History was created at SWWTU Hall in Port-of-Spain last Thursday night when the Northern Region of Trinbago Unified Calypsonians' Organisation (Tuco) staged the second edition of Extemporama. It was probably the first time in calypso history that two politicians actively participated in a duel on stage, with Black Sage (COP Councillor Phillip Murray) and Gypsy (Arts and Multiculturalism Minister Winston Peters) facing off against each other, and a dozen other aspirants. With no cash or prizes up for grabs, and no outright individual winner declared, the extempore exponents squared off against each, representing their zones in a relaxed manner.
FROM TOP: Perhaps giving some pointers on judging, Justice Malcolm Holdip, right, chats with, from left, Black Stalin, Tuco South Zone head Ras Kommanda and The Mas Camp director Roderick Ward.
�2 Two of the oldest active calypsonians Bro Superior, left, and Conqueror thoroughly enjoy Extemporama at SWWTU Hall in Port-of-Spain.
�2 Attending Extemporama to lend support to his parliamentary colleague Winston "Gypsy" Peters, right, is Minister of Sport & Youth Affairs Anil Roberts. Smiling at left is Lou-Anna Laurie.
A highlight on the night was delivered in extempore mode by the Arts Minister who, noting patrons fanning from the heat in the hall, disclosed that next year's edition of Extemporama will be held in the air-conditioned National Academy for the Performing Arts (Napa). Musical accompaniment, offering three different melodies for extempore, was provided by Moods, led by Bunny Brown, with emcee chores done by Mervyn Telfer and Shirlaine Hendrickson. The event was attended by a full house and amongst patrons were Minister of Sport & Youth Affairs Anil Roberts; Costa Rica ambassador Ricardo Thompson Thompson; Deputy Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Arts and Multiculturalism Vel Lewis; Justice Malcolm Hislop; former police commissioner Everald Snaggs; former NCC official Canute Spencer, NACC official Anum Bankole; just installed Plipdeco Board member Ibn de Leon (son of the late Roaring Lion); and author Eintou Pearl Springer.
Also seen were former national calypso monarchs Black Stalin and Luta, as well as veterans Bro Superior, Conqueror and Allrounder. Having gone through a self-introduction in extempore, the bards went through an elimination round. Bards in the fray, and their zones, included Black Sage, Contender, Fire Ball, Gary Ranks (North); Lingo, Lady Africa, Sheldon John, Dion Diaz (East); Gypsy, Abebele, Short Pants (East); and Lady Irie (Tobago).
Coming in for a lot of praise, including kudos from his rivals was Fire Ball. People complimented the young soca star for venturing into the realm of calypso's oldest genre. A Billboard chart-rider, Fire Ball handled himself admirably on stage amongst his older and much more experienced colleagues. Also turning in a commendable performance was Diaz. Had this being a bona fide extempore monarch contest, aside from Gypsy, in serious contention would have been Black Sage, Lingo, John and Lady Africa, regular contenders when actual competition in this form of calypso is staged at Carnival time in the Queen's Park Savannah. Lingo in particular was a crowd-pleaser with his humorous spin on topics he selected.
Former calypso monarch Relator makes a guest appearance at Extemporama.
Former police commissioner Everald Snaggs, left, and Deputy Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Arts and Multiculturalism Vel Lewis flank their wives.
Turning in a sterling guest performance was Relator, himself a former national monarch. Relator paid tribute to the greats of the past, including Terror, Fluke, Popo and Jackson, describing them as the bards who added calypso to calypso. It's a mystery how Relator doesn't get more work. But, tomorrow evening he can be seen at the Carib Stand in the Queen's Park Oval, when A Roti, a Red Solo, and Ole Time Kaiso, a fund-raiser organised by All Sports Promotions for the Under-16 West Indies cricket team, is held. For an encore at the end of his time on stage, Relator treated the audience to Food Prices, one of the ditties he captured the 1980 title with.
As with most indigenous cultural expressions there must be competition so the participants were divided into groups with the audience, by way of cheers, deciding the best of the lot. At the end of it all, with organisers keeping an eye on the clock for a midnight climax, and the audience being final arbiter, an outright champion from the threesome of Gypsy, Lady Africa and Black Sage could not be decided, so the audience declared the entire group the night's best act. Once again I was impressed by a production staged by Tuco, following close on the heels of the equally successful October 28 Gala Programme at Napa. There were few snags on the night, with the only noticeable hiccup being the lack of fans at the venue.