The future of Calypso depends on well-grounded Calypsonians, according to veteran Calypsonian, Elwyn “Black Wizard” Mc Quilken, who has given a commitment to making sure there is growth in the artform and it does not die a natural death.
Wizard, who has been singing calypso since the mid – 70’s, has been involved in a number of training workshops throughout the island for persons interested in calypso.
The former calypso and soca monarch winner said he was selected by the Ministry of Culture and the Grenada Union of Teachers Credit Union (GUTCU) to provide training to both young and old Calypsonians.
“I have been doing some work for the Grenada Union of Teachers Credit Union. They have some training programmes going on – one centered in St. Andrew, one in St. David’s and one in Grenville…”, he told THE NEW TODAY newspaper in an exclusive interview Monday.
“…I am the person doing the one in Grenville. We have been doing that for the past three or four years. The cycle we did was for independence and we had a great show at the Deluxe Cinema in Grenville, and a lot of great talent came out”, he said.
According to Black Wizard, the new cycle was started a few weeks ago and should run up to the Carnival in August.
He was hopeful that a number of young calypsonians would emerge from the workshops to take part in the Children’s Carnival Frolic (CCF) for the calypso section of the event.
He said the session held at the National sporting stadium at Queens Park attracted about 60 children from around the St. George’s parish.
Black Wizard lauded the Ministry of Culture representative, Berkeley Brathwaite, for spearheading the workshop and for understanding that more needs to be done to produce the Calypsonian of the future who is needed to keep the artform alive.
“He (Brathwaite) is the one who organised these three workshops against a number of odds. These days you have to fight to get certain things done when it comes to government spending money. If we still had these three very successful workshops, and he realise also based on even my recommendation, we can’t really have a one-off workshop if you really want to train people in Calypso”, he said.
“…So, I think that he should be given the support to do more than one workshop – at least three workshops especially for new Calypsonians. One isn’t sufficient, but I think he must be given the praise for holding out to try to get a little workshop, and he also agree that we need to do more and the ministry needs to do more if we are serious about calypso,” he added.
The veteran calypsonian did not agree that persons should see the session as just “another workshop” since it can help to turn out persons who can become judges for competition.
“If for instance, you come to a calypso workshop, you might not want to be a Calypsonian but in your village you might be called upon to adjudicate in a competition. So, they might be capable of doing that…it helps you to even enjoy calypso better because then you understand the components of a good calypso, so when you hear a calypso, you do your own judging.
Black Wizard is hopeful that the workshops can help turn out “more Calypsonians, and better Calypsonians” in Grenada.
He stressed that even among the ranks of the senior Calypsonians, there is a noticeable drop in standard.
“…We don’t have the type of composition that we used to have, the standard is not like it used to be before,” he said.
The veteran Calypsonian also used the opportunity to make reference to the two calypso shows held over the weekend, dubbed, “Masters of Calypso” at the Trade Centre in Grand Anse and also “Made in Grenada”, a Mother’s Day concert held at the Spice Basket at Beaulieu.
He noted that both shows were very well attended and this is an indication that interest in Calypso has not died.
He said: “From my understanding both of the shows did well and people enjoyed themselves at both shows, and most of the songs are songs of the past. So it tells you that whereas in Dimanche Gras, where you cannot get as much as 1500 people, each show (over the weekend) had probably more than 1500 people. So it tells you then that people still like Calypso but you have to come good”.
Black Wizard called on the State to do more for the calypso artform and to show more interest in its development.
“I believe that the time has come when the State has to do more and not necessarily directed through the government, but the State, and when I say the State I mean the State and its body. For instance, you have through the Cultural Foundation, you have the Spicemas Corporation – they cannot just sit down and wait to see what would happen in terms of the product …. Calypso and Soca, but it must help to make the product what they want it to be”, he said.
The calypsonian was critical of the Grenada Cultural Foundation, saying that its role should be to “develop culture” while the Spicemas body should concentrate on putting on the national shows.
On his own participation in 2017 Spicemas in August, Black Wizard announced that he will not be taking to the stage but would be working alongside a few of the Calypsonians for the season.
He said: “Some of them I will be writing for them totally, and when I write the song for somebody, I don’t just write the song and give them. When you composing a song, you know what you want the final product to look like, and if somebody misinterprets your song, that could spoil your image; spoil your whole intention.
“If I write for somebody, I want to work with them right through.
They have to learn the song, and phrase it properly, interpret it properly. If you get in the finals of the Dimanche Gras …I would have to be a part of all that,” he added.