By *Jomo Sanga Thomas
(Plain Talk, July 5, 2019)
We agree with calypsonian Hero that “Calypso is on the Rise”. The judges, though, have done one better. On June 28 (Fantastic Friday), they concluded that this year’s finals must not just be a battle for calypso supremacy; it must be a true battle of the sexes. It must be about true equality, gender equality.
The judges selected five women: Fya Empress, Cleo, Joanna Christopher, Shena Collis and Shaunelle Mc Kenzie. They will join Abijah, Chico B, Patches, Tajoe, Dennis Bowman and Bro. Ebony in their quest to dethrone Man Zangie and wear the crown as Calypso Monarch for 2019.
It now appears that the sole criterion for making it into the semis and finals is for you to have a “good voice”. It does not matter how mediocre your song, once you can sing, you are in. It is the same nonsense we have heard over the years as to why Zangie is declared winner, year after year. They say he can sing, but rendition is only 10 points, so is presentation. Their lyrics are not strong, there is no pun, no satire, no humour, no ridicule, no double-entendre, no social commentary, no, nothing but the singing of a poorly constructed poem.
Nowadays, only a few calypsonians — Sulle, Age, Ebony, Abijah and Patches — bother to write songs that follow a strict calypso format. How therefore, do Dennis Bowman, Cleo, Fya Empress and Joanna Christopher get to the big yard in front of Sulle, Scakes and Speshie? We can only assume that those who got the judges’ nod are singers. However, we prefer calypsonians in a calypso competition.
How did some of the women, based on lyrics, melody, rendition, presentation and originality, get into a semi-final before Lady D? If truth be told, only Shaunelle and Shena had sufficiently strong lyrics, properly composed songs, to be sure picks among the females.
Before something contrary is said about my intention, it is important that the air is cleared. I have nothing against female participation and emergence. I just love the calypso artform more. A calypso is not a festival song. That’s where the likes of Fya Empress and Zangie belong. The poorly crafted compositions with little reason and no rhyme should never be given pride of place in a calypso competition. Leave your politics aside, how do they stack up against the year after year effort of Patches, Hero, Sulle and Scakes? Calypso might be on the rise, but the judges are stifling the true calypso artform.
We are all for encouragement and participation of youth and women, but on what basis did Boney Man and Rolie Mathews get into the semis ahead of some of the more seasoned campaigners? It could not be based on the quality of the song and the manner in which it was presented. Give it up for young Shena Collis, she has a clear, strong voice, a commanding stage presence and a great song. Shena’s song is the best for the season, in terms of meaning and lyrical content. We can only hope that more women follow her command, demand respect and celebrate themselves for the queens they truly are.
Chico B is absolutely refreshing. He is full of energy and brings a total contrast to the dry, slow, non-melodious offerings of so many of the other competitors. This year, Chico sharing licks! Everybody getting licks! Even before the semis were over, Ipa was crying and begging “doh beat me Chico”. Three years ago, Chico had stormed into the finals with Rum Pipe. In fact, he was our monarch that year. We hope he delivers and impresses the judges on Sunday night.
Anyone is free to sing as they like, but as an old YULIMO and UPM man, I cannot join with Tajoe and label people “jackasses” and condemn protest of whatever sort. Back in the day, we held a picket or protest demonstration if a politician spat on the street.
Patches with “Yard Boy”, Brother Ebony with “Age” and Abijah with “Brain” are as strong as ever. We can only await their second songs to see whether they possess enough lift power to propel either to the top of King’s Hill on Sunday night. Could this year be Shaunelle McKenzie’s? She berates the church leaders for preaching to the choir and calls on them to take their message to the people. She has been crowned Queen of Calypso for 2019 and must be beaming with confidence.
Sunday’s competition will be a keenly contested one. We are not judging and will obviously have to make do with the judges’ decision, even if we are not satisfied.
Wait, St Peter, wait!
“Peter wait, Peter wait, Peter look CIA by the gate. Bun he!”
The former Jamaican PM Edward Seaga died on May 19 and was buried two Sundays ago in Kingston. Opposition leader, Dr. Godwin Friday, attended his funeral.
It is only in a tribalised political culture that a man like Edward Seaga would be lionised, declared a hero of the people and a defender of the nation. Seaga was neither. In a truly humanitarian and just society, where consciousness is high and consciences are clear, Seaga would be recognised as a political opportunist who exacerbated the political divide in Jamaica and climbed onto the backs of the people for his own selfish power-craving ends.
No serious researcher could avoid the conclusion that Edward Seaga, with the help of the United States’ Central Intelligence Agency, created a Jamaica of guns, drugs and crime. The genesis of Jamaica’s drugs, gun and crime culture could be traced back to the turbulent 70’s when Michael Manley experimented with democratic socialism.
In the run up to the 1980 elections, 900 Jamaicans were gunned down in their streets and homes because of politically inspired violence initiated and executed primarily by Edward Seaga and his Jamaica Labour Party (JLP). Back then, he bragged about making “blood flow like water on the streets of Kingston”. During those crucial times, the JLP position was that “Manley must go either by underthrow or overthrow”.
Seaga claimed to have given his life to God and accepted Christianity. We have already invoked the appropriate words from Black Stalin’s classic calypso. We hope that St. Peter follows through on Stalin’s instructions.
*Jomo Sanga Thomas is a lawyer, journalist, social commentator and Speaker of the House of Assembly in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
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