20 battle for 10 spots in Independence calypso contest

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Karene Asche –

NAPARIMA Bowl, San Fernando is the place to be this Saturday when the semi-final rounds of the Diamond Jubilee Independence Calypso Monarch competition takes place from 4 pm.

Twenty calypsonians – selected from among 64 at the preliminary round on September 11 at the Queen’s Park Savannah – will do battle for one of ten spots in the finals.

The finals is carded for September 25 at the Grand Stand, Queen’s Park Savannah. That show is expected to begin at 5 pm

Reigning monarch Roderick “Chuck” Gordon, who won the last Independence competition in 2012, when the country commemorated the 50th anniversary, is among the semi-finalists and is hoping to defend his crown successfully .

The semi-finalists represent a mix of youth and experience, different expressions of the culture – one is gospelypso exponent Sean Daniel –and gender balance.

There are four former monarchs – Chuck, Karene Asche, Luta (Morel Peters) and Duane O’Connor, as well as king of extempo Brian London.

O’Connor’s son, who bears his name and who has been blazing the trail in the junior calypso category, will be competing with his father for a place in the finals. So too will be rising star Aaron Duncan, who hasseveral notches in his calypso victory belt, such as TUCO’s National Junior Calypso Monarch in 2010-12 and 2015, multiple Junior Chutney Soca Monarch wins and a Youth Award for Excellence in culture in 2015.

Commenting on the number of women in the line-up for Saturday, marketing manager of TUCO,alypsonian Devon Seales, suggested, “It could now be said that calypso is a female-dominant art form.”

Over the years, he observed, more women have been in the semis and finals of mainstream calypso competition.

TUCO’s president Ainsley King said the composition of the 20 is an indication of the revolution taking place in the organisation under new leadership.

All the expressions that have evolved locally, he said, have come out of the calypso genre.

“Gospelypso, rapso, extempo, soca, chutney/soca, have all come out of calypso.

“This is our art form. It belongs to all of us and we have to embrace it and keep it alive and relevant. We cannot treat the other genres like an outside child.”

Keeping it relevant, he further explained, means listening to the young voices who are bringing forward new ideas and concepts,

“I am very happy that this competition is being held after such a long time. It is an opportunity for calypso lovers to come out in their large numbers and really enjoy the different expressions.”

Seales explained the competition, which has been in the planning stages since March, is a collaboration between TUCO and the Government in commemoration of the diamond jubilee of Independence.

As a gift to the nation and in observance of the 60 years of Independence, Seales said tickets for both the semis and finals will be priced at $60.

Calypso lovers will have the opportunity to hear each competitor perform one new nation-building or patriotic song.

The winner will walk away with a cash prize of $200,000. Second-place winner will receive $100,000, with $60,000 being awarded to the third-place winner. In addition, the top three will receive free service from bmobile for a year.

The other seven competitors will receive $20,000 each.

Seales said TUCO was really thankful to its main sponsors, NLCB, Visit Trinidad, B Mobile and NGC for making the show possible.

The semifinalists:

1. Aaron Duncan

2. Bethany Lightbourne

3. Brian London

4. Donald O’Connor

5. Duane O’Connor

6. Eunice Peters

7. Heaven Charles

8. Karen Eccles Thomas

9. Karen Asche

10. Mark Eastman

11. Meguella Simon

12. Michelle A Henry

13. Morel Peters

14. Myron Bruce

15. Nicholas Lucas

16. Phillip Murray

17. Roderick Gordon

18. Sean Daniel

19. Tameka Darius

20. Victoria Cooper