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Young soca artistes finding meanings

Sunday, February 11, 2018

The understanding crystallized over the last couple weeks through discussion, reflection, writing and rewriting of thoughts on the problems surrounding the staleness and poor quality of the majority of calypsoes, and other elements of contemporary Carnival.

Here are a few of my thoughts. It is difficult to easily, if at all, replace in a generation, a crop of the highest quality of the calypsonian artistes from Kitchener and Sparrow, through Melody, Spoiler, Stalin, Shorty and his counter twin, Ras Shorty I, Maestro, Shadow, Relator, Blue Boy-Super Blue, Rudder and several others. What is even more difficult is to have another group of calypsonians of that calibre emerge without concentrated mentoring of the young singers.

Indeed, to have nurtured the generation of the above required quite an amount of mentoring: Kitchener held live-in tutorials for the likes of Stalin and Valentino; Rudder spent time as chorus back up in Kitchener’s tent; he must have absorbed much from the Grandmaster and others: “I am the seed of the Growling Tiger…Attila…Spoiler” attests Rudder.

Superior and Brigo lived with Spoiler and learnt the fine arts from the supreme master of imagination and humour, so too did Bomber learn from “the genius in calypso”.

Only a few of today’s calypso writers/performers have inherited the fine arts of double entendre, satire, the telling of a story with a twist and a sting in the tail. Sweet melodies are all but non-existent; we have not replaced Frankie Francis, Roy Cape et al.

The emergence of the hard-driving rhythms of the party soca genre has eliminated the need for the melodious and the lyrically rich soca of Shorty, Merchant, Maestro and others. The “big money” appeal to young singers and performers to meet the fete demand is powerful.

Then there is the demand to be met, that being the desire of the party crowds for frenzy—a social phenomenon of the times and the disposition of young women and men to express themselves in the popular culture; those are powerful pull of a special kind, the demand is being met.

Related is the fact that there is no place in the Carnival of today for the wonderfully creative, colourful flights of fancy and historical mas which came out of the minds of Saldenha, Bailey, Mc Williams, Chang and Minshall, Terry Evelyn and Albert Moore. Such portrayals will get in the way of “wining, wining, bring it up….”

But we cannot separate all of the above and more from the state of the country’s consciousness, or lack of it, for things creative, beautiful and thrilling to the spirit. Don’t look to our political leaders. Shut our eyes and ears from the conduct of the country’s business in the Parliament, and from the lives of other exemplars in a wide range of national endeavours.

But that persistent spirit that survived the Middle Passage from Africa and India, and the transplantation from Europe, China and other places shines through notwithstanding.

In the drought, there have arisen the likes of MX Prime, Voice, Kees, Helon Francis and others who have combined into a new blend the calypso of Kitchener and Sparrow, the soca of Shorty, and incorporated into it elements of the new musics of today.

Very significant for the indivisible connection between calypso and steelband is the increasing efforts of steelband arrangers, and players from the youth of the soca generation, to interpret and arrange the music of the likes of MX, Voice, Kees and the others.

Those interpretations fit exactly into the young creators of the music in the manner that Bradley understood Kitchener and Super Blue, Jit Samaroo, Sparrow and All Stars, Scrunter.

The Norman twins (K2K) have been reaching for creative space and Canboulay is giving understanding and direction to the Carnival while steelband is in J’Ouvert and Monday night mas.


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