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Thursday, December 19, 2013
Trinidad & Tobago Guardian Online
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Profanity shocks extempo audience
History, but not the type organisers may have wished for, was created at Extemporama 2013 staged by the North Zone of Trinbago Unified Calypsonians Organisation (Tuco) at the Grand Stand, Queen's Park Savannah, Port-of-Spain, last Saturday night. On a programme that paid tribute to the late Sheldon John, a six-time national champion of the calypso genre who in competition was known to give advice to his opponents to assist them in improving their performances, a cast member, for the first time one can recall, used a profanity in an effort to create an extempo rhyme. During the traditional “extempo war” between all members of the cast at the close of the programme, Fire Ball (Rohan Richards) seemed rattled at a witty verse Shortpants (Llewellyn McIntosh) has just rendered in reference to him, and in his apparent anxiety to reply uttered the indelicate word to the abject consternation of fellow artistes and patrons, alike. “Did I hear correctly?” asked a stunned, well-known co-ordinator of calypso judging panels seated next to me. “In all the years I listening to extempo this is the first time I heard an artiste use that word in a rhyme.”
Fellow artistes, too, expressed disappointment at the utterance. “It is in situations such as these that we are able to determine the real extempo proponents from the wannabees,” opined a veteran calypsonian. “Disappointing and distasteful,” commented a noted singer of humorous calypsos. “He just reduced the value of our ingenuity,” remarked a fellow performer.
Fire Ball was among a cast of 14 performers who provided entertainment on the playbill. He appeared in the number one spot and had won warm applause for offering patrons a creditable three verses on the topic he picked—The Goat On The ILP Platform. Others on the cast included Wendell Etienne, Black Sage (Phillip Murray), Contender (Mark John), Lingo (Joseph Vautor La Placeliere), Myron B (Myron Bruce), Francois Ottley, Dion Diaz, Lady Africa (Leslie-Ann Bristow), Gypsy (Winston Peters), Shortpants, Gary Ranks, Brian London, and Abebele (Neil Baptiste).
They had to sing “extempo” on a variety of topics inclusive of Politicians Are Like Dirty Diapers, We Put Soca In De Parang, Extempo Get Lock Up, From TV To MP Who Is He, Global Warming, Obama Spy On Germany, and Police Doing Crime Too, to name a few.
Some came up with sensible verses on their topics, while others appeared to lack knowledge on the subjects and were hopelessly out of their depth. Lingo, for example, had to remind audience members he does not read the newspapers (he is sight-impaired) so was unable to fully explore the topic Kaiso Showkase Have Dey Own Councillor (in reference to reports on Rondell Donowa’s local government elections victory). Guest appearances were made by junior extempo singers Jeromy Rodriguez and Kevan Calliste, as well as veteran entertainer Relator (Willard Harris) who, in his inimitable style, had patrons singing along merrily to a batch of calypso classics he unearthed, penned by popular calypsonians of the past. A token of appreciation for Sheldon John’s contribution to the extempo art form was presented to his brother Clint by Tuco North Zone chairman Mark John. Musical accompaniment for the performers was provided by a small aggregation from the big band Rick G and Friends. Show hosts were Shirlane Hendrickson and Tommy Joseph.
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