Trinidad and Tobago’s 2018 Calypso Monarch Helon Francis came to the attention of the global steelband community back in 2013 when he vocalized One For Bertie, a tribute to the late Pan icon, panist, master tuner and builder, Bertie Marshall. Here, documented by journalist Sharmain Baboolal, are insights into Helon’s thoughts and vision overall, relative to the calypso artform
2018 Calypso Monarch Helon Francis on stage during his winning performance
Trinidad & Tobago, W.I. - Humble as ever Calypso Monarch Helon Francis is hoping he can do justice to the title that was entrusted to him on Dimanche Gras night [February 11].
The 24-year-old was, in the eye of the public, an upset winner, when everyone had eyes on Aaron “Voice” St Louis to take the title.
As he said a prayer before he walked on the stage, Helon said he felt he had a chance to win like everyone else. “What helped me was the fact that the competition was open. Anyone who came good on that night could have won.
“There was more buzz about “Voice” and all the people whom you usually expect to come good.
“I was not the one they were looking at and it made things a little bit easier,” the Monarch, holder of a Music Degree (Vocals) from the University of Trinidad and Tobago (UTT) said.
“Besides the buzz around “Voice”, no one stood out largely,” he said.
On the night of the competition, the focused young man said “I kept a clear head and said a prayer before I went on.”
Performing down the line at #14 out of 17 contestants, Helon said ”I kept my corner. I did not want too much noise around me as I just focused on what I was there to do.”
And after he was announced as the winner?
“I had a lot of thoughts including a feeling of disbelief,” he said.
“It was something that I always thought about, growing up and watching the Calypso Monarch competition”, said the youth from Cascade who is the only boy among his five siblings.
What does he expect from his reign?
“Set the right examples,” he said as matter of fact.
“I am fortunate enough to be a young calypso monarch, younger than most, so I can use the opportunity and the energy that was given by God to at least try to further the art form,” he said on Wednesday morning.
“I have thoughts and ideas but I am not looking to put them out just yet,” he said.
And what’s his secret?
“Just being natural. Being yourself is magical. People don’t be themselves anymore. They feel they have to be someone else.
“My strength in self comes from just knowing myself, by observing myself. Part of my job is observation,” the young Monarch said.
“If I cannot observe and understand myself to be fully confident in my ability, in who I believe I am, if I cannot understand myself, who I am moving with every day of my life, how can I understand the country, the people and what’s happening?” he asked.
What does a 24-year-old want for Calypso?
“I want to be instrumental in trying to help calypso, helping the younger ones to understand the freedom to express themselves musically.
“There is a lot of regurgitation in our art and it’s getting to the point where the regurgitation is starting to hurt it and it is getting boring for some people.
“That is why we have issues getting people attracted to our music, we keep regurgitating. Nothing is wrong with it to a point, but we just can’t keep doing it.
“We need to start allowing people to be creative, let them do things with it.
“We have to own the music, we have that attitude where no one should touch this. For example, with regard to the structure of calypso, some say if it is not a certain way it is not calypso.
“We have to allow people to be creative if we want to see the beauty of the thing,” Helon said.
What plans do the folks at Trinbago Unified Calypso Association (TUCO), the Ministry of Arts and Culture and the Ministry of Education have for this talent? Will it be another year before we hear from him again? Heart Lion, do you have something to say? Lutalo Masimba?
A Journalist/Editor based in Trinidad and Tobago, with 35 years experience in print, broadcast and digital media. As a founding member of the T&T Mirror Newspaper, I served as photo journalist, columnist and editor over 23 years.
My experience in broadcast journalism started and ended at the now defunct National Broadcasting Service (Radio 610 AM and Radio 100 FM). I honed my skills in broadcast journalism at the Radio Netherland Training Centre (RNTC) and I am a certified media trainer.
Single-handedly, I established a small but effective News Department at Trinidad and Tobago Radio Network Limited (TTRN). As a seasoned news woman I am skilled in photojournalism, parliament and court reporting, writing and producing for print, electronic (radio and video) as well as digital media and promotions. I have mentored and trained a few younger writers and producers along the way. For this and more I earned a National Award in 2012, the Humming Bird Medal (Gold). I am the mother of a young scholar, an undergrad at Columbia University in New York, and a lover of steelpan music.
contact Sharmain Baboolal at: email@example.com