Trinidad and Tobago’s Extemporama

Last week in Trinidad, Port-of-Spain, the Northern Region of Trinbago Unified Calypsonians’ Organization (TUCO) staged the second edition of Extemporama. Making waves in calypso history, two politicians actively participated in a duel on stage, with a face-off between Black Sage (Phillip Murray) and Winston “Gypsy” Peters (Arts and Multiculturalism Minister), as they competed with other aspirants. As The Guardian points out, “with no cash or prizes and no outright individual winner declared, the extempore exponents squared off against each, representing their zones in a relaxed manner.” The Guardian reports:

A highlight on the evening was delivered in extempore mode by the Arts Minister who, noting patrons fanning from the heat in the hall, disclosed that next year’s edition of Extemporama will be held in the air-conditioned National Academy for the Performing Arts (NAPA). Musical accompaniment, offering three different melodies for extempore, was provided by Moods, led by Bunny Brown, with emcee chores done by Mervyn Telfer and Shirlaine Hendrickson. The event was attended by a full house and amongst patrons were Minister of Sport & Youth Affairs Anil Roberts; Costa Rica ambassador Ricardo Thompson Thompson; Deputy Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Arts and Multiculturalism Vel Lewis; Justice Malcolm Hislop; former police commissioner Everald Snaggs; former NCC official Canute Spencer, NACC official Anum Bankole; just installed Plipdeco Board member Ibn de Leon (son of the late Roaring Lion); and author Eintou Pearl Springer.

Also seen were former national calypso monarchs Black Stalin and Luta, as well as veterans Bro Superior, Conqueror and Allrounder. Having gone through a self-introduction in extempore, the bards went through an elimination round. Bards in the fray, and their zones, included Black Sage, Contender, Fire Ball, Gary Ranks (North); Lingo, Lady Africa, Sheldon John, Dion Diaz (East); Gypsy, Abebele, Short Pants (East); and Lady Irie (Tobago).

Coming in for a lot of praise, including kudos from his rivals was Fire Ball. People complimented the young soca star for venturing into the realm of calypso’s oldest genre. A Billboard chart-rider, Fire Ball handled himself admirably on stage amongst his older and much more experienced colleagues. Also turning in a commendable performance was Diaz. Had this being a bona fide extempore monarch contest, aside from Gypsy, in serious contention would have been Black Sage, Lingo, John and Lady Africa, regular contenders when actual competition in this form of calypso is staged at Carnival time in the Queen’s Park Savannah. Lingo in particular was a crowd-pleaser with his humorous spin on topics he selected.

Turning in a sterling guest performance was Relator, himself a former national monarch. Relator paid tribute to the greats of the past, including Terror, Fluke, Popo and Jackson, describing them as the bards who added calypso to calypso. [. . .]

As with most indigenous cultural expressions, there must be competition so the participants were divided into groups with the audience, by way of cheers, deciding the best of the lot. At the end of it all, with organisers keeping an eye on the clock for a midnight climax, and the audience being final arbiter, an outright champion from the threesome of Gypsy, Lady Africa and Black Sage could not be decided, so the audience declared the entire group the night’s best act.

For original article and photo of Gypsy, Lady Africa, and Black Sage, see

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