Calypso Monarch 2022 Review

July 30, 2022 – The prelude to the Calypso Monarch had stirred the pot sufficiently to fuel anticipation.  Tent season had been of good quality on and off the stage. QKC has stepped into a very important breach, filling the void left when one of our most prolific and usually successful tent operations fell victim to covid blues. The change in the format served the tents well; there was more music to hold the attention of the patrons.  Some, including myself, felt short changed at the dramatic reduction in biting commentary on the myriad of issues that would normally be calypsonians fodder.  Overall, the season opened strong thanks to the investment by the management team of the Real Sweet Benna Calypso Tent and the QKC Tent.

Quarterfinals and Semifinals were not without controversy over who made the cut.  It is concerning that name brand can trump the practicality and relevance of ‘judging what is sung and presented’ on the night. A purist reflection will clearly recall ‘gifts’ handed out in the quarters phase and puzzlement over omissions post semifinals, but all must be context in the refrain, the judges’ decision is the only one that really matters.

On to the big stage at Carnival City.  Several sharp showers impacted the inflow of patrons early.  In time, there was a very good audience who remained mostly appreciative of the night’s proceedings. The presumption was that the rain also impacted the readiness of the stage for commencement of the show.  However, the uninterrupted flow once the competition began coupled with the absence of the usual mop-up squad that appeared in past years once the stage got wet in between competitors were clear indicators served the event well.  The new positioning of the stage also significantly reduced the accustomed reverberations which would normally negatively impact the overall production, at least to my ear.

Unfortunately, the spirit of “Tarpan’ lingered, we are still to have professional sound engineer services that can consistently serve our music industry. The ‘sound’ was not consistent and far too often the band sounded lackluster and beautiful melodies and sections of the musical presentation were lost.

The competition was overall of a very good standard.  All the artists executed with aplomb, an excellent tribute to the calypso artform.  The props were of high quality.  Special commendations to Tian, Peetron and Sammie C for their presentations. Their presentations transported me into a broadway, theatrical mood.  Special mention of G’Eve; her on stage presence loomed large. The big stage is absolutely her home, it was very easy to forget that she is still a ‘little bit’ given the size of her personality during her performance.  Quite a number of artists seem to have suffered from lack of experience on the big stage.

Sammie C captured performing I Live For This Photo Credit: Johnny JnoBaptiste

On an individual note, there were several performances that warrant specific attention, not necessarily in order of appearance.

De Bear’s performance felt like ‘I am just here for the pay day’.  The song, though a solid message, felt undeveloped and lacked any of the bite we are accustomed to from the artist.  The music was, well soft and an overly simplistic presentation left me, well, exceedingly short changed.

Stumpy is a perennial sweet singer.  While I liked his topic and general execution, the overall lyrical development was lacking and below the Stumpy standard.  It felt like he was singing I come in peace and not a genuine topical issue. As such definitely not winners circle worthy.

Tian had a ying and yang night.  His competition opening performance was moderate. It was a here it is, let’s get on with it performance, though it did get better as he embraced the stage.  I had anticipated some resolution of the gaps in the lyrical presentation for the final night.  Additionally, his musical arrangement was impacted by the inconsistency in the sound quality, as I heard it.  His Bacchanal presentation was an absolute delight.  His performance and presentation first class, the melody of the musical arrangement clean and clear, the ideal base for a solid calypso tale.

Zacari still has me pondering the merits of social commentary on bacchanal tempo only for the sake of the criteria.  That particular presentation was on point but I suspect he would have fallen prey to the base of that segment’s criteria.  In the social commentary round, Zacari ticked all the boxes, his experience in the big yard the obvious deal maker to the winner’s circle.

Supa D represented a conundrum for me.  As he went through the paces in the social commentary round I pondered for a few seconds how, then returned to pay keen attention to his presentation.  My conclusion remains, presentations such as these, will remind me that I am to be an armchair critic and a general protector of the artform.  His Bacchanal presentation, far better overall and deserving of big stage contention.

Dear Kid Vicious, please do not abandon those lofty calypso ways.  Your contribution to the craft is a necessity.  Vicious’ exuberance got the better of him last night and the presentation was impacted.  I remain convinced that the song was in the wrong competition and would have fared better as a social commentary.  That cock is life.

Kimmy’s presentation was thoroughly entertaining.  It had all the perfect elements from a fantastic groovy piece, excellent use of stage with the band firing on all cylinders.  Her overall presentation had me pondering the fine line between a strong contender for a winner’s circle soca monarch groovy presentation and a Calypso Bacchanal competitive piece.

Thalia delivered very well in both rounds.  Having stuck to her regular themes she may have found her way to the chopping block via penalties for originality.   As she pelted out her rendition so many melodic lines and lyrical familiarity came to the fore.  Thalia is due for a variation of themes as the base of her competitive pieces.  However, she must  forever keep bringing the pan vibes.

Peetron, the master of theatre.  I dug deep to find a shortcoming in his presentation and as he continued his diction suffered a tinge.  Peetron’s song was masterful, a beautiful marriage of lyrics and music.  He tugged at my attention and my feet in a collective.  Message delivered wrapped in a masterful presentation.

Lyrics Man‘s biggest challenge continues to rest and readiness to execute as we know he can.  His diction was seriously impacted, and that was likely the main undoing keeping him out of the winners circle.  Lyrics Man is way better than the presentation he insists on giving to a final’s competition.

Byke’s presentation was enjoyable.  Lyrically, it felt incomplete with the context of the Calypso criteria hurdle.  Having been fortunate to make the final cut, he executed very well.  His overall performance was better suited to a soca monarch audience, but…..

I ponder Omari’s placement on the judges’ scorecards.  While not a crown performance, I hope the adjudication panel did not dismiss his presentation as the crowd seem to have. Omari was refreshing, representing a bold move to add a cosmopolitan flair to the artform.  I hope this is not the last Omari moves from the bandstand to performance row.

Redding and Ivy are inseparable!  He was impactful, a solid story line well presented on a melodious musical bed.  A treat that was in definite contention.  As I watched the performance, I was comforted that under the right circumstances, age is just a number.

G’Eve simply put is a national treasure.  She impacted heavily in all the boxes of the criteria, all.  Her writer must be commended for providing the ideal material that marries her personality to execution. Very well done G’Eve and team.

G’Eve in flight, presenting Small But Me Tallawa. Photo Credit: Johnny JnoBaptiste

Sammie C’s social commentary performance was very well executed.  From the competitive perspective, there were simple other presentations that would have outscored her.  On the Bacchanal side, I will admit to complete surprise that her performance was considered anything less than top of the class.  So, this is where I will yield to the judges because they clearly saw and heard elements that were within their purview only as the adjudicators.

My results:

Social Commentary – Winner – Zacari, 1st Runner Up – Peetron, 2nd Runner Up – G’Eve

Bacchanal – Winner – Sammie C, 1st Runner Up – Thalia 2nd Runner – Tian

Calypso Monarch ended successfully and whatever our views, the judges decision is final.  Congratulations to everyone!!!  Thank you judges for your service.  Calypso won last night.

Cover photo credit Johnny JnoBaptiste