Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Allen too bright for rivals



“The ball has been passed.” That was reigning monarch Kurt Allen’s response to his victory at the Dimanche Gras competition at the Queen’s Park Savannah, Port-of-Spain, on Sunday night. Singing in position number 15, Allen sang Too Bright and won the judges’ nod, becoming Calypso Monarch 2010 and earning $500,000. Allen’s gallant effort with a song he wrote defeated veteran bard Dr Hollis Liverpool, who was making a bid for his eighth title with When Mas Is Mas. “The ball has been passed. Cro Cro called me just before I went on stage and said, ‘Pass pass the ball.’ The ball has been passed,” said Allen. He is a member of the Icons Tent, managed by Weston Rawlins, fondly known as Cro Cro.
“After I won, he called me and congratulated me. He said, ‘The ball has indeed been passed’,” added Allen. Sharing in his victory were his wife Fabienne and his daughter Choc'lat, 16. Allen said Cro Cro’s words of encouragement “meant a lot.” “My style has been tailored to Cro Cro’s, Stalin’s and Chalkdust’s. When he called and challenged me to pass the ball, that gave me an extra boost to go on that stage. He told me what to do and how to prepare myself,” said Allen, who is in his 30s. The picong and compliments about passing the ball stemmed from his bid for Dimanche Gras honours in 1997. “When I sang Pass The Ball, I invited David Rudder, the late Pretender, Mighty Striker (first official recognised Calypso Monarch) to come on stage,” he said. The gist of the song was it was time for the elders of the art form to give the younger ones a chance to express themselves and excel. He also registered his respect for the contribution these gentlemen made to the art form.  
Allen placed eighth that year. But he quickly beat a retreat to the soca dens to sing with Roy Cape. But the call of social/political commentary beckoned. It came home to roost in 2010. “I had to write about the stupid decisions that leaders make as opposed to what people would like to see. There is a perception the leaders don’t like to listen to the people. I wanted to give the small man a voice,” he said. Allen describes his song as not being anti-government or anti-PNM. The song boasts a marriage of good-natured satire and irony. “Too Bright. It is just about looking at leaders who are supposed to be intelligent and examining the dumb things they do. Too Bright (like Palance) is also dialect. It is a cliche. People know the saying ‘Too Bright’,” said Allen. 
University of Woodford Square
In his theatrical presentation, Allen depicted the University of Woodford Square with a backdrop of the Red House—the seat of the government and the opposition. The late Dr Eric Williams had declared it a ‘university’ since citizens met there to discuss current issues and even scribble their views on a chalkboard. “We were depicting Woodford Square. A lot of people have the perception that it is only mad people and vagrants there. But I wanted to get across the idea that normal people also frequent there. It is up to the Parliament to listen to the voice of the people,” said Allen. On a normal day, Jehovah Witnesses ply their magazines.
Sitting on a bench, violinist Stanley Roach had relocated from the major transit hub at City Gate. Armed with protein giants, the nuts man put in an appearance. Hand in a sling, even Kamla Persad-Bissessar and Jack Warner evoked laughter from the crowd. While Allen’s graduation garb cost a fortune, his costuming on Dimanche Gras cost a mere $25. “I made use of old stuff. I cut an old T-shirt and pants I had. Stuff I used to sleep. It cost about $25,” said Allen. The set was built by Rajesh Ramlal and the artistic director was Wendell Etienne. Kurtis Gross played Prime Minister Patrick Manning. Allen was not afraid to give him a clout and send him to Woodford Square to hear—and heed the voice of the people.

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