As far as Grantley ‘I-pa’ Constance is concerned, controversial calypsonian Alvin ‘Zion-I’ Dennie kicked himself out of the On Tour calypso tent.
“Zion-I ain’t get kick out, Zion-I kick out heself. Because if he tell we he going to do one thing and he do the other, to the detriment of the tent, we ain’t kicking he out, he kick out heself,” Constance, leader of the On Tour calypso tent told SEARCHLIGHT on Monday.
He said since Zion-I’s performance of the song ‘Raperman’ at the launch of the tent last Thursday at the Russell’s auditorium, he has been carrying out a “mopping up exercise,” apologizing to all the people the veteran calypsonian wronged when he sang that song.
“Since Thursday, I calling the various people to ask them to accept my apology because he is singing under the auspices of the On Tour calypso tent, which I am the leader of.”
The tent leader said he has apologised to the business community who invested their money in the tent, all the persons whose names were called in the song, as well as the patrons who paid to attend the show.
Constance said in addition to the private apologies, he is required to make public apologies to the people who were defamed during the performance of the calypso.
“The position of the tent is clear. We took a decision that Zion-I is no longer with the tent… and this decision has been communicated to Zion-I,” Constance reiterated.
During an interview on Boom 106.9 FM last Friday, Constance gave some background to the controversy.
He said during the tent rehearsal, Zion-I was the last person to perform.
“When we heard the name of the song and he started to sing the song, I told him the song can’t be sung like that,” Constance recalled.
While acknowledging that he was unable to make such a decision on his own, the tent leader stressed that Zion-I’s song “will implicate the structure of the tent”.
“I even went to the extent of telling him that we have corporate sponsors, and they would not want to be associated with anything coming out like that.”
Constance indicated that the song ‘Raperman’ has legal implications, including defamation of character.
According to the tent leader, the executive of the tent also met with Zion-I and told him that “he can’t sing the song like that”.
He said Zion-I agreed then, to change some of the lyrics, and sing ‘oye yo yo, aye aye aye’ instead of calling the names of persons, as in the original lyrics.
Constance said the new version of the song was later rehearsed and the calypsonian “pledged” that he would sing the revised version.
“Up to the last rehearsal, his song was a different song than what he sang last night.”
Constance also related that Zion-I reportedly went to a lawyer, who also advised him to edit the song.
“He pledged that he would sing it in the way that his lawyer advised him to sing it.”
The tent leader said, up to the time when Zion-I was being introduced on stage, “I had no idea that he was going back to the original song”.
“He practised the song one way that is comfortable for us, and sing it another way that is uncomfortable for us.”
As leader of the tent, Constance took to the stage immediately after Zion-I’s rendition, and made a public apology and disclaimer.
Some musicians also reportedly walked off stage during the performance.
Constance added that the sound engineer should have been advised to cut Zion-I if he did not sing the song that had been agreed upon.
“I know that there is a wrong way and there is a right way; and when you do the right thing, ‘fraid no one’, but don’t do the wrong thing and play wrong and strong.”
Constance said he believes that most of the musicians were informed about the expected change in Zion-I’s song.
“It is something we spoke about in our band room, and they would have knowledge that it is not acceptable to be singing that song like that.”
He likened Zion-I’s action in the tent, to a person “strapping on a bomb, and blowing up everybody.”
Speaking about the unwritten rules in the tent, Constance said “there are things you can’t do”.
Zion-I, 64, is no stranger to controversy in relation to his compositions.
During the 2022 calypso season, he was asked to change some lyrics of his song ‘Hypocrites’ for the calypso semifinals following concerns from the Carnival Development Corporation (CDC) about defamation lawsuits.
Even though the calypsonian was forced to, and did change his lyrics before the competitions in 2022, his performance was not broadcast on VC3 television, the only entity that was allowed to stream the events for Vincy Mas 2022.
Following last year’s developments, Zion-I told SEARCHLIGHT that he felt the attack on him was ‘demonic’. “…Yeah. I think I had a real demonic assault from the CDC in this year’s semifinals and finals.”
He however promised to “hit them real hard” in 2023.