Calypsonian Alvin “Zion-I’ Dennie whose June 1 rendition of his 2023 song “Raperman” has resulted in his expulsion from On Tour calypso tent and its leader writing a letter of apology to Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves, has given the tent an ultimatum.
“Well, if On Tour members come to me currently and say, ‘Well, look, man, leh we throw all this aside and continue’, I will do it. But if I can’t sing with On Tour for the rest of the season, never me again put my foot on a stage for On Tour. No, I wouldn’t do that, because that is disrespect.”
Zion-I told iWitness News that his 2023 rendition “did not offend anyone” even as tent leader, Grantley “Ipa” Constance has written a letter of apology.
“They don’t have a charge against me,” he said, noting that his fellow tent members who felt that the song is offensive or defamatory are also in the same National Calypso Monarch competition as him.
“You competing against me and telling me ‘don’t sing this; tek out that’. So, what you doing? Setting up the song for you to beat me then?” he said.
He said the scrutiny of lyrics in the tent began last year with Ipa suggesting changes to his hard-hitting calypso, “Hypocrites”, which made it all the way to the finals.
“So, I want to know now what is his objective, what he standing for because he always starting this thing and I don’t know what going on with the man,” Zion-I told iWitness News.
He said starting his own calypso tent is the only way forward for him now “because I want to take calypso to a different level”.
Zion-I told iWitness News that since he returned to competition last year “calypso start getting attention because the things that I am singing. I know how to create a stir in calypso.
“Especially young people now, everywhere I go, young people on their phone, “Raperman …” he said, referring to a recurring line of the song.
“Everybody bigging me up. When last we had young people paying attention to calypso? You got to put out a product that is attractive. You have to say things that people would like to hear or like to say. You have to use characters that people would feel happy to hear about.
“So, this is what I doing but dem fella ain’t know how to arrange they product. And when they see me come with mine now and they find like, ‘Oh boy, this here, this is a bomb’, all they do is try keep it down. And instead, they keep down the song they keeping down the man way sing the song.”
Zion-I said he comes from a very poor family and believes in Almighty God.
“And once you see God says something has to happen, doh care what no man do, they ain’t stopping what God say.”
He told iWitness News that if he were not “a smart man, you never hear that song. Up to today, nobody would ah hear it because the intention was to stop the tent from the on go.”
Zion-I said he did not know “if it was an instruction”, adding that he usually sings for the people in his village the song that he plans to sing so as to get feedback.
“So maybe somebody leaked it out. Because they (tent members) keep inquiring all the time, why you ain’t coming to practise? What is the name of your song? We want the name to put on the cast… and they keep hunting me for the song and when the song came it was trouble.”
In his song, Zion-I makes certain allegations about one “Ralph” and one “Julian”.
On June 2, Ipa emailed Gonsalves, “firstly as a comrade and long-lasting friend and leader of the On Tour calypso tent”.
Ipa offered Gonsalves “my sincere apology for the rendition of Zion I song at our show dated 1st June 2023 at the Russell auditorium”.
Ipa said that the executive of the tent had decided to exclude Zion-I from the cast “because of his libelous lyrics” but the bard “pledged to us that he would change the lines and sing alternative lyrics which he had practice (sic), he also told us that he was advise by his lawyer that what lyrics he had before was (sic) defamatory”.
The tent leader, however, said that on the night of the show, he was “caught off guard by his of (sic) deception singing the song in the manner that was already expelled from the Tent”.
The tent leader said he (Ipa) made “several errors”, adding that since the tent spent a long time convincing Zion-I to change his lyrics, “we should have paid close attention when he was introduced to be at a strategic position for any unforeseen circumstances, and 2 we should of (sic) inform (sic) the musicians to stop the music if he is singing the wrong song.
“With these errors and a careful reflection on the night I am asking your forgiveness and
by extension al of the other persons who Zion I have (sic) negatively impacted. Our tent have since made a decision to terminate his membership to avoid any other deception to put our
organization in disrepute. I am asking humbled apologies (sic) and promises that such an error will not repeat itself under my leadership of the On Tour calypso tent. I hope our relationship will always be one of mutual respect, love comrade,” Ipa wrote.
Meanwhile, Zion-I denied that his lawyer had advised him to change the lyrics of the song. He said the lawyer’s advise was to change the name of the sound to “Raperman”
“I saying again, they have enough time. [This] week is competition. They have enough time. If they come to me and say, l’eh we reconcile this problem’, fine. You ain’t come, don’t come again because out for the rest of the year is out for the rest of my life,” Dennie told iWitness News.