(Trinidad Guardian) Youth triumphed over experience at the Calypso Monarch competition on Sunday night as 24-year-old relative newcomer Helon Francis beat out a host of veteran calypsonians to claim his first crown.
Francis beat six former monarchs and Soca Monarch champ Aaron “Voice” St Louis by nine points as he earned the $700,000 first prize in front of a modest audience of the Dimanche Gras show at the Grand Stand at the Queen’s Park Savannah.
Francis is no stranger to the “Big Yard” as he placed second to his cousin Devon Seale in 2016 when he coped the Young King title with The Real Bandits.
Francis, who performed his nation-building composition, Change, in position 14, was left speechless as the results were announced shortly after 1 am.
“It is wonderful,” an emotional Francis said as he was embraced by his mother, relatives and his production team.
He said he was happy to join a group of calypsonians who moved on from their success in the Young Kings competition with a Calypso Monarch title.
“I am a person who appreciates the history and I am just happy to be part of those history books,” Francis said moments after becoming one of the youngest calypsonians to ever cop the prize.
He said the inspiration for the song came from his mission to encourage citizens to improve T&T through their own behaviour.
“If we want a better nation it starts with us. We are the first thing that has change. We always aim at the leaders and put them down when we don’t get what we want but it starts from here,” he said.
Fresh off his win at Friday’s Soca Monarch competition, his third consecutive title, St Louis was a clear favourite as sections of the audience chanted his name even before and after he graced the stage.
St Louis thrilled with his high energy performance of his crossover hit, Year for Love, which featured well-choreographed dance routine and a protracted pyrotechnic display, which raised the temperature at the venue.
St Louis seemed destined to become the first person to secure the Soca and Calypso Monarchs in the same year with the same song, even before the second round of contestants had their turn.
A worthy contender arose late in the show as Francis stepped on stage near to the end.
Francis impressed as he coupled powerful and catchy lyrics with a melodic performance expected of a veteran.
Beginning his performance with spoken word introduction and him playing an acoustic guitar, Francis clearly articulated the positive message of his song.
“Change the change within our country. Change the change so the whole world could see…Change the change within our society otherwise, we have a bandit factory. Things will not change despite what we do, if change doesn’t start with you,” Francis sang as he got a standing ovation from the audience.
Speaking with reporters after the results, St Louis, a debutante in the competition, explained that he was happy with the outcome despite narrowly missing out on a record.
“It was a blessing to be here. I want to give thanks to the people, the supporters and my entire team for putting on a production that I didn’t even expect,” St Louis said as he stated that he would consider returning to the competition next year. St Louis’ second prize was $400,000.
The most shocking performance on the night was from defending monarch and record nine-time winner Dr Hollis “Chalkdust” Liverpool, who came last.
Liverpool’s composition Eulogy was a tribute to former president George Maxwell Richards, who died last month.
Also joining Liverpool in the bottom half of 17 member ranking was former monarchs Michael “Sugar Aloes” Osouna, Sandra “Singing Sandra” Millington, Kurt Allen and Karen Asche, whose joint ninth place finish with Dexter “The Stinger” Parsons was a shock to her vocal fans in the audience, who expressed their opinion known while the results were being announced.
Former monarch Duane O’Connor shocked himself his seventh-place finish as he was only granted permission to perform an hour before the show after a High Court judge upheld his lawsuit against the competition’s organisers, the Trinbago Unified Calypsonians Organisation (TUCO).
O’Connor, who appeared exhausted from his legal battle with TUCO which began after the Calypso Fiesta semi-finals last weekend, likened his respectable finish to his victory in 2012.
“I honestly thought they would drop me somewhere between 15th and 17th. When I heard them call out the results, it was like when I won. I cannot tell you how happy I am,” O’Connor, whose son Duane Junior won this year’s Junior Calypso Monarch title and performed in the show.
Despite the poor turnout of fans, those in attendance were treated to a cultural showcase of traditional Carnival characters organised by the show’s producer Dr Rudolph Ottley and special performances from veteran calypsonian David Rudder and soca artists Neil “Iwer” George, Olatunji Yearwood and Shurwayne Winchester. The show was rounded off with a performance by Dil-E-Nadan, who performed a cataloge of 2018 soca hits.