Round Table with Oscar
July 12, 2016

Musical portrait of SVG at Dimanche Gras 2016

The judges awarded gold, silver and bronze awards to Man Zangie, Patches, and Chiko B Veira at the Calypso finals, but all the calypso-prophets probed and patted the vital organs and tissues of our community.

They tested for infections and debility and reported their findings. The chronic infections of ‘Horner’ men, inadequate males and the paedophile-molesters were exposed on stage. The bards also diagnosed the pitfalls of political revolutions, our complicity with social rottenness, signals from on high for a moral turnaround, and they drew attention to political disunity and trauma, contentment with mediocrity, and alcoholism. These features of the moral condition of life in SVG came to life in music and stagecraft with passion, but also with comedy and trans-party feting. ULP calypso fans danced and swayed to the sweet melodies and catchy rhythms of Patches, even as his lyrics made deep, damaging cuts into their party.{{more}} Dimanche Gras 2016 at Victoria Park was the community speaking to itself, bestirring itself, confusing itself, but in the end, on balance, presenting a diagnosis of discontent, disillusion and a crying out for change of direction at various levels.


The songs which gave Man Zangy the calypso crown were ‘Faith in Hairouna’ and ‘Access Denied’. He presented his affirmative message very well in his first song. While he recognized weaknesses and flaws in the community, he chose to evoke a plea, a prayer, for a positive outcome for Hairouna to move towards. In his ‘Access Denied’ song, he chanted down the adult sexual predators who hunt and hurt children and minors. ‘See, but don’t touch’ was his firm counsel and warning to the growing numbers of paedophiles. The Calypso Monarch, now with three consecutive monarch titles to his name, brought a particular professional quality and restraint to his performance and to his texts. He was advocating change, avoiding criticism and upholding law, as his profession demanded.


A determined, prophetic fighter, ‘Patches’ took second place at the Dimanche Gras event. His songs were ‘Something Wrong With We’ and ‘Labour Love’. In both items, the calypsonian was diagnosing the unemancipated citizen and the governing masa from the vantage point of a disciple, or an apostle of liberation. Patches delivered a chilling and frightening diagnosis, but his tone was sweet, and he carried the audience with him. I wasn’t there on the plantation 200 years ago, but it must have been the similarly sweet performances of the enslaved Africans that made masa and his crew laugh and dance, while the Africans were drafting their freedom plans right there on stage in front of them, during the concerts! In an unexpected outburst at the opening of his second song, Patches charged the ‘censoring’ committee with deleting or withdrawing two of the visuals that he had planned to use in his performance. They, however, advised the audience otherwise. That contretemps was not good for the presentation, although, consummate artiste as he is, he seemed to be cool as ever during his performance.


‘Singing Shaunelle’ McKenzie and ‘Primadonna Bascombe’ were the two female artistes in the Dimanche Gras exposition. They both sang out their burning disappointment and frustration with men as partners in the domestic and sexual bond. The women were very specific as they catalogued the real deficiencies of the men as husbands, fathers and home-makers, yet these were not sociology lectures, they were calypso artistry, solid, danceable commentaries that made you examine your manness.

The ‘Four in a Row’ reflection on the results of the general elections last December was different, somewhat like Scakes’ ‘Wrong Direction’. ‘Four’ was not a trumpeting of a ULP triumph, nor a denunciation of the leadership of the NDP. It positioned the artiste in the consulting room of the NDP, dispassionately, yet ironically reflecting on the trauma of unexpected loss. It was different, like ‘Wrong Direction’, it did not explicitly crusade for a definite cause. It pointed to, or intimated a direction of thought.

Dimanche Gras 2016 had its peaks and its plateaus as it unfolded. At the risk of missing the mark slightly, I would say that the show chanted definitely a chorus of ‘change needed, change wanted’. And in most of the presentations, the burning drive for change was ‘Because of Politics’.