Allen had a strong message, delivered in an amusing way, with a high energy performance that really reached out to the crowd at Dimanche Gras, Queen’s Park Savannah, Port-of-Spain.
In the process, he dethroned veteran and eight-time monarch Hollis “Chalkdust” Liverpool, beat back a field of 13 other contenders and collected the $500,000 first prize.
The calypso competition began as an open contest and stayed so all night as each of the four or five favourites gave great performances, but by the end of Allen’s final-placed rendition, his name was on everyone’s lips. Few would dispute his win.
It is the first time an International Soca Monarch, won by Allen in 1999 with his hit “Dust Dem”, has been crowned a Calypso Monarch.
Allen was a Calypso Monarch finalist in 1994, 1995, 1996, and 1997, before switching to soca for a decade, only to return to the Big Yard as a kaiso finalist in 2008. Allen had also composed the song, “Heroes”, which won the 2001 Calypso Monarch crown for Denyse Plummer, with a wrangle over prize money mediated by the then Junior Culture Minister Winston “Gypsy” Peters.
(Peters, a UNC MP, last week won the 2010 Extempo Monarch competition).
On Sunday, Allen beat keen rivals such as 2009 monarch, Chalkdust, and turned the tables on Winston “De Fosto” Scarborough who had beaten Allen into second place in the political commentary class of calypso at Kaisorama last Thursday.
Allen, in his song, hit the Government for its high spending on projects, while citizens suffered: “They keep the blimp in the sky, Look at the crime rate higher than Selassie I.” He hit the Government for spending billions of dollars to host two international summits while many people don’t have a water-supply: “They build a wall, to make sure Obama don’t see the squalor at all.”
Of the Udecott controversy, he moved the crowd as he sung, “If they should make (Dr Keith) Rowley the Prime Minister, Calder Hart go end up in Carerra.”
He also hit the Opposition figures of UNC leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar and chairman Jack Warner portrayed on-stage by actors.
Allen’s performance ended with him entering the Red House to eject (Prime Minister Patrick) “Manning” who ended up sleeping on a park-bench in the University of Woodford Square, to the laughter of the crowd.
In previous performances, Allen dressed as a scholar but for Dimanche Gras he adopted the persona of a homeless man.
In trademark fashion Chalkdust came with a new song, “When mas was mas”, changing from “Eye Problems” which he competed with in Kaisorama, when prophetically he placed behind Allen.
With “When mas was mas”, Chalkdust amusingly likened politicians to traditional Carnival characters, comparing the high-spending ruling PNM to a band of Midnight Robbers, and the squabbling Opposition UNC to a band of Wild Indians. But he did not appear to be well rehearsed and a costume change on stage took a little too long, and as a result he lost the crown and placed sixth.
South Calypso Monarch Brian London, who came on stage after Chalkdust, connected with the crowd saying his rivals fell short of his standards for “A Calypsonian” (exemplified by Gypsy, Brigo, Crazy, Valentino, Poser, Mudada and Luta who joined him on-stage), teasing that De Fosto uses an obeah man. He placed second.
De Fosto had a great night, with “In a palace state of mind”, mockingly “pleading” with Manning to also build him a mansion, for which he copped the third spot. Newcomer Mr Shak, who placed seventh, has been this season’s sensation, with “Rogue”, an amazing ditty about the life of a crooked cop, that has topped Kaiso House, although on Sunday the pressure of singing in first spot made him rush his words a bit instead of controlling the crowd.
Allen, 40, told Newsday he felt thankful to have won. “This is a victory for calypso; this is not a Kurt Allen victory.” He said the win has now given him a mandate from the people to launch some of his plans to help calypso. “This is a victory for the youth in calypso and you are going to see that in the next couple of months.”
Asked what he had done special on the night to connect with the crowd, he said, “I would have to say that has to be the work of the Divine, because me and my humble self just came out with what I always do every night, but sometimes the magic comes alive.”
What had stood out that night? “I think that the new lyrics that I brought to the table — because this song has been played for a while on the radio- and I think the people expected something different and something new on the night.”
Allen said he has been singing for 29 years. “I started to sing calypso at age 11 years at Curepe Junior Secondary School and I guess that’s where I got my roots. I won Junior Calypso Monarch, Young Kings and Soca Monarch.”
He said he had taken a break from calypso after 1997 until 2004. “I do work for the Caricom Secretariat with my organisation, Caribbean Vision, so I’m no longer based in Trinidad, so I was not here for that period. I came back because of my passionate love for the art-form, calypso.”
He said on Sunday, his daughter, well-known youth speaker Choc’late Allen, 16, had been in charge of the musicians while his wife had done the stage-lighting. “It was a family affair. My cousins, aunts, uncles, everybody was here to support.”
He said the song was first written a couple years ago in Jamaica and he had planned to use it last year if he had made it to the calypso final.
“This was going to be my surprise song for Chalkdust because I knew he always comes with a brand new song. So this song was really done last year, but I didn’t make it to the finals so I used it this year.”
He planned to invest time and money to develop youth in calypso.
1. Kurt Allen, “Too Bright”
2. Brian London, “A Calypsonian”
3. De Fosto, “In a palace state of mind”
4. Kizzie Ruiz, “Aide Haiti”
5. Roderick “Mr Chucky” Gordon, “A People’s National Movement”
6. Chalkdust, “When mas was mas”
7. Selvon “Mr Shak” Noel, “Rogue”
8. Nicole Greaves, “Aide Haiti”
9. Sean Daniel, “God is Love”
10. Sandra “Singing Sandra” Des Vignes-Millington, “No child shall be left behind”
11. Ann-Marie “Twiggy” Parks-Kojo, “Give Thanks”
12. Devon Seales, “A wind of change”
13. Carlos “Skatie” James, “A Cry for Life”
14. Michael “Protector” Legerton, “My vision”
15. Anthony “All Rounder” Hendrickson, “Female life guard”