“The men ‘fraid we bad. They don’t always show it but you hear the little whispers,” she adds with a laugh.
Outside of social and political commentaries, Asche says female calypsonians are also competently depicting their messages through dress code and stage presentations. Asche, 29, is among four women appearing among the cast of 12 in tonight’s finals of the National Calypso Monarch competition at the Dimanche Gras show, Queen’s Park Savannah, Port-of-Spain. She will compete against south-based bard Victoria Cooper (Queen Victoria), Joanne Rowley (Tigress) and Heather Mac Intosh, all of whom are no strangers to the Big Yard. One of the leading acts at the Kaiso House, Asche credits Calypso Rose (Mc Artha Lewis) for giving women a voice in the artform. “The attitude towards women changed many years ago after Calypso Rose and now we are doing what the men can do,” she told Sunday Newsday.
However, Asche, who created history in 2011 when she won a whopping $2 million first prize in the Calypso Monarch competition, says some male calypsonians still believe the title should be held exclusively by men. Asche, who is expected to be the second calypsonian to grace the stage in tonight’s competition, will render a powerful social commentary titled “Every Knee Shall Bow.” Calypsonian Tigress, whose given name is Joanne Rowley, also praised Calypso Rose for blazing a trail for women in the artform.
“Calypso Rose and the others did that so by the time we got here there was more respect,” she says, alluding to the discrimination and stigma that accompanied female calypsonians in the early years. Entering the artform more than 25 years ago, Rowley was once a member of the United Sisters, the country’s only all-female group at that time.
The group, which featured Singing Sandra (Sandra Des Vignes- Millington), Marvellous Marva (Marva Joseph) and the late Lady B (Beulah Bobb), was known for their memorable hit “Whoa Donkey.” Asked what drew her to the artform, Rowley told Sunday Newsday, “It is me. It is my culture. It is in my DNA. It is the way I express myself.” Although the calypso crown has eluded her on six occasions at the Dimanche Gras show, Rowley believes female exponents have taken over the reins in the artform.
“Long ago, women were seen as a token but now we have four women in the finals,” she says.
In tonight’s competition, Rowley will perform two social commentaries, “What Yuh Willing To Die For,” which reflects on Dr Wayne Kublalsingh’s ongoing hunger strike, and “Pleading To The Nation,” a rallying cry for healing in the midst of the country’s adversities.
Heather Mac Intosh, daughter of veteran calypsonian, Llewelyn Mac Intosh, (Short Pants), says she has never been discriminated against because of gender.