Dec. 13, 2008 — Music was the cultural tie that bound Crucians together Friday as local singer-songwriters aired original calypso songs for this year's Crucian Christmas Festival calypso eliminations.
A dozen calypsonians took to the stage at the New Drive Inn, showcasing up-to-the-minute political satire, humor and social commentary, battling for the chance to take on the reigning champion, five-time St. Croix Calypso King Morris "King Generic" Benjamin. Seven calypsonians and two alternates moved forward to the main show.
In no particular order, Kasaun "K-Force" Baptiste won with "Don't Thief from the Government," a biting commentary on public corruption, filled with references to Dean Plaskett and other public officials who've been convicted of abusing their office for personal enrichment over the past year.
"Don't thief from the government, they dont like the competition," he sang.
Gemma Noel took to the stage in a white gown with her young grandchildren Tahirah Jordan and Akida Thompson, to sing "Murders in the V.I." a plea for an end to the bloodshed in the territory's streets.
"Please tell me how many must die. Stop! — the murders in the V.I. " she sang, while a police siren wailed and backup singers chorused: "murder, murder."
On a happier note, Augustine "Liberator" St. Louis won with "Boom Boom Jam," a joyous, high spirited dance number extolling the joys of carnival and dancing at festival, hopping up and down like a celebrant at J'ouvert morning, tramping behind a band. He chose bright yellow and red African-style attire for his performance.
Samuel "Mighty Pat" Ferdinand and Elizabeth Watley both won with songs inspired by this fall's U.S. presidential election.
Watley, dressed in carnival regalia, sang of hope, change and President-elect Barack Obama with her song "Obama Rock."
"The time has come," she sang. "It's time to have no fear. I'm so proud Barack Obama is our next president and I hope you are proud too."
The Mighty Pat, in a flaming red sequined shirt and pants, threw a bone to the vice president elect too in his "Barack Obama."
"Let's rock and roll like Barack Obama and Joe Biden," he sang. "All among us must have good medical insurance and that's no joke," he sang, on a more serious note, bringing in the thoughtful social commentary associated with calypso or cariso songs.
Campbell "King-Kan-Fuc-Plentae" Barnes won with "I'm Still Alive," a personal song of perseverance. "The true calypsonian must shine a light in the dark," he sang, holding a lamp. "As long as I can still croon I am not retiring anytime soon."
Emanuel "Prince Emanuel" Henry won with "Let's Reach Out," a plea for Virgin Islanders to reach out to the young with both love and discipline, to begin to solve the problems of violence in the community.
"They shoot and kill at will, just the thought gives me a chill," he sang. "Before they send him to YRC, discipline your child. Take matters into your own hand. The future is ever so grim, so grim. Try reaching out, reaching out. Talk to them, show them love. Let us try and help them for sure."
Moving forward as alternates are Elvis "Tumba" Liburd with "It's You" and Joseph "Joey B" Brown with "What You Sow."
"When I lay down to sleep at night, I know everything is going to be alright," Tumba sang. "And when I get up to work all day, It's you that guides my way."
Joey B's song was about using love to fight the violence plaguing the streets.
"With love and compassion and purity of intention, through all this journey we will see things through," sang Joey B. "Whatever you reap, it's that you sow. "
Between sets, Daren "MC Bogle" and cohost "Velda" kept the crowd in stitches, Velda with salty jokes about the classic Mighty Sparrow songs "Saltfish," and "Jean and Dinah," and Bogle with a never-ending flow of one-liners and even an extemporaneous song about all the performances of the night. The performers were backed by a pared down Xpress band, joined by several backup singers and a horn section calling itself International Horns.
The other performers Friday night were: Lariel "The Teacher" Gerard singing "In Chaos," Alford Romney with "Life is Beautiful," and Allan "King Herring" Clarke with "Move From the Market."
Calypso Monarch finals will be held Dec. 30 at 8 p.m. at Island Center for the Performing Arts.
Go to www.stxfestival.com) for complete scheduling, photos, music samples, and all manner of information about this year's festival.
Share your reaction to this news with other Source readers. Please include headline, your name and city and state/country or island where you reside.