When it comes to parang soca in Trinidad and Tobago, for most, one name comes to mind, Scrunter. Born Irwin Reyes Johnson, Scrunter has made his musical mark extremely visible on the parang soca circuit for years. He is in high demand during the Christmas season and has to be booked several weeks in advance.
A self-confessed “country boy,” Scrunter is one of calypso’s most unique composers/ artistes in that, before taking on the parang soca genre, he was a bona fide calypso traditionalist, his talents honed by late Grandmaster Lord Kitchener.
In the 1982 National Calypso Monarch final he upset the odds by winning the coveted crown and title over veterans like Mighty Duke, Chalkdust, Tobago Crusoe and Black Stalin, singing The Will and Lick-e-Ting. On stage that Dimanche Gras night, at the Queen’s Park Savannah in Port-of-Spain, with the packed venue wildly applauding every verse Srunter sang, Kitchener himself made a cameo appearance, passing on “the will” to Scrunter, the clincher of the performance. Among Scrunter’s much-loved calypso hits are Woman on the Bass, Take the Number, Crapaud Revolution, Sing in She Party, Oil in de Coil, Judith, Suck Mih Soucouyant and Breast Fed.
After some unpleasant experiences with record producers, tent managers, radio stations and others in the music industry, Scrunter decided to give calypso a rest and, in 1988, produced his first parang soca song—Piece ah Pork—which, not surprisingly, was an instant hit. This new calypso hybrid was still in its infancy, ruled then by Crazy.
However, Scrunter quickly followed his debut hit with other hits like Anita, Homemade Wine, Tribute to Daisy, Ah Drinking Anything, Backyard Jam, Cocotte and Ma Jeffery Oye. He was also crowned the Parang Soca Monarch of 1994 and ’95, and opened his unique showplace—De Forest—in rustic Vega de Oropouche.
Still to realise his dream of many years, to do a Latin or parang soca recording with Joey Lewis, Scrunter is about to achieve another dream, recording a chutney soca song.
The calypso icon jokingly said: “I want to show Rikki Jai and others what real chutney soca music is all about. As a matter of fact, I would be entering the Chutney Soca Monarch Competition next year.”
This weekend Scrunter will release his first chutney soca song entitled Bashanti. This is one of a few songs he is due to release for the Christmas season. Bashanti is actually one of his chutney soca songs which he decided to release before any new parang soca songs.
On December 22, Scrunter will hold his annual Pork Dance at De Forest, established since 1988, and a must for all lovers of a good parang fete nationwide.
One of the exciting highlights of this fete was the release of a greased pig midway in the party. The patron who caught it took the animal home. This tradition has now ceased and the live pig is instead given as a door prize.
The pork dance is a delight to all who attend as its menu annually includes a wide variety of wild meat, inclusive of lappe, iguana, monkey, wild hog, deer, manicou and mountain chicken.