Calypso music is the national art form of Trinidad & Tobago, and this infectious, percussion-driven music is deeply ingrained in the culture of most of the Lesser Antilles.
Much of what we're occasionally exposed to in the US is pleasant enough Las Vegas-homogenized pablum designed to sell cocktails at Tiki-style beach bars - think "The Banana Boat Song" - but it's roots go deep into the history of the island, where slaves used it as a form of communication and entertainment since the French refused to allow them to participate in Carnival.
It evolved through the British colonial period into an outlet for social commentary, gossip and political views, replete with double entendres designed to get it past the censors, a tradition which has continued into the present day even though no one is going to send a truckload of British squaddies around to kick in your door and beat crud out of Grandpa because of a song he performed that someone figured out was less than flattering to the crown.
The point being that to Trinidadians, Calypso isn't boozy music to grope to, it's about something.
Which brings us to the biggest festival of Calypso on the island - and, thus, anywhere on Earth - a competition called Dimanche Gras (Big Sunday), the traditional highlight of Carnival, where finalists compete for a cash prize of $2,000,000 and the crown of "Calypso Monarch"
It's sort of like a Caribbean American Idol, only with contestants who actually have talent.
The shock winner this year was one Karene Asche - it's almost unheard of for a woman to win, and even more so for a young (26) one competing against some of the greatest names in Calypso - who performed a song lovingly entitled Uncle Jack and regardless of the lyrics if this doesn't get you up and moving today then you're, quite simply, dead:
[ame="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dPBy9FTkXkE&feature=related"]YouTube - Dimanche Gras 2011 Finals - Karene Asche 2[/ame]
De stutterin kill meh dead!!!!!!!!!!
Eat your heart out Shawn Francis.
For the music purists amongst you, this is done in an authentic West African style called Kaiso, traditionally used for very subtle political satire, a fact which absolutely no one down there missed.
The opening shows Karene crossing the stage to hand a soccer ball to an oddly familiar looking fellow who, at various times, is seen playing with an airplane and some toy cars, references to some of his adventures as Public Works Minister. At about 4 minutes, a man with curly hair and a microphone starts chasing him around and Karene mentions "Andrew Jennings" several times.
At five minutes they're clearly arguing. Thirty seconds later he holds up a sign reading "HNIC" which is a reference to the first cabinet meeting after the election when Warner told everyone that he was now the "Head N****** In Charge" on T&T.
By the end the refrain has gone from "Uncle Jack" to "Pay the Warriors".
I've listened to it 20 times at least and I can still only pick up about a third of the lyrics, and maybe you can do better since they're not available anyplace, but the point is clear enough.
Great, great fun, and while Jack has been publicly nonchalant about it, reportedly in private he is livid, but he's finally met someone he cannot be seen bullying: a national Calypso champion.