Kaiso No 8 - September 29, 1998

A busy week in the Far North as we get ready for the first snow that is literally due any day now!  But no time for that, it's kaiso! kaiso!

Calypso on Africa

One of the fascinating presentations at the Carnival Conference was by Barbara Temple-Thurston and Brian 'Commentor' Honore on African themes in calypso with Brian performing several selections. Now Godwin Oyewole's website Calypso Tent of the Air,  http://www.intr.net/goyewole/calytent.html  offers a half hour of calypsos about Africa broadcast in real audio!  Godwin has started putting a change calypso radio show on his web site and this is number 11!  Included on it is Kitch's fifties celebration of Ghana's independence.
Lord Kitchener - Birth of Ghana

This day will never be forgotten
The sixth day of March, 1957
When the Gold Coast successfully got their independence officially

Ghana, Ghana is the name
Ghana, we wish to proclaim
We will be jolly, merry and gay
The sixth day of March, Independence Day

Dr Nkruma went out his way
To make the Gold Coast what it is today
He endeavored continually
To bring us freedom and liberty

The doctor began as agitator
He became popular leader
He continued to go further
And now he is Ghana's prime minister

The national flag is a lovely scene
With beautiful colors red, gold and green
And a black star in the center
Representing the freedom of Africa

Congratulations from Haille Sallaise
Was proudly received by everybody
He particularly comment
On the Doctor's move to self-government.

Raw Kaiso Two

Last Saturday, Kim Johnson in the Express had a nice piece on the Herskovitz collection, Peter Was a Fisherman on Rounder.  Rounder continues to be the major mainstream US label committed to calypso.  The second volume of Raw Kaiso featuring Brigo and Rio is due from Rounder on October 13.  More info shortly.

Guyanese Calypso

A couple issues ago I inquired about Guyana calypso and how little information I had.  Well, in an Alta Vista search of the net I just turned up the following on this year's competition from the Guyanese Observer.

The Canary is back!  by Stacey Bess

Lord Canary is back in the roost as lord of the local calypso arena.  He hopped back there early yesterday morning when he copped the 1998 Mashramani Calypso Monarch title at the National Park in Georgetown.  His two well-written and presented pieces earned him 813 points, $300,000 and a large trophy.

Lord Canary had won three national contests before but this is his first Mashramani title. His "extreme happiness" yesterday was not only for winning the competition, but for forcing Tempest, who beat him to the title in 1994, into the second spot this year.  Canary was a crowd favourite from the time he took to the stage for his first tune De Talkin 'Bout Woman.  Dressed in a long denim skirt, a tee shirt and a head scarf, he belted out his tune, which brought to mind good Trinidad calypso.  He pointed out peculiarities of women and the important role they play in society.  During his verses, three females went on stage to portray the different roles women adopt in society.  The first was attired in a suit, carrying a brief case.  She looked like a superb professional lady.  Then a pregnant woman came, and later, one who mimicked President Janet Jagan, joined them to aid Canary's presentation.  The Monarch (Malcolm Corrica) was once a minister and Member of Parliament when the Minority People's National Congress (PNC) was in government.

Tempest was also outstanding. Donning her traditional African tie dye wraps, she asked Why De Fightin So and later advocated people to Big Up Guyana.  She had the strongest voice which she used to score points in diction and melody.  Big Up Guyana could not have earned her many points in the competition, but is ideal for a road march contest.  For this song she was helped by top dancers from the National Dance Company in costumes of the national colours. Their choreography was a blend of African and Indian techniques.

Lord Canary and Tempest fell down in originality.  Tempest's Why De Fightin So was similar to her Is Only Talk winner in 1994.  Canary's second rendition Don't Let Them Down brought to mind Every Day Should be Mother's Day.  While the judges seemed not to have much difficulty in deciding the two top places, they did not have it that easy picking the third and fourth place winners.

As a result, Young Bill Rogers and former monarch, Kaiso Kid, had to share the third position.  They both presented social commentary on serious issues in Guyana.  JJ's Race and Poor Elections was Young Bill Rogers' focus in the first half.  Attired in a spanking royal blue outfit with gold trimmings, he said that it was JJ's Race and Poor Elections that were responsible for incidents such as "protesting down in Georgetown" after the December 15 elections.

His second tune One Race the Human Race called for unity.  The judges certainly took notice of his increased confidence and voice modulation.  Kaiso Kid was commanding with his strong compositions, Hate Hate and Mash Carnival, which had tremendous musical input.  He wore a shimmering outfit of green, red, and silver, when he presented Hate Hate.  Although Special Lady Nima did much work, she had to settle for position number five.  To achieve a President Janet Jagan look, she used heavy white powder on her face, wore white stockings, white gloves, and a wig.  Pretending to be Mrs Jagan she sang "Thank you, Thank you, Thank you for this crown you have given me.  The crown I have dreamed of since I was very young. If I die tomorrow surely there will be no sorrow ...."  These were extracts from the song March On.

Peace, Love and Unity, which she abbreviated with the acronym (PLU) was her second tune.  She referred to PLU as her political party and the peace sign was her symbol for contesting the elections.  Nima's idea of having 'supporters' with placards, one of which read 'Special Lady Nima for President', was quite similar to the one employed by a Stella Maris Primary School pupil at the Georgetown semi-finals of the Children's Mashramani Calypso contest last week.

Blazing Fire placed sixth. In a fiery red sequinned costume he said Mommy, I love You Mommy.  It was a calypso with a difference, in which he recounted each stage of his life under his mother's care.  Come Out and Party was his other song.  Another performer worth mentioning is newcomer Winfield James.  He is talented at costume designing and would have to take voice training lessons if he wants to rank high in the calypso realm.  Although he placed eighth, he was the most outstanding in terms of performance, and got good crowd support for this.  He first appeared in a silver outfit with a hint of black, when he sang Peace.  His second costume, which he wore to sing Unity, was made of gold and black, which gave a bronze effect.  His favourite interjection between his lines was "Woh" and this appealed to and stuck with the audience, since many constantly shouted "Woh" for the rest of the event.

Calypso Stella, who thrilled last year's crowd with Cork Ball, disappointed her supporters this year.  Her tunes were not up to scratch and she faltered greatly in presenting the second one, which prompted her to make an apology and leave the stage prematurely.  Crowd favourite Mighty Intruder took ill after his first tune and was taken to hospital. He was unable to render his second calypso and missed his chance of ranking among the top three.  Intruder, in the calypso arena for almost 50 years, last week said this contest was to have been his last.

Reality was Seventh with It Hot, It Hot and What's Causing the Hate.  Giving added entertainment Friday night were calypsonians Mighty Frankie, Mighty Chief, and King Culture.  And Mingles Sound Machine provided excellent musical accompaniment. Two of the judges from the semi-finals were retained for Friday's final.  They were Chief Judge, Robert Burns and Ralph Harte. The other judges were Elson Briggs, Hazel Walker and Olga Britton, while Adam Harris, also a judge at the semi-finals, was the chief scorer.  The contestants were judged on two tunes and the total for each was combined.  Representatives of firms which sponsored the competition were on hand to present the cheques and trophies after the winners were announced.

Lord Canary got $300,000 and a trophy, compliments of Demerara Tobacco Company, Tempest received $200,000 and a trophy from Courts, while Kaiso Kid and Young Bill Rogers are to share $100,000. Who will get the trophy is uncertain.  The third prize was a contribution of Gafson's Ready Mix.

Memory Lane Music

My friend George Maharaj is the first one to meet me at Piarco Airport as I made my first trip to Trinidad four years ago for Carnival.  He's become a close friend since then.  A serious fan of calypso based in Toronto, George has recently created his own web site with his calypso wants and a number of old calypso and steelband records for sale.  Check out  http://www.putitontheweb.net/music.html


So that's it from your Alaskan correspondent who will take his rhythmically challenged bones to the engine room of the University of Alaska steel drum ensemble every Monday night.  Keep those messages and news coming.

Ray Funk

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