A Trini education in carnival part 1

The first thing we done when we got off the plane was head straight to Savannah for the finals of the categories and extempo, for which this is the ticket. The show, which takes place a few days before carnival featured calypsonians and soca artists singing in different categories e.g. humour, contemporary issues etc and extempo, which I had never seen before.

Extempo is an awesome idea. Basically, the judges whack out a topic and the band starts playing. Then the calypsonians have to make up a song on the spot. Later, in the finals two of them come up and go head to head.

The final was won by a guy called Lingo, who defeated Gypsy singing on the topic of flooding in Trinidad. It was an education I tell you, an education.

I learned all about the poor drainage and recent storms and, in true calypso style they took digs at the government too just for good measure. As it was competitive, they also went and cussed each other, but it was really tasteful and had flooding as a central theme! Brilliant stuff, absolutely inspired. I have to see more extempo in my life and since getting back I've listened to loads of calypso.

Check out this video of Lingo in 2007 for an idea of what I mean. Remember that he is making this up off the cuff...

The categories section was won by this little blind and disabled Indian girl who, despite not being able to see or move from her spot, managed to get the entire crowd up on their feet and singing. She was possibly the most entertaining person I have ever seen on stage. Even though she was tiny she filled the entire stadium. Her song was in a chutney soca style, which is the Indian-influenced soca that sounds like a mix of Bhangra and dancehall soca with a little extra crazy thrown in.

However, if you listened to the lyrics you would have been able to tell that despite all the surface level insanity of it, her calypso was a hard-hitting indictment of society's attitude to the disabled. The chorus went "They say I'm blind so I shouldn't have a man"

Amazing stuff all night. What an introduction to Trinidad carnival culture.

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