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Coming strong for 2017
Devon Seale first appeared on stage in the calypso area in 1988 at the age of 11 at the National Junior Calypso Competition and the Junior Roving Calypso Tent.
Musically versatile, he plays the violin, piano and pan. He was a classical singer and also lead singer in the Melville Memorial Trinity Boys’ Choir. Seale acquired his musical skills from Mrs Esther Batson, he said.
In 1991, he had the distinction of leading his school steelband—Arima Government Secondary—in the School Steelband Music Festival.
As a junior calypsonian, he was in almost every semi-final and final competition sponsored by the National Carnival Commission and the National Action Cultural Committee. In 1994, he won the Star of Tomorrow title.
He was groomed by school teacher and composer George Martin, who was also instrumental in the development of Natasha Wilson and Singing Sonia at the junior level, and he was mentored by the late Lancelot Heath, founder and former manager of Junior Roving Tent.
In 1994 and 1995, he went to London with two other junior calypsonians to fulfil singing engagements with the London Calypso Tent, an organisation managed by the Association of British Calypsonians. These tours were personal successes for him, as he wooed British audiences with his mature and professional performances.
In 1997, he made his first appearance in the senior calypso arena as an unattached singer. This unattached status in no way inhibited his passion, his drive, enthusiasm or the quality of his performances, and he eventually made it to the semi-finals of the National Calypso Monarch Competition where he gave a most spirited and creditable performance. In 1998, he remained unattached and also made it to the national semi-finals.
For the 1999 season, he was selected to perform with Kitchener’s Revue, where he had the opportunity of performing two of GB’s compositions, “Lio” and “Rope ah Dope.”
His consistency in performance was very evident by the quality of his renditions which earned him nightly ovations.
His performances earned him a place in the National Calypso Monarch finals Dimanche Gras for the first time.
Today, Seale still performs with the Calypso Revue Tent and has made it to the Calypso Monarch Finals on numerous occasions. During this time, he has given us calypsoes such as “Lament for Shorty;” “Category my Donkey,” “Lio;” “Donut Country;” “Mr Pan;” “Ivan the Terrible;” “Little Eyes Big Vision;” and “Education Through the Eyes of the Calypsonian” (which both gave him the title of Best Social Commentary in 2000 and 2005 respectively); “One Song,” “Spirit of Calypso,” and in 2010, “De Sharer Strikes” and “A Wind of Change.”
For 2016, Devon captured the coveted title of National Calypso Monarch, with his two renditions “Respect God’s Voice” and “Spirit of Carnival.”
Tell us about your early years (including where you were born and grew up).
I was born in 1977 in Tunapuna and grew up in Bon Air Gardens, Arouca.
Which schools did you attend—primary, secondary, other?
Tunapuna Anglican, Arima Government Secondary (O’Level), El Dorado East Secondary (A’ Levels) and finally, I spent four years in Brazil pursuing a BSC at Universidade Catolica de Pernambuco (UNICAP). MBA from the Arthur Lok Jack GSB with specialisation in International Finance (Distinction). I am fluent in both Portuguese and Spanish.
What was your first paying job?
As a cashier/clerical officer at TSTT.
What are the plans for Carnival 2017?
As the reigning monarch, I intend to defend strong. This year also marks my 19th anniversary at the Kalypso Revue and as the monarch, I’m launching my compilation SealeD in Calypso.
What is your favourite thing about Carnival?
I just love being a part of Calypso Fiesta. As a practicing calypsonian, I look forward yearly to perform at Skinner Park. However, this year as the defending monarch, I’ll enjoy the show as a spectator.
Who is your favourite entertainer/calypsonian?
Favourite calypsonian is the Black Stalin.
What is your greatest accomplishment in Carnival other than winning the 2016 title?
I would say in 1999 when I made it to the Dimanche Gras for the first time and competed with Chalkdust, Duke, Stalin, Gypsy, Aloes, and Singing Sandra. It was also my debut year at the Kalypso Revue, which at that time was managed by the Lord Kitchener and Jazzy Pantin.
Who composed your 2016 winning calypsoes?
Who/what has influenced/inspired you the most with regard to your calypso singing?
I would have to give credit to my aunt Singing Sonia for encouraging me to get involved in the junior competitions, Mr George Martin as a composer in the junior years, Mrs Esther Batson who was responsible for my vocal training, and both Gregory Ballantyne and Christophe Grant for providing the material over the past 20 years.
What is your recipe for success and what inspires you?
Early preparation and having an excellent support team. My inspiration comes from the reception from my fans. The fact that they enjoyed my performance keep me going.
Of all your accolades, accomplishments, prizes and awards, which do you rate as extremely special other than winning the 2016 Calypso Monarch?
An award for performing at the 4th International Calypso Festival in Cahuita, Costa Rica.
What is an interesting facet of Devon Seale’s personality that most people do not know about?
I’m a behind-the-scene guy who is always willing to take risk.
If you had to interview someone from T&T who you did not know and had to ask just one question, who would it be and what would be the one question?
Brian Lara. How has he handled his life after his retirement from cricket.
What is/are the most important lesson/s you’ve learned in life?
Nothing happens before its time. Living example (took me 20 years of competing in the senior calypso competition before winning the calypso monarch).
What advice would you give to the young people of T&T?
They should try to get involved in becoming young entrepreneurs and they should commit themselves to the journey.
If you could dine with anyone in history who would it be and why? What dinner conversation would you have with that person?
Janelle Penny Commissiong. To discuss with her how she dealt with her victory as the first Black Miss Universe.
How would you describe yourself?
Very down-to-earth person who has a good sense of humour. I’m focused and professionally committed about my craft and all other things I’m involved in.
What would you say you do to bring your performance to life on stage?
I bring a high level of professionalism on stage and I always try to transform into character.
Which of your calypsoes of the past would you like a first-time audience to listen to/see you perform?
“Lio”—this calypso is very historical and it tells the story of Lionel Belasco, a pioneer composer, pianist, and band leader who was instrumental in the recording of calypso music that gained international exposure.
What is the best advice you have ever received?
To believe in yourself.
What is the most difficult decision you have ever made?
Going to Brazil, not being able to speak the language to pursue my first degree.
What would you say is your greatest virtue?
What daily motto do you live by?
“Do the best you can until you know better, then when you know better, do better.”—Maya Angelou.
Describe yourself in two words—one beginning with D, the other with S, your initials.
Determined and Simple.
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