COMMENTARY: A call for resurrecting the creative sting in Kaiso


In Tribute to Melvin ‘Solo’ Constant

While calypso celebrates the life of one of its greats, Melvin “Solo” Constant, the words of Dominica’s Hon. Prime Minister, Mr. Roosevelt Skerrit, foreshadows a more progressive era for the art.

In his reflections on Calypso in Dominica, the Hon. Prime Minister suggested that current Calypso songs lack the sort of creative craft. Reference was made to Bernard “De Rabbit” Alexander who to possess the formula to get those he sang about, hopelessly emersed in the whirlpool of the rhythmic melodies, and sweet-painful lyrics that accompany such timely and timeless compositions like, Marry the girl Charlie, You Follow, Run Solomon, Wong Fang Chu.

While the Hon. Prime Minister may be correct, one should not lose track of the subtle cynicism which accompanies his comments. Let’s face it, when the Hon. Prime Minister suggest that calypso composers, performers, arrangers, writers and creators should emulate Lord Thunder (and Sour Sour) as the gold standards of what ‘a good calypso’ should be, we should dig deeper into those comments. In fact, I once heard a well-known calypso commentator making similar claims – especially in defense of Lord Thunder – before he was severely challenged by his colleague commentators.

The fact is, both Lord Thunder and Sour Sour play significant roles in Dominica Calypso. They are jesters who, especially in the case of Sour Sour, have can be considered a boss of singalong, happy Calypso songs. With several road march titles to his name, Sour Sour is certainly a highly respected and very well celebrated calypsonian; or as Arthur ‘Bassie’ Pascal puts it: “Sour is the life of the party”. Lord Thunder can be quite entertaining as well, but there are several elements missing for both entertainers to be the gold standard of kaiso mastery.

One point which should not be lost from the Hon. Prime Minister’s statement is that, kaiso needs to sharpen its craft when taking on people of high repute – such as the Hon. Prime Minister himself. There is a sort of panache that should be employed when we call-out the wrongs and misdeeds of society’s leaders. Kaiso greats of the past, and the not-too-distant past, have shown us how – we have probably just become a bit complacent. Some have also given up and others have joined the fray of the folks of great repute.

We need writers to step-up and/or step back in, to resurrect the creative sting element in Calypso. The singers are plenty but writers are few. Calypsonians want to sing big biting songs that tackle the ills of society while causing those responsible to dance, hypnotically, to their folly. Kaiso desperately needs to sharpen its craft and find ways to penetrate the system which is led by the Hon. Prime Minister et al., and we hope that the prophetic and metaphoric words of Solo give us that strength. We expect him, now that he has transformed, to help lead the lavwé. He has probably already begun.

Solo’s ‘Mas in de Cemetery’ suggest that he witnessed the resurrection of fallen comrades and other aficionados of Dominica’s music and culture like Eric Shillingford, Edward Martin, George James and Mabel “Cissie” Caudeiron leading a celebration – in the cemetery – while several others join in the chorus. With this song, Solo recorded the history of the Carnival Fire of 1963, and was also able to connect us with the essence of kaiso greatness – past and presence. Solo’s approach to this issue is vintage and classic, timely and timeless. This is the sort of material which should spark the resurgence in Calypso, and this is the resurrection that this tribute article to Solo calls for.

So, as the sun sets on Solo’s illustrious Kaiso career, let new life emerge in the treatment, promotion and management of Calypso. It is time to put ‘pen to paper’ and unleash the brave, bold, biting Calypsos, embellished with all the components necessary to traffic the haunting melodies that should cause the Hon. Prime Minister and others of his ilk to say, “yes, that is a good kaiso although it blésé my bobo”. Let us jam dem with the sweet tasting, bitter Kaiso; let us up the antics with our lyrics: it is not what is said, but how it is said. We should inflict insults without assault; let us find a way to tell dem to go to hell while we appear to be holding the pearly gates open. It is time to reintroduce a bit more of the creative sting in Kaiso writing.

When a whole Prime Minister can pay attention to, and even comment on our art, artists need to wise-up, wake-up, shake-up and deliver the goods. This observation by the Hon. Prime Minister, therefore, can be seen as a timely intervention, and certainly an invitation to Calypsonians and other Dominican artists to mend the fracture in our culture, which – ironically – generally occurred under the watchful eyes of our beloved Hon. Prime Minister, Mr. Roosevelt Skerrit.

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  1. Lin clown
    February 6, 2023

    That is why other Calypsoes last for a long time,our Calypsoes only last for two days.Too many overeducated,know-it-all aholes support stupidity.This high level of stupidity in calypso does not break Skerrit,it makes the world look at SOME of Dominica calypsonians as ignorant bums.I have gone to Dominica calypso shows in Brooklyn,Queens and The Bronx with Americans.When some of these so called calypsonians start singing,they ask what is he singing about,who is he singing about?These people have no time for stupidity.A whole lot of nonsense caylpso.But again some people make it their business to destroy Dominica.They have tried for years, but they cannot destroy Skerrit because Skerrit have tremendous backup fire.

    • If we knew better
      February 9, 2023

      i know like Caresser and them. Before they bought him, he used to give skerrit blows, i wonder what tune he singing now. the average Dominican is fickle, has no morale or integrity and easily purchased.

  2. Heavy Lifter
    February 6, 2023

    This is a classic case of the statement: “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and to remove all doubt”.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 20 Thumb down 0
  3. Ibo France
    February 6, 2023

    Roosevelt sadly lacks the intellectual capacity to competently assess any literary work. Alex Bruno adhere himself to any topical issue to gain relevance but to no avail. They both bigly deserve each other.

    Roosevelt critiquing calypso is like a charcoal ‘burner’ expounding on nuclear physics. This is a man who could never earn a simple certificate not even on dog grooming.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 4
  4. JustSaying
    February 6, 2023

    Alex I’m with you.

    The writing and arrangements are down right “lazy.” Unimaginative.

    Same recycled boring sh*t every year.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 8 Thumb down 16
    • If we knew better
      February 9, 2023

      The same basic mother goose nursery rhymes. Shows a lack of creativity and innovation going on in Dominica. Ironic. that in itself is social commentary

  5. If we knew better
    February 6, 2023

    “caiso” is a method that our slave forefathers used to talk about the master behind his back to plot against him without him realizing what the song was about. Today Calypso is about us, you and me, talking about each other behind our backs. Its about talking about our leaders behind their back but the leaders dancing along to the same song. and doesnt give 2 hoots about you or me. Social commentry is a big joke.

    also, the bands they use here need to step it up several notches. Maybe we need new musicians but that old calypso style from 1980’s and 90’s need to change by now wi people. We need a proper orchestra and proper venue for the staging of what we cal a national art. but like everything else in dominica. “state of the art” means poorly executed.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 1
  6. dissident
    February 6, 2023

    You start with skerrit……using king solo back to ride on………like you trying to give Skerrit utterances on calypso a little legitimacy
    Skerrit hire you for Dat……..otherwise you could have addressed it before and without referring to skerrit…….like you only see what skerrit see
    Careful………I already lose respect for you
    Just join labor party nuh…… give skerrit your accreditation in political science??????
    Sounds like it
    Looks like it
    Feels like it
    You didn’t fool us at de last election
    You can’t fool us with your talk… will get a seat on Kairi and dbs to further your discussion on lbehalf of abor party skerrit
    If skerrit didn’t talk about calypso we would never hear from you……YOU WON’T DARE ADDRESS ELECTORAL REFORM
    You need to wake up!

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 20 Thumb down 3
  7. Roger Burnett
    February 6, 2023

    Why cannot other creative art forms could draw the attention of Calypso in Dominica?

    Perhaps the answer lies in an essential component of the arts: that being criticism. Calypso, to its credit, draws the crowds and draws the critics. For all other art forms, the expectation is to either say something nice or say nothing at all. We are inclined to forget that the fundamental function of art is to speak out.

    In terms of fostering the Prime Minister’s vision of a more progressive era in the arts, on the same day that the calypso semi-finals drew massive crowds in the evening, my workshop on Creative Fashion Design – which was free to all DSC students – had just one participant!

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 17 Thumb down 2
  8. HRH
    February 6, 2023

    If you really interested in recreating kaiso and calypso art form .you need a exceptional venue that captures the Caribbean setting. Which serves Caribbean finest cuisine from around the Caribbean and put events on once or twice a month for tourists. You could add spoken word to another occasion.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0
  9. make it make sense
    February 6, 2023

    So the failed politician now turning back to calypso? Somebody need to make a song on this clown

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 15 Thumb down 3
  10. Truth Be Told
    February 6, 2023

    “Heegas, no gas, de country fall, we tired bawl!” I know Skerrit will not like that! He wants ‘power breakfast’ for he and his Ministers to laugh at smut and sexual inuendo in our House of Parliament!
    Lowlife PM and society! Just look at the amout of sexual predators and child molestation and abuse associated with them and Dominica society. We need more calypsos about that!

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 18 Thumb down 3
  11. Truth Be Told
    February 6, 2023

    Always writing rubbish to appear relevant. If you want the quality and type of calypso that you so desire, then why don’t you write a few?
    There is no set template for calypso. From Dice to Sour Sour or if we go to the mecca or great temple of calypso, Trinidad and Tobago, we could say from Chalk Dust (serious reflections) to Lord Kitchener (Sugar Boom Boom) or Sparrow, De Both Ah Dem, Jean and Dinah, to Gypsy ‘Captain the Ship is Sinking’, the beauty of calypso is its versatility. You cannot prescribe a good calypso or what makes one better than the other. To do this is to lose the soul and essence of a truly dynamic artform! Please fo back to your drawing board. Try writing a great calypso, I have!
    By the way, the sinister implication of Prime Minister Skerrit intervention is that he would rather that Dominican calypsonians sing smut and comical nonsense than serious reflections on his twenty plus years of failure; failed governance, failed economy, failed society. Look around…

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 15 Thumb down 3
  12. February 5, 2023

    Someone invoked Alex Bruno. Where have you been, Alex. In Burundi. Did you go find spiritual blessings, too? I believe in your last meeting with him, he told you the way. Good luck

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 2
  13. February 5, 2023

    What are you talking about?Looser

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 2
  14. Toto
    February 5, 2023

    Alex I don’t know whom you try to butter up this time my man. It would not be the PM. would it , you are attributing him now with wisdom in the art of calypso. You are too slippery for my liking Alex and again, I can not trust you. You are an intelligent fellow, put that to good use.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 18 Thumb down 2

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