youths interested in the artform.

On Saturday, CASTT launched two initiatives – the Calypso Godparent initiative and the junior gospelypso edition in commemoration of Easter.

Tsaiann Burke sings Think Again to win the 12 and under category of the virtual Junior Calypso Festival. -

“We do not want to deny any child the opportunity to explore their musical talents. Th competition will work in the same way as the junior calypso festival. Submissions will be accepted from Easter Monday. A more comprehensive list of the deadlines, semi-finals and finals are being worked out.”

Rivers said there are other shows in the pipeline to capture various TT events that would be in keeping with the school timetable to allow a balanced academic and extra-curricular experience.

“We are looking to get students into patriotism with our Independence into Republic Day events. There will also be a Christmas leg of our initiative. The details and concepts have not been finalised. But we are targeting the same age groups.”

What is the Calypso Godparent initiative?

According to Rivers, it a programme that will pair a mentor to a family of one of the participants. The objective is to promote health relations within the family and the child who wants to pursue music.

He said CASTT has been working closely with various bodies including the Police Service to provide the mentors, as such volunteers must be strictly screened.

“This is not new, I am just labelling it now. A calypso godparent is the person who would support the parent but does not compete with the parent. They do not encourage the child to be dismissive of the actual parent, but they would be there to assist as a mediator and mentor.


“The child may a view or an idea that they may be afraid to voice, and this is where the calypso godparent steps in.”

He hoped this programme can also foster better parenting and build relationships within families.

“We have on board clinical psychologists, the TTPS, the ministries of education and family development and social services for approvals and assistance with the technical and safety aspects of the initiative.”

Joey said calypso godparents will be assigned to families they have a pre-existing relationship.

For more info contact 708-1107 or


"Calypso Art Specialists keep the music playing for youths"

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