Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : February 27th 2014 Contents B8
Guardian www.guardian.co.tt Thursday, February 27, 2014
KEISHEL A WILLIAMS
In the height of the Carnival season, The
T&T Guardian met with singer/songwriter
Kurt Allen at his cocoa house on Mount El
Tuche, away from the hustle and bustle of
Allen intends to build his new home on the
hill, near the cocoa house because that envi-
ronment allows him to be closer to nature and
allows his creativity to blossom. Until the actual
house is built, for now he spends most of his
time in the serene confines of the cocoa house
he constructed in honour of his Amerindian
We caught up with Allen as he entered the
2014 Carnival season with renewed vigour and
purpose, profiling a vision of unity for two
music genres in T&T---calypso and soca.
It is on this hill Allen got the inspiration for
his new song Mountain which he performed
at the International Soca Monarch 2014 semi-
finals. This was the first time he entered the
competition since his win in 1999 with Dus
Them (Bees in Town).
Time to focus on something
other than picong
Allen was a semi-finalist in both the Power
and Groovy category with Mountain, a polit-
ically-tinged song with a soca vibe and Sweet
Sizzling Summer (SSS), a groovy tune which
takes a light-hearted look at social issues.
In 1999, Allen s aim was to "feed the ego of
Kurt Allen" by vying for the Soca Monarch
title. However, in 2014 he would like the true
winner to be the music. Allen, who sings in
the Kaiso Karavan tent at La Joya, St Joseph,
has won Tuco s Political Commentary title for
the past two years. Last year, his song The Last
Badjohn earned him the title.
However, there is a rumour that Allen will
make 2014 his last year for singing the kind of
political commentary he is known for. But it s
false, he says, in that the political commentary
will always be a part of his repertoire, but the
style will vary.
Allen decided it was time to focus on some-
thing other than the picong and bashing of
politicians in every song---that s been done.
The 44-year-old, who is the only calypsonian
to have won International Soca Monarch,
National Calypso Monarch and Young King,
released his political commentary Last Psalm
of King David, on February 3. Allen describes
the song "intervention through introspection,"
and it urges the public to spend time con-
tributing positively to the fabric of society when
they are young and able.
This year, his primary focus is not on winning
a title, but instead on eradicating "musical
apartheid" in T&T, this is how he describes
the separation of soca and calypso.
"The person who was the soca ambassador
for the world, SuperBlue, never called himself
a soca artiste, he was a calypsonian singing in
the calypso tent and he was still doing his job
in the parties.
"Sparrow and David Rudder were winning
Road March titles and also Calypso Monarch
titles. There was no Soca Monarch competition
at that time, but if there was, they obviously
would have been winning," he said. "So to me
there was never a separation."
This year Allen intends to bridge the gap
between the two genres---soca and calypso---
which he feels are, in fact, one and the same.
As he sat in a low bamboo chair at the cocoa
house, Allen spoke fervently about the event
that started the separation of soca from calyp-
so---The International Soca Monarch (which
was then the Trinidad Soca Monarch). Accord-
ing to Allen, the competition was introduced
in 1993 for calypsonians like SuperBlue and
Tambu---who s music stood out due to their
composition, harmony and infectious melodies
that excelled further than that of Kaiso---to get
"their recognition as kings, as they are rightfully
so, and they were not being fully recognised
in the Calypso Monarch," Allen said. "From
then things started to drift apart quickly."
Allen said with this separation of the com-
petitions, the younger artistes did not "get the
calypso factor," which echoes the sentiments
of the legendary SuperBlue who recently stated
in a Metro Magazine interview:
"The young people come in with soca roots.
I was from kaiso, the mind of the kaisonian
different." They no longer wanted to be part
of the calypso tents, but instead in the soca
fetes and the marketing and promotions created
the idea that they were separate.
"I fell victim to that, because people were
trying to pigeon-hole me as either a calypsonian
or a soca artiste. They weren t getting the con-
nection that my dream was to be like a Mighty
Sparrow, Mighty Duke, or the Lord Kitchener,"
he said with a hint of frustration. These artistes
embodied the growth of calypso music into
soca music without qualms: "Soca is the son
or daughter of calypso," Allen insisted.
However, the widespread interest soca garners
frequently overshadows calypso, often to the
point where some young calypsonians to turn
strictly to performing soca due to its financial
benefits. As the years pass by, eventually things
began to fall apart for calypsonians. A major
obstacle they face is funding.
Artistes funding their own calypsoes
Allen laments that artistes now have to fund
their own calypsoes, whereas in the past they
received financial backing from producers, who
"funded full-length albums, and calypsonians
actually made money." Many soca artistes---
unless they are with a label---also fund their
own music, however often make a successful
living through endorsements as well as inter-
national tours and local performances during
and after the Carnival season which gives them
the resources to put back into their music. Most
calypsonians are rarely booked to perform after
the Carnival season.
Allen, on the other hand, continues to chal-
lenge the norm by creating avenues for himself
to ensure work never ends. After winning the
2010 National Calypso Monarch, Allen used
his success and winnings to create viable avenues
for him to earn a living by touring. In 2011 he
did a successful tour of the music festival market
in the US with 75 performances. He was asked
to return the following year, but he received
no government funding and was grounded that
However, throughout that tour, Allen was
able to truly see what the international music
market was still looking for when it comes to
Kurt Allen at his cocoa house on Mount El Tuche where he got inspiration for his 2014 hit
Mountain. PHOTO: KEISHEL A WILLIAMS
Kurt Allen, calypsoca king on a mission
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