“Follow me; your broken mind is hungry for asylum.” Freetown Collective, Normal (2017)
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Artistes pay homage to Valentino at concert
According to the promoter, it was “not just Valentino@73—The Concert, but Valentino@73—The Experience.”
What a pleasing experience it turned out to be at the Daaga Auditorium of the University of the West Indies (UWI), St Augustine, where a full house of patrons gathered last Sunday evening, for the tribute concert.
The concert paid homage to Emrold Anthony Phillip, deemed “a cultural icon and calypso messenger of the highest order.”
Presented by The Legacy Concert Series, the programme’s playbill took us on a fascinating journey through 50 years of Valentino’s music, partitioned into thematic periods in his career, through a blend of live performances by his peers and choirs, and dance routines by his colleagues in the performing arts.
More than 30 of his outstanding compositions were reinterpreted, redefined and presented in two segments under seven themes identified as The Initiate, The Activist, The Rastafarian, The International, The Masquerader, The Philosopher, and The Survivor.
The huge cast of talented entertainers included King Luta (Morel Peters), Black Stalin (Dr Leroy Calliste), Marvelous Marva (Marva Joseph), Eunice Peters, Heather MacIntosh, Lady Adanna (Marsha Charles), Brian London, Ras Kommanda (Steve Pascall), Abebele (Neil Baptiste), Shortpants (Llewellyn MacIntosh), Lasana (Dennis Cox), Soft Touch (Emerold Peters), Diamond (Patrick Lewis), 2014 Junior Calypso Monarch Ronaldo London, Aneka Collins, Creole (Wilfred Barker), Cyril Hunte, Ricky Phillip, Sancha Scipio, Joel Phillip, Elements Dance Company, Fyzabad Connection Drama Group, Suite Chorale and local jazz vocalist Vaughnette Bigford.
Each performer brought a creditable interpretation to Valentino’s calypsoes. Nevertheless, there were standout performances that gained widespread approval among audience members. Among them were Heather MacIntosh’s effort at Barking Dogs, Ricky Phillip’s take on Stay Up Zimbabwe, Carnival Story by Black Stalin, Smokey Joe by Lasana, and Talkalypso champion Shortpants’ dramatic stanza on Where Kaiso Went, that had patrons calling for more.
Birds That Fly High, one of Valentino’s more popular compositions, was presented in three highly entertaining formats.
Vaughnette Bigford gave it a brilliant jazz twist, accompanied by Theron Shaw on guitar; Ras Kommanda offered it with a rhythmic reggae beat; and the duet of Aneka Collins and Renaldo London sung it to a swinging bossa nova rhythm.
In the programme’s second segment, a throne-like chair, built by Junior Bisnath of Constructive Termites was brought on stage, and Valentino, who was enjoying the performances from his seat of honour in the front row, was escorted on stage by calypsonian Eunice Peters to occupy it, surrounded by his family. A huge birthday cake (his 73rd birthday was the following day, July 7) was presented, and Abebele led patrons in singing his unique Happy Birthday song.
For the finale Valentino and his son Joel (on keyboards) teamed up to offer a spirited rendition of Keep On Singing, prior to which Luta sang his tribute composition Ode To Valentino. It was then time to bring proceeding to a close, with the people’s calypsonian doing his signature selection, Life Is A Stage, composed over 37 years ago, with the full house of patrons singing along, merrily.
Valentino made his first appearance at the Big Bamboo Calypso Tent on Park Street, Port-of-Spain sometime in “either 1961 or 1962.” He was known then as Robin, but another calypsonian “stole” the name. In December 1965 he auditioned for the Calypso Caravan, headed then by Kitchener. He was selected on the cast, but did not have a sobriquet, so Kitchener gave him the name “Valentino.” After more than 40 years in the business, Valentino earned his first official title in 2005 when he was crowned Veterans Calypso Monarch at the National Women’s Action Committe’s (NWAC) inaugural competition held at City Hall, Knox Street, Port-of-Spain.
Musical accompaniment was provided by The Southern Experience.