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4 Calypso Monarchs
Join To Stage Royal Celebration

By Terry Joseph
August 27, 2000

Black Stalin, The Mighty Shadow, David Rudder and Singing Sandra, four of this country's most popular calypsonians, will jointly host a four-hour concert on September 23.

Titled A Royal Celebration, the show takes place at the Grand Stand, Queen's Park Savannah, in Port of Spain. For openers, A Royal Celebration will offer the rare sight and sound of these four principals coming together to render the national anthem at the start of the show. But their togetherness goes a lot deeper than the opening piece, or the fact that the show will proceed without an MC, using each artiste to introduce the successor talent onstage. The four are also acting as executive producers of A Royal Celebration, taking a giant step away from the norm of career show-promoters producing the work of calypsonians.

Speaking to the Sunday Express on behalf of the four monarchs, Black Stalin described the initiative as a return to one of calypso's early traditions. "As a concept, the idea of calypsonians producing their own shows is really not new, but it had been forgotten," he said.

"During what we refer to as the Golden Age of Calypso, the producers were invariably a group of performers who respected each other's work, that got together to produce their shows," Stalin said. They would then hire professional management.

"What happened somewhere along the line, is that the managers moved more quickly than the calypsonians and went ahead and booked venues and bands, then hired calypsonians and paid them weekly wages. So instead of the talent hiring a staff to further his work, he was now an employee of somebody who might have been operating with a different agenda.

"Even where there have been the various concerts featuring top calypsonians, it is not often that the performer has creative control of the show, even though he or she is the star attraction, or is the person being honoured.

"For A Royal Celebration, we have hired professional talent to manage certain key components of the production, like marketing and house management. What we have retained, is the fundamental producers' rights, which will make the show something we feel that the patrons deserve," said the five-time national calypso monarch.

"Very often, after some big show, if people start complaining about the house management or the stage lighting or the public address system, the calypsonian is humbled, although he had no control over those aspects of the production.

"It is unfortunate that, in the absence of a proper show place, we are forced to present the level of work that we are planning at a venue like the Grand Stand, which has all the difficulties of posts blocking the view of some patrons and problems with the acoustics.

"But the way the economics goes with these shows, we have to secure a venue that will seat a large enough audience to afford us the cover for the level of expenses associated with a class production," he said. "It is really a showcase of some of our best work and it has to be presented in a particular way. We all agree on the need for more class in the presentation of calypso and we are going for that.

"We have with us the maestro, Roy Cape and his Kaiso All Stars, who we feel is the best orchestra to handle this particular kind of show. Cape has worked with all of the principals before and there has never been any need for complaint. In any case, the Kaiso All Stars will add their special touch to the work," Stalin said.

Indeed, the talent is formidable. Stalin himself has made a considerable contribution to the defence of traditional calypso and at no sacrifice to the attractiveness of his songs as dance music. Many of his vintage works still share turntable space with newer offerings and his insight into social issues is held in the highest regard by his peers.

Shadow, the reigning national calypso monarch, has been in the major league since 1974, when he came to wider public attention with the legendary "Bassman" and "I Come Out to Play", which copped first and second places in the annual road march competition. In the intervening years, he continued to deliver a brand of calypso philosophy that never lost favour with the masses; as proven by his taking of the coveted national calypso monarch title this year.

Singing Sandra this year copped the inaugural national calypso queen title, in a contest mounted by the Trinbago Unified Calypsonians Organisation (Tuco). Sandra, only the second woman in the history of the art to win the national calypso monarch title, is also widely regarded as the official defender of her gender and voice of society's oppressed.

Rudder has the distinction of being the only person to take all available titles in a single year, having won the national calypso monarch, Young Kings and road march competitions in 1985. He has since eschewed all calypso contests, but continues to supply works of an integrity equal to most and superior to many of his peers; examining in his lyrics and music a number of revolutionary concepts.

Tickets for A Royal Celebration are expected to go on sale by the end of this week.

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