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Of Kaiso and Pan
If there’s one artiste who needs to do a solo concert it is Blaxx (Dexter Stewart). Last Friday night, the 51-year-old Roy Cape All Stars vocalist turned in a sensational performance at WeKaiso, one of the WeBeat St James Live events, staged at The Amphitheatre in St James.
Musically backed by Pelham Goddard & Friends, Blaxx performed a mixed repertoire consisting of calypso and popular R&B classics, including I am Blessed, Leggo, Nah Get Away, and Al Greene’s For the Good Times and So Brand New.
Blaxx, who has performed professionally for more than 20 years, has performed in the past with Succession Brass, Upstream, Atlantik and Blue Ventures. He was recruited into the All Stars by former national calypso monarch Kurt Allen.
A son of Penal, Point Fortin and Siparia, he currently resides in Morvant. Yesterday, Blaxx flew out to Boston for weekend performances there.
Friday’s show was hosted by Nikki Crosby, in the persona of Granny; and sister thespian Penelope Spencer. The show also featured Crazy, Myron B, Ras Kommanda, Denyse Plummer, Scrunter, Iwer George and Ronnie McIntosh.
Crazy opened the programme singing Cricket Commentary, Doh Try Dat and O Land of Mine, followed by Myron B rendering One More Sip, Baby Roll Over and Power’s Ah Coming. Plummer delivered her repertoire of a groovy medley of Nah Leaving, Get Up and Dance, Jahaji Bhai and Golo, and a retro medley of Doh Back Back, Suck Mih Soucouyant, Bahia Girl, Hot Hot Hot in Hindi, Bar Man, Dingolay and Madness.
In terms of also igniting the audience, Kommanda and McIntosh were on top of their game. Kommanda didn’t sing any of his calypsoes opting instead to stick to the theme and mood of the event, singing retro kaiso by some of the icons. His set included Man Family (Zandolee); Respect Yuh Culture (Power); and, Umbayayo (Merchant).
A two-time Soca Monarch champion, McIntosh performed Biting Insects, Happy, How It Go look, On the Road and Ent, the latter humorously presented with Crosby. Goddard and his band were also flawless and well rehearsed.
Seen in the audience were Minister of Justice Emmanuel George, former Culture minister Joan Yuille-Williams and Justice Malcolm Holdip.
WeBeat St James Live climaxed on Sunday afternoon with a steelband parade from the Amphitheatre. Among the bands making the trek to Woodford Square, Port-of-Spain were St James Tripolians, Scrunters Pan Groove, Humming Bird Pan Groove, Brimblers, Old Tech Steel Orchestra, Arima Golden Symphony and D’ Tunapuna Vibrations.
Along the route there were sparse groups of spectators as the trek proved onerous for even the most stoic of pan enthusiasts. There were two performances along Frederick Street; that of PCS Nitrogen Silver Stars and Republic Bank Exodus. The Exodus trailer was prevented from performing outside the Square, but moved to Queen Street where its musicians executed an exhilarating rendition of Farmer Nappy’s Big People Party.
Silver Stars was similarly stimulating with its performance of the late Lord Blakie’s Coki-o-ko and Maria. Also thrilling with retro selections was St James Tripolians.
In contrast, the concert at the Square, held by Mayor Raymond Tim Kee and the Port-of-Spain Corporation, was well attended. Four large conventional bands—Phase II, bpTT Renegades, Witco Desperadoes, Neal & Massy Trinidad All Stars—were stationed at this venue and were joined by guest vocalists SuperBlue, Black Stalin, Scrunter and Denyse Plummer.
This type of pan event is holistically beneficial to the crime-ridden community and I hope that Mayor Tim Kee will consider staging more in the nation’s capital, perhaps once per month. The hiccups last weekend included his inability to secure a liquor licence and having a sound system which was flawed by intermittent fluctuations.
There will be even more steelband action this weekend when the corporation stages a cultural show at Adam Smith Square, Woodbrook, today, at 3 pm. Along with Best Village troupes, parang bands, chutney performers and tassa, calypsonians and dance, Phase II and Trinidad All Stars are also billed to perform.
Tomorrow, steelpan pioneer Anthony “Muffman” Williams ORTT celebrates his 83rd birthday with a steelband concert in his honour at The Amphitheatre, Western Main Road, St James, from 3 pm. The “birthday bash” is hosted by Pan Trinbago Inc, in collaboration with Port-of-Spain deputy mayor Councillor Keron Valentine, and The Tuners’ Guild.
Seven of the “best of the west” steel orchestras will pay musical tribute to the iconic master tuner, including Petrotrin Phase II Pan Groove, CAL Invaders, White Oak Starlift, Carib Woodbrook Playboyz, Power Stars, Scrunters Pan Groove and Sapophonics.
Williams, born June 24, 1931, is often described as a man ahead of his time. When the steelpan was still in its infancy, he was able to design a pan with notes spaced at intervals of fifths, because the instrument’s surface looked like a spider web, Williams called it the Spider Web Pan. It was Williams who introduced wheels on pans for Panorama. He also has composed one of the finest pieces of pan recorded music when North Stars teamed up with the late Winifred Atwell on Ivory & Steel. A citation on his award reads: “A dedicated steelpan player, pioneer, leader, tuner, arranger and composer, Tony has worked tirelessly in the pursuit of the steelpan. He will be remembered as one of the greatest ever in the annals of steelband music.”
In 1992, Anthony Williams received the Chaconia Medal (Gold) and later in 2008, he was presented with the Order of the Republic of T&T by President George Maxwell Richards.
Tan Tan turns 25
Two of the most iconic characters in T&T Carnival – Saga Boy and Tan Tan – turn 25 in 2015. Portrayed by former King and Queen of Carnival Peter Samuel and Alyson Browne, the dancing mobiles were created by living mas legend Peter Minshall.
The dancing pair Tan Tan and Saga Boy were actually two 20-foot-high puppets. Their heads were scuplted by the late Luise Kimme. On Dimache Gras night 1990 Saga Boy wore white silk jacket and pants, with red shirt and matching scarf and tie, while Tan Tan wore a red outfit trimmed in gold, her head covered with a headtie with jewelled accessories including huge earrings. Their outfits were designed by Meiling. The two puppets paraded together in the Queen of Carnival and Tan Tan easily beat her field of rivals. In the King of Carnival final Saga Boy was beaten by Hilton Cox as The Devil’s Socerer from Edmond Hart’s Witches, Julian Boldon as King Shaka of the Zulu, and Tony Alleng as Why? What? When, king of Wayne Berkeley’s 1990, the eventual Band of the Year.
Since their creation, Saga Boy and Tan Tan have made several appearances internationally, including Paris and Nîmes in France, Japan and Barbados.