After weeks of speculation and doubts due to budget cuts and late preparations, the Tobago Heritage Festival 2017 got off to an impressive start, with an Opening Night production that left patrons...
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Shak coming to give Bois
Whenever Selvon Noel opens his mouth to sing, wherever he is, one thing is certain, audiences will pay close attention.
A robust man, standing well over six feet tall, Noel, 35, known in the Calypso arena as Mistah Shak, has a reputation of being one of T&T’s heavy hitters of kaiso.
Throughout the years, his repertoire has been one filled with serious messages, couched within humorous social commentaries.
His 2014 offering, Bois, is no different, as he blasts many public figures and deals with the ills of society in a figurative stickfighting gayelle.
With his bois in hand, the Siparia resident and Kaiso House artiste, won the support of the crowd at Calypso Fiesta on February 22 and sang his way to a spot in the Calypso Monarch finals which will be contested on Sunday.
Speaking to the T&T Guardian after one of his recent tent performances, Noel, who writes his own songs, said in addition to politics, Bois is about documenting his calypso journey, as well as merging two popular artforms—calypso and stickfighting.
“I actually came up with the concept of the song about a year ago and I had the song completed in a day. My music is a living thing though, and as time passed I kept revisiting and reworking it because I am not presenting anything to the public unless it first meets my standards.”
The interview was then interrupted by several patrons of the tent who all offered words of support and encouragement and wished him good fortune in the finals.
One man, however, shook his hand vigorously and asked, “Shak boy, just so you come out of the blue with this big hit? Where you was all this time?”
With a hearty laugh, Noel replied, “You may not have heard of me much before the last few years, but I have been around the music scene for a long time.”
As the interview resumed, he explained that he came from a musical family that was interested in the arts, culture and kaiso.
The eldest of three siblings, Noel, a past pupil of the Siparia Boys RC School and Naparima College, said he was a member of the choir at both institutions and was also a part of his family’s parang band.
In 1990, he climbed another rung on the cultural ladder by joining one of his community’s music bands called Menz & Frenz where he played first the guitar and then the bass.
He then joined the Hi-Styles Jazz band as a bass player where he further gained experience when the band performed in Tobago and at both the Texas and Louisiana State Fairs in 2001.
Later that year, he signed on as a vocalist with the band Sensation (now known as the Asylum band) where he remained for two years before leaving.
“The experience did not just teach me about that music arena. It taught me about where I wanted to be and where I didn’t want to be and after leaving Sensation, I started taking a greater interest in getting my message across,” said Noel, who has been working on an album which he plans to launch at the end of April.
In addition to singing, Noel works with the youths at different schools in T&T where he helps them to learn the craft of writing.
“We need more young people to start writing their own material because calypso is a totally expressive artform and a songwriter’s style is like a fingerprint.”
“When different artistes use the same songwriters, the danger in it is that a lot of singers bring perspectives to the stage that may not be their own.”
He said he wrote and recorded his first song in 2000, but it wasn’t until 2004 that he penned his first widely-popular song Backdoor.
In 2005, Noel sang Flamez and We Doh Like Dem, which landed him gigs at the Baltimore Carnival celebrations.
After years of prompting and urging from his friends and family, Noel, in 2007, finally decided to enter the kaiso tents and after auditioning, was selected to perform in the Kaiso Showkase tent with the song Formula.
The very next year, his carnival offering, Freedom Music, gave him his first trip to the calypso semi-finals.
Noel then took a year-along hiatus, only to re-emerge in 2010 at the Kaiso House tent where he blasted corrupt police officers with his hit Rogue, a song which took him all the way to the finals.
This year will make it his second as a finalist, and even though he thinks his chances are “as good as anybody’s” he says he is not taking anything for granted because he knows anything can happen.
“Yes, I want to win, but although I take part in competitions, I am not of competitions. I use all the attention that competitions generate to get my message across.
“I would love to make it out of there with the crown, but the people have already crowned me because I have represented something in them.”