Dominica's Calypso Greats (Copyright ©2010)

Domnitjen , February 2010

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In 1956, when Harry Belafonte released his album ‘Calypso’, he had no idea the extent to which his music would influence the rest of the world, the Caribbean in particular. ‘Calypso’, which features the popular ‘Banana Boat Song’ (‘Day-O’, a soundtrack from the film Beetle Juice), was the first LP to sell over one million copies.

Peppered with socially and politically charged lyrics, wit and satire, the influence of calypso music has for the past 50 years, been an integral aspect of the most critical times in Dominica. This art form continues to gain respect and recognition, providing entertainment as well as bringing the flaws of society to the Dominican consciousness.

Over the years, Dominicans have been entertained by charismatic calypsonians with stage names like Rabbit, Tronader, De Hurricane, Spider and De Wizard. We continue to see veterans make way for promising novices bringing a new energy to the platform- a sure sign that Calypso music is here to stay. As we celebrate Real Mas 2010, we salute those who have made significant contributions to calypso music, taking this indigenous art form to the international stage.

The Big Three of Dominican Calypso: Dice and Solo, two of the three-member Elite Tri-Peat Club (winning the monarch title for three consecutive years) and De Ency (second to Dice) with the most calypso monarch and road march titles to his name.

Name: Dennison Ikes Joseph Stage Name: Dice — 4 Monarch crowns, 4 Road March titles Accolades: In 1998, Dice made his first appearance on the calypso stage when he entered the Junior Monarch Competition and captured the title with his tune, ‘Do It For Me’, calling on the government of the day to pay attention to the youth. Six years later, he won his first National Calypso Competition with ‘Animal Farm’ and ‘Minding my Business’, and at age 25 became the youngest calypso monarch in the history of Dominican calypso. He then went on to capture the crown in 2005 with ‘Puppet Master’ and ‘These are the days’; and again 2006 with ‘I eh fraid of them’ and ‘My Brothers for Me’. Dice set the record as the third calypsonian in Dominica, to be Calypso King for three consecutive years. The last three-peat was in 1977. Dice again won the Calypso Monarch in 2008, with ‘Roll de Dice’ and ‘On My Own’, as well as the Mas Camp’s Champ of the Camp title. To add to his awards, he won Road March King for four straight years, in 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2007, setting a new Calypso record in Dominica. Quote: “We should be one with nature, for we are a part of nature.”

Name: Melvin Constant Stage Namet: Lord Solo- 4 Monarch crowns Accolades: Lord Solo is one of Dominica’s earliest Calypsonians, winning the monarch for three consecutive years, in 1975, 1976 and 1977. He is also the first Calypsonian in Dominica to win the monarch four times, having won his first crown in 1973. Though he never won the Road March title, his 1977 hit ‘Mas in de Cemetery’ ranks high in the greatest Road March song of all time in Dominica. In 2001, a carnival queen contestant was awarded best costume for her portrayal of ‘Mas in de Cemetery’ in honor of Lord Solo.

Name: Norman Cyrille
Stage Name: NC, De Ency - 4 Monarch crowns and 3 Road March titles Accolades: De Ency won his first monarch title in 1982, the same year he was named Road March King, with his song ‘Bombers from South’. He went on to win the monarch in 1983, and again in 1985 and 1988. He also captured the Road March King titles in 1984 with ‘Humble Servant’, and in 1987 with ‘Watch Your Bottom’. De Ency’s ‘Humble Servant’ is one of Dominica’s most popular Road March songs of all time.

Today’s Hot Picks: Name: Deryck Burt St.Rose Stage Name: Hunter, De Hunter — 3 Monarch crowns, 1 Road March title Accolades: Deryck “De Hunter” St. Rose entered Dominica’s calypso arena in 1992. He won the calypso monarch in Dominica three times with ‘We will survive’ and ‘Carib Bacchanal’ in 1998; ‘They Joking’ and ‘One Flag’ in 2000; and ‘Government Focus’ and ‘Typical Dominican’ in 2007. In 1998 Hunter made history in Dominica winning three crowns during the carnival season: Stardom King of the Tent, the National Monarch and the Road March King Title, with ‘Carib Bacchanal, dedicated to the indigenous people of Dominica- the Kalinagos. Hunter won the Soca monarch title in Dominica four times. He is also a 5-time Stardom king of the tent winner, capturing the crown in 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005 and 2006. Quote: “The race is not for the fastest, it’s for those who reach on time.”

Name: Davidson Victor Stage Name: De Observer — 2 Monarch Crowns, 1 Road March title Accolades: A house-hold name in Dominican calypso since 1990, De Observer (or Observer as he is affectionately known) first captured the title of Road March King in 2001 with his anthem song, ‘Spirit of We Carnival’. His first taste of real stardom propelled him to capture the Calypso King title in 2002 and repeat his victory the following year, living up to his namesake. De Observer is highly regarded as one of the most respected calypsonians in Dominica, and continues to take calypso music to a regional and international level.

Name: Chester G. F. Letang Stage Name: Daddy Chess — 1 Monarch Crown Accolades: Chester’s first calypso competition was in 2000. He won the calypso monarch in 2001, with his songs ‘Your Destiny Depends on You’ and ‘Somebody Have To Pay’. That same year, he won the Stardom King of the Tent. Chester recaptured the Stardom King of the tent title in 2008, and was also named Soca Monarch and Road March King that same year. His Calypso Hits include: I’m In Chains, Your Destiny Depends On You, Somebody Have To Pay, Wild Wild West, Crabs In Ah Barrel, Hurting De Calypso, Forward We Go.

Outstanding Ladies:

Name: June S Norde Stage Name: Singing Sandy Accolades: Singing Sandy started her calypso career in 1995 as a backup singer for the Dominica Calypso Association and the Stardom Tent. In 1998 she competed in the National Calypso Monarch Competition for the first time, and made it to the Finals with her hits, Take Back and Protect Your Family. In 1999 she reached the Finals again, singing Positive Attitude and Colors. And in 2000 Singing Sandy placed Fourth Runners Up in the Finals, setting the record of the first ever Woman to place in the National Calypso Monarch Competition in Dominica. After a six year absence, Singing Sandy came back in full force in 2007, with her songs Respect Black Woman and I Come, winning first place in the National Calypso Monarch, a position which gained her the title Calypso Queen of Dominica.
In 2008, Singing Sandy became the first and only woman in Dominica to have made it Five times in the Finals. She also won the first ever Queen of the Camp 2008, with That’s Life and Farmer Children.

Name: Myrtle Massicotte Stage Name: Yakima Accolades: Yakima sang her first calypso 20 years ago, and won the Calypso Queen Title in 1992, with her songs Towards One Caribbean, and The Innocent Child. Yakima remains unprecedented as the only woman to have a calypso career spanning two decades. To date, she has received three awards for her continuous contribution to calypso over the years. Yakima is famous for challenging the long-standing stereotypes of women’s place in society, with her hits including: If Woman Was Man, Big Girls Can Wind, Looking For A Few Good Men, Women Wearing De Pant and Judge Not No Man.

Name: Tarina Simon Stage Name: Tarina- Reigning Calypso Queen and Stardom Queen of the Tent Accolades: Tarina is Dominica’s newest and youngest female calypsonian. She started singing calypso in 2005 and was crowned Calypso Queen and Stardom Queen of the Tent in 2007, from a field of 19 calypsonians. Later that same year, Tarina won the Caribbean Digicel Rising Star Competition, gaining recognition as one of the most talented performers in the region. In 2009, Tarina won the coveted Stardom Queen of the Tent title and placed third in the Calypso Monarch competition. Tarina’s hits include Won’t It Be Nice, River Deep Mountain High and Endangered Species.

Quote: “[Calypso] reveals the heartbeat of the nation”.

Rising Star:

Name: Marja Miranda Jeffers Stage Name: Lady Star Accolades: Lady Star started singing calypso ten years ago in high school, where she captured the crown for four consecutive years. During her last year of high school, she competed in the Junior Monarch competition and placed first runner up. Upon completion of high school, in 2005, she competed in the Senior Monarch, and made it to the finals with her popular tunes, Peace in The World and Pan. In 2009, this rising star was a contender in the Calypso finals with her popular tune Chinese Proverb. Lady Star holds the record for youngest person competing in the finals and nurtures her writing talent composing lyrics for junior calypsonians. Her calypso hits include: Peace in The World, Pan, Caribbean Integration and Music in Heaven (a tribute to De Idol). Quote : Life is a game I intend to win.

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