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A d v e r t i s e m e n t

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KARENE BEATS VETERANS

By Andre Bagoo Tuesday, March 8 2011

click on pic to zoom in

FORMER Junior Calypso Monarch Karene Asche yesterday morning became the first woman to win the National Calypso Monarch crown in almost a decade, and in the process made history by taking home the competition’s largest ever cash prize of $2 million.

At the age of 26, Asche now becomes the youngest ever National Calypso Monarch in the competition’s modern history. However, Neville “Growling Tiger” Marcano still holds the all-time record for youngest monarch for when he, at the age of 24, won the crown in 1939, the year the annual competition first began.

Asche, who won the Junior Calypso Monarch competitions in 1998 and 2003, took home the crown at Dimanche Gras early yesterday morning after pleasing the judges with her rendition of the political calypsos “Uncle Jack” and “Careful What Yuh Ask For”.

Her victory, eight years after her mentor Sandra Des Vignes Millington (Singing Sandra) took the crown in 2003, was the culmination of a competition which saw calypsonians re-embrace the artform’s political elements after years which saw social commentary dominate the show.

She is also the fourth woman to win the Calypso Monarch crown, after Calypso Rose (McArtha Lewis) in 1978, Denyse Plummer in 2001 and Singing Sandra in 1999 and 2003.

Asche took to the Queen’s Park Savannah stage in Port-of-Spain just after 7.30 pm in the first round of Sunday’s competition, wearing a long flowing cream dress with batik patterns, a sparkling diamante belt and long, dramatic hair that almost reached her waist.

Performing in position number five, she pleased the crowd with “Careful What Yuh Ask For”, a cautionary political commentary that equated wanting better governance with inadvertently jumping “out of the frying pan and into the fire”.

“Why you get upset?/You ask for it /Take what you get,” she sang.

Behind her on the large Savannah stage three actors performed a scene in which a bride left her new husband for a fiendish masked suitor who eventually stabbed the bride. Later, actors playing the role of PSA protesters called for higher wages. While the country is suffering, Asche sang, Patrick Manning is “in a corner chuckling.” Manning was voted out of power as prime minister last May. But it was Asche’s performance of “Uncle Jack” during round two of the competition that arguably sealed her victory. Asche returned to the stage wearing a tuxedo, with bouffant shoulders and holding a black and white football. A costumed man, with a great resemblance to Works and Transport Minister Jack Warner, accompanied her onstage, bearing a placard that read, “Head N***** in charge”.

Asche then proceeded to sing a song in which the Works Minister, who is also a FIFA vice-president, was re-labelled “Minister of Everything” and called “the world’s first black Hindu.” The song was very popular with some sections of the crowd.

“I feel very proud to carry on the legacy and I’m proud to say that calypso is not dying,” Asche said moments after she was handed a cheque by Prime Minister Kamla- Persad-Bissessar. Asked what she would do with her $2 million, she chucked and said, “invest”. Her mentor, Singing Sandra, cried as she stood alongside Asche. Singing Sandra called Asche’s triumph a victory for Laventille.

Persad-Bissessar appeared elated because of Asche’s victory.

“Look at this young child!” she exclaimed on the Savannah stage early yesterday morning. “We are all very happy that a young daughter has captured the crown.” No scores were announced yesterday morning.

Asche’s crowning adds another title to her belt this year, after she last week won the political commentary category of the Trinbago Unified Calypsonian Organisation (TUCO)’s Kaisorama competition, delivering a shock defeat to Dr Hollis “Chalkdust” Liverpool.

Chalkdust changed tack in Sunday’s competition in a bid to add a ninth crown to his name. He dropped “Manningitis”, the song he had sang against Asche the week before. While his new song “Power of the Pen” as well as his round one song “Wounded Pride” were vintage Chalkie, he failed to sway the judges. The veteran’s efforts, which saw him use a prop on- stage for the first time in years and also saw him change his customary pale-coloured Nehru-styled suit for a bright red, white and black combo, took him to third place. Asche’s victory resulted in the de-throning of the former monarch Kurt Allen, who managed sixth place with “Do So” and “Change”.

The victory was also something of an upset given that crowd favourite for the night was Rodney “Benjai” Le Blanc, who performed with a large cast of actors on stage.

It was thought that Benjai’s narrow defeat at the Groovy Soca Monarch on Friday night with his hit song “Trini” , as well as his Young King title, would have paved the way to a possible victory at Dimanche Gras. Benjai was the only performer on Sunday who managed to move the entire Grand and North Stands and his twelfth placing was loudly booed when it was announced.

Sunday’s competition, which began at 6.30 pm and ended at about 2.30 am yesterday, was the first Dimanche Gras under a non-PNM government in almost a decade. It was markedly different from competitions in years past.

KARENE from Page 3A



While in recent years searing social commentary — normally dealing with the state of crime and with youth delinquency — came to dominate the show, this year calypsonians decided to turn up the political critique.

For instance, Benjai was the only performer on Sunday who did not sing explicitly about politics. In contrast most, like Kizzy Ruiz, who in last year’s final sang about the Haiti earthquake, had songs which threw barbs at politicians. In “The Engine Stall”, Ruiz likened the ruling coalition Government to a stalled car, as a yellow Hyuandai Sonata rolled on stage bearing the licence plate PP2010.

“Like this PP out of gas/ they need a mechanic fast,” she sang, dressed as a mechanic. “I think we have to push.” In the song she, too, took aim at Jack Warner describing him as “the new sheriff in town with a shining star” and saying of him, “up to now his PP refuse to move”. She warned that anti-corruption legislation cannot stop “predators’ claws” and called corrupt persons, “them sons of bitches.”

Weston “Cro Cro” Rawlins sang “Compare and Contrast” in which he described black supporters of the coalition government as “lick-bottom Africans”.

“Like the black man is the black man’s worst enemy,” he sang, drawing cheers from pockets of the large crowd. “I am so disappointed in you black man.” In his second round song “Kam-lie” Rawlins also turned his attention to the SIA spy agency scandal, saying, “so much lying in the SIA/nobody ain’t have nuttin’ to say.”

One performer even went as far as to wear a PNM tie and suit, emulating former prime minister Patrick Manning.

“As soon as I make a mistake/ how quickly you turn around,” sang Tameika Darius, in character as the former prime minister, in “Ungrateful”. “I never thought you would be so/ Why did you treat me so? Is I who made NAPA and Hyatt too/ You ungrateful you.” She called the Mayor of Port-of-Spain an “ole nasty lagahoo.”

Sugar Aloes, who has in the past reportedly been a staunch PNM advocate, even declared, “I am waiting patiently to see the demise of that partnership.” He said people used to blame Manning, who was prime minister for 12 years, for everything under the sun, including flooding, “as if he were God”.

He said he had certain “feelings about the way they treat Patrick.” Aloes got the judges nod for second place for “Not One Word” and “De cause.” “Allen, in his song “Do So” opined, “I have a feeling/this country needs political healing.”

After winning Asche had some advice for young calypsonians everywhere.

“Just continue doing what you are doing and sing positive calypsos,” she said. “Think positive.”

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