Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Kaiso women, wall to wall


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Keith boy, the first calypso tent opened on Wednesday evening, so you know I had to go to tell you all about it. Because we both know that were you still with us, the morning ritual would have already taken place, an early morning chat to hear all about it. Or TJ might have called you already and then you would call me anyway just to see if it could really have been that funny or...

Well I guess where you are, you kind of know everything. So you would already know Carnival 2013 is a short season, with the big days being February 11 and 12 to be exact. And you would know I am talking about the Divas Calypso Cabaret International which kicked off the season at the Mas Camp Pub, Woodbrook on Wednesday. Yes boy, a full tent, with 16 singers and a cast comprised entirely of females. We spoke about this tent in the past, you and I, and I remember you telling me once the beauty of the artform was that there was room for all ideas to contend. That no idea was too big, or too small, or too silly, or too outrageous to tackle.

I reflected on that as I listened to those women on the stage.

Sixteen brave women really, from the youthful to the seasoned. Brave to take on the task of kicking off the kaiso season, to set the tone for what is to come. Each one bringing to the artform their interpretation of what is calypso to an audience that was largely tolerant and appreciative. Our women in calypso continue to build on the legacy left for them by the pioneers like Lady Iere, Rose, Francine, Sandra. And before these pioneers, we know there were the women in the 19th century who played an important role in the evolution of mas and Carnival as we know it today. Some of these were bands of women known as Black Ball, Dahlia, Don't-Care-A-Damn, Magenta, Maribone, and True Blue. While these women were not calypsonians, their involvement in Carnival back in the day helped pave the way for the subsequent involvement of women in Carnival. They endured so that we can now enjoy. And yes, Keith, as usual I go to Hill and Cowley for the source of this information.

Yourself and TJ I know would have been "taking beverages" (TJ's term) while listening to some of the nation-building songs, the laments, the groovy socas, the bawdy and the burlesque and the humorous.

I know you would have been laughing right along with the audience when Sharon Alexis explained in detail why she holds the view that "Young Men Only Have Mouth".

Some of the groovy soca singers would have had you shaking your head in bewilderment and then you might have laughed and chipped a step or two anyway, in time with the young lady, all in black tights and gold, who sang "Move".

You would definitely have been in stitches when Lisa John came on stage to do "Limited Access". John is in the big and beautiful category and she's not afraid to put a joke on herself.

"As I walk into the store," she tells the audience, "they say to me, no, no we don't have your size, we only have 1X, and the 1X small so," (she gestures)...even the visitors in the audience are cracking up as she tells the joke. Prior to that she had them in stitches with her performance of "Limited Access".

The visitors would not have been familiar with the script but Keith, I know you would have recognised the storyline made famous by the late Lord Kitchener...woman is not feeling well, summons a doctor who attempts to administer an injection with a very large needle. John however demonstrated an ability to wrap her personality entirely around the song and she bravely went further by calling reigning Calypso Monarch Duane O'Connor on stage to help with the medicine. Keith, I can only tell you the ensuing comedy was priceless, and you would have been laughing along with the rest. Some of the performers still have some refining to do but John can only get better.

And Keith, I know you would have loved the vibe...you know, you walk into the tent, there's the smell of something cooking, like how you used to describe the smell of the peas and rice and the fry bake when Shadow's tent used to be on Henry Street. There is that aroma of rum and chasers, the brass band providing a vintage feel with a "Rum and Coca-Cola" motif between the breaks, and real live veteran exponents of the artform liming all around the room. Talk about ole talk...you would not have departed reluctantly like me at 11.33 p.m. with five more acts to go.

And even before this, Keith, I know you would already have begun your annual task of looking for the lyric, that process of minutely dissecting the song which assumes a forward position from early and declares itself to be the one that best expresses the spirit and the mood of the fete and the Carnival. I know you would have called me and with that laugh of yours, recited the first line, (recited because, well, you were no singer, but you could write, right? ) "look how the sun now raising up, the crowd now waking up, the atmosphere have vibes and nothing cyar shake it up,"....but more on that as this short season progresses.

Deborah John is

Publications Editor,

News/Features, at the Express