KINGSTON, Jamaica –
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Lacklustre start for Kaiso Karavan
Kaiso Karavan’s Opening Night at La Joya in St Joseph last Saturday was a largely lacklustre affair with the heavy-rollers failing to establish their bona fides as leaders of a musical genre that continues to slide, undeservedly connoisseurs claim, into a distant second place against the more popular soca.
Performers like the legendary Singing Francine and Dirty Curty, bearing vain appeals to “respect” and to “honour” calypso traditions, must know that such a lament before an ageing crowd of the converted achieves nothing and has been recycled hundreds of times.
It was left to King Callaloo, singing the hilarious Victoria’s Secret, Brother Alva with Dey Dragging Dey Foot and Harmon Bruce with the cleverly-crafted Fruits to break the cycle of the regurgitated and to signal traditional calypso’s lyrical, if not musical, superiority over largely forgettable soca fare.
There are usually high expectations from accomplished composer The Original De Fosto Himself, but the expectant audience barely applauded when he delivered yet another paean to the mythical Trini paradise.
There would have been those who wondered why De Fosto’s delightful melodies are not matched by equally creative lyrics.
MC Godfrey Pierre was understandably apologetic about the paltry offering of the tent’s “vintage” segment, especially when Young Creole appeared on stage with a cigarette (which he promptly proceeded to light and to smoke) to render an almost unintelligible tribute to the value of marijuana.
Known for his outlandish outfits and witty turns of phrase, the veteran exponent of comedic calypso was particularly convincing in his “spranger’s” outfit—perhaps too convincing.
There was a lively discussion during the intermission about the legality of lighting up inside a public entertainment facility. Others remained puzzled about what they had actually witnessed on stage.
Singing Sonia was biting in her commentary on the post-Kamla Persad-Bissessar period with the suggestion in The Empire Strikes Back that some features of the current economic decline could be attributed to the vindictive acts of service providers sympathetic to the last administration.
Doubles vendors, taxi drivers and the former Central Bank Governor passed in the rush. It was a well-composed and delivered piece that will however hardly be remembered past the end of the Carnival season—like much of what was offered by the Karavan on night one of its brief season.
Minister of Culture, Nyan Gadsby-Dolly, was mercifully brief in her short address to the audience and Trinbago Unified Calypsonians’ Association (TUCO) President, Brother Resistance, was a no-show at the start. In the midst of a late start, greetings were left to Chairman of the TUCO East Zone, Johnny King.
Resistance later entered the venue and was teased by Pierre for the tall cap covering his long dreadlocks which, Pierre said, could have posed a problem for people sitting behind him. Had Resistance turned around, he would have seen faces familiar to tent performers over many years, with few new-comers.
Vintage Night on January 29 might yet save the day.
It is not known how much TUCO considers the calypso tent to be in danger, though poor promotion of events, late starts and casts with disposable content need to be thrown into the brew for critical consideration.
The Ruiz Brothers were typically competent as tent musicians as were the Karavan Gems who provided excellent background vocals. Pierre is a clever, engaging MC and kept the show flowing—even when he had to provide a makeshift ashtray to Young Creole.
In the end, the few shining lights at the Karavan made the evening worth the while of those who believe that calypso has a role to play in the future—however much tent managers, calypsonians themselves and Tuco need to engage in conscious and honest retrospection in order to rescue this longstanding feature of Carnival activities.