An Affair of two Pawns!

The Star (St. Lucia) - - LOCAL - By Toni Ni­cholas

The 2017 ca­lypso sea­son has been a some­what strangely interesting, suc­cess­ful one thus far. I say thus far since we still have the fi­nals which will bring down the cur­tains on Satur­day July 15. But from my van­tage point that too seems poised to be a won­der­ful event, bar the venue.

There are many fac­tors that have led to my ap­proval and prin­ci­pled stance on this year's sea­son; chief among them is that there were three fewer tents this year. With just Am­bas­sadors Ca­lypso Tent, South Ca­lypso Tent and the merg­ing of the Take Over Tent with Soca Vil­lage (Take Over Vil­lage), the three were able to prune their vines and se­lect the best crop of per­form­ers for open­ing night and the quar­ter­fi­nals. For the pa­trons this meant less shows for which they had to fork out EC$30 a night. This also meant there was no time to 'try a ting' on un­sus­pect­ing pa­trons. Ei­ther the ca­lyp­so­ni­ans came good or were sent home. And so bumper crowds showed up for the six shows ahead of the fi­nals, giv­ing all three tents the thumbs up.

With the Carnival Man­age­ment Com­mit­tee (CMC) ap­pointed by gov­ern­ment in 2016 still in place to over­see the events, the over­all man­age­ment of the prod­uct was much im­proved. The back-up band, ca­lyp­so­ni­ans and MC, know­ing that their re­wards were guar­an­teed, de­liv­ered their best ef­forts. So I say, ku­dos to the CMC!

Now onto the per­form­ers and their songs. This sea­son proved ca­lypso is no longer the purview of a se­lect few; a num­ber of young, tal­ented new­com­ers proved that to be true. Names like T-Blacks, Oshun, Choco­late and Lil Nick proved night af­ter night they de­served their place right along­side vet­er­ans like De Ashanti, In­vader, Ed­u­ca­tor, Walleigh and Pep. The judges agreed. Some of the new­com­ers have made it all the way to the semi-fi­nals and fi­nals.

Para­mount among my rea­sons of in­trigue at this year's ca­lypso sea­son was the main fod­der which fu­eled many of the songs. For me, this had ev­ery­thing to do with the mas­ter­ful stroke played by Prime Min­is­ter Allen Chas­tanet, al­beit un­wit­tingly. It had noth­ing to do with the amount of money he put into carnival or ca­lypso; it has ev­ery­thing to do with the PM re­sist­ing calls to fire his fi­nance guru in the wake of 'Black­mail­gate'. Stay with me now!

For all of his sins - real or imag­ined - no ca­lypso cen­tred on him di­rectly. In Bar­ba­dos, Trinidad and Tobago, and right here in Saint Lu­cia it is often com­mon­place for politi­cians, in­clud­ing prime min­is­ters, to come un­der scathing at­tack from ca­lyp­so­ni­ans dur­ing the tents. In this “Great Di­vide” as Solange puts it, it would seem Chas­tanet was spared the rod or even Oshun's whip. True, there were songs like Morgie's 'Mwen Pe' and Herb Black's 'Mwen Fachay' but it seemed the song­writ­ers saved their vit­riol for just one par­tic­u­lar min­is­ter and a cer­tain school prin­ci­pal with an in­sa­tiable ap­petite for vir­gins.

'Black­mail­gate' in­spired no less than a dozen songs, to the ob­vi­ous de­light of pruri­ent pa­trons. At the semi-fi­nals there were at least six songs with the same theme. Even the MCs made the horny black­mail vic­tim the brunt of their jokes. Four songs in the semi­fi­nals were re­served for the be­lea­guered school prin­ci­pal, him­self also a ca­lyp­so­nian. Per­haps it was mere co­in­ci­dence but more than one ob­server com­mented on the fact that some 70 per­cent of last Sun­day's Cul­tural Cen­tre au­di­ence was fe­male. Then again, per­haps they showed up in the name of wom­an­power. Af­ter all there were the sis­ters Ready, Solange, Oshun and Choco­late who all made their mark at Sun­day's semi-fi­nals.

Now, onto the fi­nals which this year will be held at the Sab (Vigie Play­ing Field). Ru­mour is that in ap­pre­ci­a­tion of be­ing left out of this year's scan­dal pot, the prime min­is­ter will al­low the Vigie per­form­ers to use the fa­cil­i­ties at his nearby of­fi­cial res­i­dence as chang­ing lounges. (Just kid­din', folks; just kid­din'!)

The ten fi­nal­ists for next Satur­day's show­down are Ready, Morgie, Solange, Oshun, Nin­tus, TC Brown, Herb Black, Ed­u­ca­tor, Mighty Pep and Jour­nal­ist. Last year's win­ner Menel has de­cided not to de­fend her ti­tle this year. May the best per­former win (for a change?)

Solange is one of the per­form­ers aim­ing for the crown at this year's Ca­lypso Monarch Fi­nals.

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