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Battle royale for tonight’s Dimanche Gras $2 Million

By COREY CONNELLY Sunday, March 6 2011

click on pic to zoom in
Eight-time monarch Hollis Liverpool (Chalkdust) sings 'A Wounded Pride' at the Calypso Fiesta in San Fernando....
Eight-time monarch Hollis Liverpool (Chalkdust) sings 'A Wounded Pride' at the Calypso Fiesta in San Fernando....

A battle royale.

This is what patrons can expect during tonight’s Calypso Monarch competition at the Dimanche Gras show, Queen’s Park Savannah, Port-of-Spain.

The event, one of the main activities in the annual Carnival celebrations, will see youth versus experience among the stellar line-up of 12 artistes vying for a grand first place prize of $2 million.

Several calypsonians told Sunday Newsday, though, that the whopping sum was not the major incentive among many of the calypsonians for seeking to gain a place in the finals of the eagerly anticipated competition.

“It’s not about winning the $2 million, that’s when we lose focus,” said Joanne Rowley (Tigress), one of three female finalists.

For Rowley, who has made several appearances at the Dimanche Gras, securing a spot in the finals was about promoting local culture as opposed to the “purse”.

“Everybody’s at the starting line so you never know. I am just going to have a wonderful time and to show who I am, a true defender of the artform,” she said.

She said the fact that several artistes from the Revue tent had qualified for the finals was testimony to its greatness.

“So, it is a matter of showing why we are the best tent in town,” said a confident Rowley, adding, “We are all in the money, so what could I say.”

Rowley has placed her chances at winning the coveted title in the hands of the Almighty.

“One thing I have learnt in this life, and that’s my motto, is ‘To let go and let God.”

Devon Seale, who will be singing “Retrorama” and “Ah I Need Meh Carnival”, said he intended to deliver quality entertainment to calypso lovers.

Performing in position number seven, which he regards as luck in itself, Seales said he was “not getting too involved in what the first prize is.

“I am going there to deliver, enjoy myself and have a good show. When I am finished people must say this is one of my best presentations ever,” he said.

Former national calypso queen Kizzie Ruiz, performing in position number two, said she was energised and ready to go.

However, she has left some room for disappointment in the competition.

“I am not saying I am going to win the $2 million. I am not that type of person. I always leave a little bit of room for disappointment,” she said.

Nevertheless, Ruiz assured that patrons will receive a good performance.

“I am going to do my best and then I leave it to God. But, once I put on a good performance and people say, ‘Yes, Kizzie was good,’ I am good with that.”

Recently-crowned south monarch Brian London is maintaining a similar approach.

No stranger to the Dimanche Gras finals, London, whose tune “We Fed Up,” dealt with the performance of the People’s Partnership, said he was taking everything in stride.

“At the end of the day, I’m asking God that things be favourable and just go out there and enjoy myself,” he said.

But London said he was also concerned about projecting a positive image of Trinidad and Tobago.

“I have to put on a good show for the fans and the world because in the Dimanche Gras, I always see myself as a small part of the bigger picture which contains 11 other singers showcasing the best of Trinidad and Tobago talent. So, it is up to me to be a part in that picture so that the world will see that this is the best that Trinidad and Tobago has to offer. That is how I look at the whole thing,” he said.

Making his sixth trip to the “Big Yard”, Sangre Grande-based singer Dexter Parsons (Stinger) said he was gung-ho about winning the crown.

“I am going in very confident. They can’t beat me. I am not coming to make joke. I am coming to win,” Parsons said, thanking God, his family and guitar for his success thus far.

“A lot of tricks, a lot of surprises are needed. Everyone is the ultimate warrior on that night and I have confidence that I will be victorious.”

Defending monarch Kurt Allen is not to be left out.

Singing in position number four, Allen said he was seeking to retain his title.

“It’s a competition and everybody is going to be putting their best foot forward. I am not an exception. I am going in there with the same attitude like everybody, to win,” he said on Thursday.

Allen said he was well-prepared for the challenge.

“I have been prepared since February last year, after winning the competition then and I am still prepared now. I am definitely going to be giving the people a show as usual,” he said.

Allen said apart from a high standard of entertainment, guests can also expect to be educated via his two selections.

“I am not one of those calypsonians who looks at the newspaper and just writes what I see from the newspaper. I am going to be putting a spin on things. So, you are not going to get a schoolboy calypso.

“You are going to get a calypso that makes sense and is going to inform the people and they can leave learning something. When they go home, they could say I learnt something from that performance,” he said.

Eight-time monarch Hollis Liverpool (Chalkdust) acknowledged the formidable slate.

“Anybody could win. So, I just going in there and do my thing and come out,” said Liverpool, noting he had changed a few lines in his tunes to make them “a little stronger.”

Karene Asche, in her fourth appearance at a finals, said she stood a good chance given the popularity of her tune “Uncle Jack,” a commentary about Works and Transport Minister Jack Warner.

“I’m just going to do my thing as usual, normal,” she said.

A finalist on more than 26 occasions, controversial calypsonian Michael Osuna (Sugar Aloes) said he was confident, but not overly enthusiastic.“It is nothing new. I feel good and may the best man win,” he said.

Performing in position number ten, newcomer Tameika Darius said she was excited to have reached the finals of the prestigious competition.

“I have been singing calypso for 20 years and it has always been a dream,” she said of reaching the “Big Yard.”

Darius, of the Kalypso Revue, will be singing “Ungrateful,” a piece written by Edwin Ayoung (Crazy) and Winsford Des Vignes. It is a political commentary about the severe treatment which was meted out to former prime minister Patrick Manning by his party supporters after the PNM’s overwhelming defeat in the May 24 general election. Her second tune “Tomorrow,” is a song of hope.

Another newcomer to the Dimanche Gras finals, Rodney Le Blanc (Benjai) said he was honoured to be performing alongside some of the heavyweights in the artform.

Enjoying a bumper season with his two hits “Wine to The Side” and the national-building “Trini,” the Malabar-based singer, apart from ripping up the party circuit, also won the Young King crown.

At the Dimanche Gras competition, Le Blanc said he will simply try to promote the culture of Trinidad and Tobago in his offerings.

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