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by Ian Jackson

Many calypso pundits would agree that Dominica has produced quite a number of charismatic calypso kings.  There are those who were blessed with great voices as Super L, Ventura, Picky, Breaker, Scratchie, Idol, Wizard, Dice, Solo, Booplay and a few others.  They were those who were very charismatic and like a magnet pulled people with their stage presence and personality as Tronada, NC, Rabbit, and Hunter, while others were very unique in their presentation and stage antics like Liberator, Man Himself, Ghost, Spider, Mico, Shakey, Natty and Son of de Saint.

However very rarely over the past decade that calypso kings have possess both the voice and charisma of King Hurricane, Brakes and De Scrunter.  Cleve Jean-Jacques a musician turned calypsonian is the country’s best example of an artist who made successful the transition to Calypso.  A leading guitarist, bassist and vocalist for top Dominican groups, the Hurricane is tall, elegant crystal clear, captivating on stage and the ladies dubbed him at one time as the most handsome Calypsonian,  His dreadlocks added to his mysticism on stage.  In 1996 one of his biggest hits “Unarmed and Dangerous” penned by Pat Aaron won him not only the National title for the third time, but he was crowned Caribbean Monarch in St Maarten that same year amongst top Trinidadian acts.  It is no surprise then that three time Calypso King Hurricane will go down as of the most awesome Hurricane forces on the calypso stage.

Every Dominican will remember “Keep the Candles Burning” “Malaway” and the mega road march “Workers” of 2000.  Brakes was certainly one of the most, if not the most lovable and pleasant personalities on and off stage.  Branker John cricketer, youth worker, politician, calypsonian now in the pursuit of the priesthood was not as complex an individual as his various vocations seem to indicate.  One could not help supporting Brakes even though in your heart you had your personal favourite for the crown.  Brakes had an ease, a never ending smile and charisma on stage with a captivating pleasing voice which for most was irresistible.

In contrast it was Scrunter’s flair and lavway which kept one spelled bound from his first appearance on stage with 1988 road march “Catholic”.  The hits kept coming “Farmer Banana”, “Venus”, “Kaiso Kaiso”, “I’ll Look Into It”. Andrew Bazil identified with the rural class from the east Morne Jaune and Riviere Cyrique.  He became the “mouth piece of the nation”.  His call to patriotism his sing along “Na Na Nay”, almost on every occasion his theme of love for country moved him to marry Dominica on a couple of occasion in full view of thousands of patrons who echoed his cry “My God” or simply “Dominica, anything to do, I do it for you, for I am in love with you”.  At the same time Scrunter was renown for controversy as he states in kaiso “I can write a song to throw a government down” Scrunter is one of the few calypsonian who can take a mediocre song and present it with such flair and conviction and convert it to final material.  Was it his voice, or the stage antics of having his arms thrown behind his head while he spinning on one leg, one may ever know.  It’s probably a combination of all.

As a three time king Himself and one to have made it to the finals the most in Dominica’s calypso history, the Scrunter and Hurricane rivalry will be remembered as the fiercest, the art from has experience notwithstanding the duels between the Brakes and Hunter of Hunter’s recent battles with King Dice.

Ian Jackson is an established writer who has published numerous books of poetry and prose. He regularly contributes articles on various aspects of Dominican culture to local newspapers and other publications. His most recent publication is the book entitled “Lyrics and Melody: 50 years of calypso, 30 years of Independence. from which the above article is taken.  Ian is also a popular calypso artist known as Black Starliner

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