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Young Calypsonians Carry on the Culture

"Young Scabbie," aka Deonandre Cascen, singing "Fish and Fungi." Two-dozen young men and women, from kindergarteners to juniors in high school, took to the stage at Island Center Sunday, singing and dancing to the calypso beat and sending a message against violence in the community.
This year’s event marked the 27th consecutive year for the Junior Calypso show, the brainchild of 11-time Calypso Monarch Camille "King Derby" Macedon.
Derby wrote many of the songs and worked with each of the performers, coaching them and helping them rehearse. Al Baptiste of Xpress Band worked up the musical arrangement for each song and, as they have for two decades now, the Xpress Band provided the instrumental music and backup singing. The audience laughed as Derby cracked jokes and also cheered and applauded the young men and women who took to the stage to perform before hundreds of their neighbors.
While many of the songs revolved around this year’s serious theme of "non-violence," some selections touched on the joys of the Christmas festival. Noel "Junito" Tirado, age 5, won the Pee Wee division with "Coney Island," a ditty about the annual carnival rides at the festival park.
Looking heroic in a gold lamé suit and V.I. flag cape for his first performance, Deonandre "Young Scabbie" Cascen, a first-grader at Eulalie R. Rivera Elementary, won the Pee Wee I division, showing off some fancy footwork and singing about the joys of being "born Crucian" and eating traditional food over the holidays in "Fish and Fungi."
Pearl B. Larsen third-grader Gira "Think A Cute" Newton won Pee Wee II singing how we "better believe there are shootings" and how the "idiocy" needs to stop with "violence."
Nunet "Sister B." Bailey, a Larsen sixth-grader, got a big response from the crowd with her energetic performance, winning the Intermediate Division with "Thank You," a paean to Gov. John deJongh Jr., Delegate Donna Christensen and Sen. Craig Barshinger for their steady support of the Junior Calypso Show. All three honorees were sitting in the center of the second row.
Keshaundia "Princess K" Quinn, a fifth-grader at Alfredo Andrews Elementary, won Intermediate II. She sang "My Plans," dedicated to her late great-aunt Kathleen Francis, who she called "Special K."
"My auntie K always encouraged my singing and performing," Quinn said after receiving her trophy.
Kayla "Kalypso Princess" Galloway, a 10th-grader at St. Croix Elementary Complex, won Junior Division with "Who Dropped the Ball," an original song by her mother, Carla Benjamin, which pointed the finger for youth violence back at adults for setting the example.
Glenn "Prince Smiley" Thomas wowed the crowd with both his singing and his dancing, grooving and moving as he sang "Future Plans," about his plans to graduate high school and go to college, not hang out and wind up in jail like some of his classmates. Thomas, an eighth-grader at Arthur A., Richards, won Junior Division II.
Over the years, more than 170 of his students have gone on to college, and more than 20 have gone on to compete as adult calypsonians, Derby said.
"We need to promote the calypso more, on the radio and in the media," he said. "Calypso is the music that helped free the slaves. It was a way for the workers on the plantations to communicate, and it is a vital part of our culture we need to preserve."
For more calypso music this Christmas, the Calypso Monarch finals will be held Dec. 30 at 8 p.m. at Island Center for the Performing Arts.
Here is a complete list of the 2009 Junior Calypso Show contestants:
Pee Wee division
— Winner: Noel Tirado, 4
— First runner-up: G’Kosi Boyce, 4
Peewee 1
–Winner: Deonandre "Young Scabbie" Cascen, 1st Grade,
–First runner-up:Aliya "Queen Lisa" Hutchinson, 1st Grade,
–Second runner-up: Meschach Justin, 1st Grade
Peewee 2,
–Winner Gira "Think A Cute" Newton, 3rd Grade
–First runner-up: Jahnaya "Lil Maya" Christopher, 3rd Grade,
–Winner: Nunet "Sister B" Bailey, 6th Grade
–First runner-up: Gerard "Mighty GDT" Thomas, 7th Grade
–Second runner-up: An’Zariah "Nubian Princess" Benjamin, 5th Grade
–Also competing: Daryle "King Cyrille" Cyrille, 6th Grade
Intermediate 1
–Winner: Keshaundia Quinn
–First runner-up: LaMalliah Milligan, 5th Grade
–Second runner-up: T’Shane "Lady Shannie" Perpie,
–Also competing: Dariah "Queen Diva" Griffin, 4th Grade; LaQuisha "Queen Quisha" 5th Grade; Aron "Triple L." Cyrille, 4th Grade; Richardia "Princess R" Wells, 5th Grade; Christian Nieves, 4th Grade
Junior Calypsonian
–Winner: Kayla "Kalypso Princess" Galloway, 11th Grade
–First runner-up: Demaris "Queen Terror" Belardo, 10th Grade
Junior 1 Calypsonian
–Winner: Glenn "Prince Smiley" Thomas Jr., 8th Grade
–First runner-up: Kafeeliah "Lady Lovely" Caesar, 8th Grade
–Second runner-up: D’Andra "Lady Florence" Benjamin, 8th Grade

For a complete schedule, photos, music samples, and all manner of information about this year’s festival, go to www.stxfestival.com.

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