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Karene Asche remains humble
Karene Asche might be one of T&T’s newest female millionaires in the entertainment fraternity but her lifestyle remains the same. She has not automatically switched to opulence. Asche was at ease as a guest of Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar at the Diplomatic Centre, St Ann’s, last Thursday evening, and was content to drop off her son at his daycare in Port-of-Spain that very morning, a few days after she won $2 million. On Dimanche Gras night, Asche, 26, copped the coveted C2k11 Calypso Monarch title, winning $2 million. Previously, she won $25,000 at the finals of the Political Categories Competition.
The reigning monarch admitted the victory at the finals had not yet fully sunk in. She is still in shock that she topped veterans including Michael Osouna (Sugar Aloes) and Dr Hollis Liverpool (Chalkdust) with her songs Uncle Jack and Be Careful What You Ask For. But wherever the ebony beauty struts in her mane of long, flowing hair she turns heads and garners compliments. Congratulations pour in from people from all walks of life. Asked about how she felt being C2k11 female monarch, Asche said: “It hasn’t registered. Not yet. I am still in shock. I am delighted as well as relieved.
“I felt nervous...when they called my name. I was in school. It is a nice feel to know you toil every year and then you always get what you wanted. “I feel good to know I beat a lot of veterans. You can’t be too cheeky.”
Same daycare for her son
Her face lighting up, she said: “On Thursday, I dropped my son Shaheem Stewart, three, off at daycare in Port-of-Spain. My son would be going to the same school.” Asked whether she would gravitate toward a more extravagant lifestyle; maybe with a fancy car and new house, she said: “Certain things would change. There would be change, but I can’t state what.” For now, she continues to live at Village Council Street, Laventille, with her common-law husband Sheldon Stewart. While kaiso is her passion, she has no plans to tender her resignation as an insect vector control operator at Port-of-Spain Corporation.
More importantly, she has no immediate plans of switching her genre—calypso. “I would be most comfortable singing calypso. I would not want to sing soca. I don’t have the guts to do the power. But I could try a groovy.” The late Mighty Duke (Kelvin Pope) had described calypso as an editorial in song. She, too, swears by the medium to expose and highlight socio-economic and political abuses in the society. “I prefer to deliver messages. The only way you could sing on certain issues is through kaiso.”
Renowned as the stomping ground for steelbands like Desperadoes, Asche’s singing prowess has put Laventille on the map. On Sunday night, it grabbed headlines as a place that could nurture a talented daughter of the soil. Commenting on her Laventille upbringing, she said: “I was born and bred there. Yes, there is crime but it is all over Trinidad. It’s good that someone like me could uplift Laventille.” She said she felt comfortable in the community. She added: “When you live somewhere from birth you would go with the flow. Everywhere you go, you get a taste of both good and bad.”
She admitted: “I was robbed before.” But refused to give any more details on the incident. She was more content to say, “if everyone likes you, they treat you in a special way.” After she was declared winner, she went up to Laventille. She said: “There was a nice little board with my name on it. It said “Congrats.” They said: “I hope you get it for two years straight.” They know how to be nice. I thank them for the support.” Her primary school alma mater Rose Hill RC School was not left out. There she met teachers and principal Thora Best who encouraged her and nurtured her creative talents.
“Good people would come your way. When they see good coming out of you they would move to you,” she said. She remembers singing in events at the school and singing professionally since age 11. The song was an anti-drug song I Am Cocaine. While she’s not sure about concrete futuristic plans, she said: “I plan to go back to Rose Hill. I will be giving a little concert. I will be treating the children. That would be really nice.”
Sheldon Reid discovers Asche
Her talent was discovered at Laventille by former Young Kings Monarch, Sheldon Reid. Reflecting on that auspicious day, she said: “We had a talent show at Rose Hill RC. He was there. I was singing a little R&B. He said: ‘Why not try a little kaiso?’” He introduced me to Makandal Daaga and Brother Marvin of Jahaji Bhai fame. Marvin wrote My Name Is Cocaine. The song remains dear to Asche. While Uncle Jack is her cellphone ringtone, she sang:
“I am more precious than diamond and gold, use me once and I know you would be sold.”
Lord Valentino predicts victory
She thanked veterans like Singing Sandra for supporting her at Kaiso House, Queen’s Hall, Port-of-Spain. Asche said: “She has stayed there with me. She makes sure I am on time and comfortable at the tent. She is my mentor.” She picked up nuggets of wisdom and tidbits on stage presentation, style and performance from the statement of the performing arts including Winston Henry (Explainer) and his daughter Stagee Ann. She was amazed at Emrold Phillip (Lord Valentino’s) prescience. “From day one, Valentino said: ‘You would win the crown.’ He is a calypso prophet.” Coupled with the veterans, she was supported by the younger bards including Dwayne O’Connor and friends like Keisha
Franklin, Tricia Morris, Sheldon Stewart, Ceon Nurse and assistant manager Allana Horsford. Quizzed on what she felt could be done to improve C2k11, Asche said: “I think it was a good year. Everything went well. The kaiso did not have picong and people (Ravi B) acting up like at the chutney and soca.”
In winners’ row
1996: 12 and under winner
1996: My name is Cocaine: The Value of Life
1996: Placed (NWAC) Jewels competition
1998: Won the Junior Calypso Monarch on three occasions
2003: Moved on to seniors (three-way tie) with Shenelle Hazelle and Olatunji Yearwood
2011: Best Political Commentary