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Stalin marks 71 with concert
Iconic calypsonian Black Stalin (Leroy Calliste) is having a birthday to remember. “Re-The-Public”—A Republic Day Concert—The Celebration Continues, scheduled for The Greens, Queen’s Park Oval, on Havelock Street, St Clair today is the flagship event of a weekend of celebrations for the five-time National Calypso Monarch.
Produced by the amalgam of Republic Bank Exodus Steel Orchestra and 3Canal, with support from pepperEvents, a division of Pepper Advertising Ltd, ReThePublic is scheduled to begin at 6 pm, and will feature Black Stalin, Roy Cape All Stars, 3Canal & the cut + clear crew, and Exodus. This special event will climax with the celebration of the birthday of Stalin at midnight as he celebrates his 71st birthday tomorrow.
Black Stalin was born and raised on Coffee Street in San Fernando to George and Elcina Calliste. He is one of four children. He attended San Fernando Boys’ RC School. He worked as a limbo dancer before taking up singing calypso in 1959 when he made his debut at the Good Shepherd Hall in St Madeleine, but did not join a calypso tent—the Southern Brigade—until 1962. He was given the nickname Black Stalin by fellow calypsonian Blakie in the mid-1960s. In 1967 he joined Kitchener's Calypso Revue tent and managed to place in that year’s National Calypso Monarch competition.
Stalin won the National Calypso Monarch title for the first time in 1979, with Caribbean Man and Play One, and went on to win it again in 1985, 1987, 1991 and 1995. In 1979, he moved over to the Mighty Shadow's King of the Wizards Tent and recorded his first album–To the Caribbean Man.
In 1985, Stalin won the crown again with Ism Schism and Wait Dorothy, and again, in 1987, with a tribute to steelband entitled “Mr Panmaker” and Bun ‘Em, a song calling for St Peter to cast the likes of Christopher Columbus, Cecil Rhodes, Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan into Hell. In 1987, Stalin was also awarded the Hummingbird Medal (Silver) for his contribution to Trinidad and Tobago culture.
In 1991, the usually dread and critical Stalin took a winning turn and walked away with the National Calypso Monarch crown again, with Look on the Bright Side and Black man Feelin’ to Party. In 1995, he went chutney, with a Tribute to Sundar Popo, in honour of his old friend and fellow singer. In 1994, Stalin signed with Eddy Grant's Ice Records label, releasing the Rebellion album that year and Message to Sundar in 1995.
After finishing as runner-up to Mighty Sparrow in 1985, in 1999, Stalin won the title of Calypso King of the World with the calypsoes “Black Man Feeling to Party” and Wine Boy, poking fun at the politician Dhanraj Singh. Black Stalin became Dr Leroy Calliste on October 31, 2008, when he was conferred with an honorary doctorate from the University of the West Indies, St Augustine, for his tremendous dedication and contribution to calypso music and culture in Trinidad and Tobago.
• Tickets for “ReThePublic” cost $150 advance and $200 at the door. Patrons can purchase tickets at any of the following outlets: Crosby’s Music Centre, St James; Cut + Clear Productions, Ariapita Avenue, Woodbrook; Food Masters, Tunapuna; WACK Radio 90.1 FM, San Fernando; and, Exodus Pan Yard, Eastern Main Road, St Augustine.