Trinidad and Tobago is known throughout the world as the birthplace of calypso music and one of the decisive aspects of the genre is the “extempo”. It is an abbreviation of “extemporaneous”, a form of impromptu calligraphy — which usually involves live contests in which artists spontaneously invent song lyrics on proposed themes — popular and entertaining, to some extent by the spicy disputes between the participants of these extemporal wars.
These interactive performances often include viewers repeating one of several choruses, the most common of which is santimanitay !, derived from the French phrase sans humanité (“without mercy”).
Amid the coronavirus pandemic, many Caribbean netizens – including those living abroad – have heeded Trinidad and Tobago's Extempo Monarch call, Brian London, to test their lyrical prowess in an extempore COVID-19 challenge. Three-time champion of the title of King of Calypso of Barbados, Ian Webster also took credit for starting the trend – regardless of who put the finishing touch, the response was phenomenal.
Among the “first responders” was Kevan Calliste, three-time Junior Extempo monarch, who would certainly appreciate that extempo, as a competitive sport, is ultimately judged on the inventiveness of the lyrics, and the poise and confidence with which is delivered.
Among the best samples was the current monarch of the calypso of Trinidad and Tobago, Terri Lyons, who urged Facebook users to “stay home … and not go wandering”:
On a serious note 'bout this COVID-19
You have to wash your hands and practice proper hygiene
And social distancing will make corona subside
So please comply and keep your ass inside
On a serious note about this COVID-19
You have to wash your hands and maintain proper hygiene.
And social distancing will make the crown (virus) give way
So please comply and stay inside
Lyons took the opportunity to challenge some of her peers, such as Trinidad and Tobago's calypso ex-Heather MacIntosh, who easily launched herself on YouTube:
The government trying the best they can to pound some sense into citizens
Man, every day they on the TV, asking, begging, pleading with we
Distance yourself, help flatten the curve; do them simple things your nation to serve
Now I adding my voice, telling John Public, ‘Stay home, stay safe and please don't get sick…’
The Government tries its best to make citizens see reason
Man, every day on TV, begging, begging, begging us
Stand out, help flatten the curve; do simple things to serve your nation
Now I add my voice, I say to Juan Público, 'Stay home, stay safe and please don't get sick …'.
On YouTube, Granada-born singer Jermaine Simon warned that the coronavirus does not discriminate, so everyone should strive to isolate themselves:
I sit home listening to the news thinking
Out Bout the deadly virus COVID-19
Sad, a lot of people dead and they gone
The rich, the old, the poor and the young …
I feel at home listening to the news and thinking
About the deadly virus COVID-19
Sad, a lot of people dead and gone
The rich, the old, the poor and the young …
Indeed, several singers from Granada came together to challenge and send a strong message to the public about how their behavior can help stop the spread of the virus.
Arthur Allain, musician from Saint Lucia, also contributed and made the country's Prime Minister Allen Chastanet call him “true patriot and ambassador.” His song included these lyrics:
Ladies and gentlemen, the message now is clear
Corona is serious but have no fear
We can win this war, yeah, we can win with ease
All we ask is that you kindly stay at home please…
Ladies and gentlemen, the message is now clear
Coronavirus is serious, but don't be afraid
We can win this war, yes we can win easily
All we ask is that you stay home, please …
Of course, not all of the participants were professional singers, but many had musical talent, such as Trinidadian Sonja Tee, who published her song on Facebook:
These are strange times and you know it's true
COVID-19 has changed everything that we do
We were living our lives with normality, going to work, visiting friends and family
We thought that those times would forever last
But this global crisis put that in the past…
These are strange times and you know it is true.
COVID-19 has changed everything we do
We lived normally, we went to work, we visited friends and family
We thought those times would last forever
But this global crisis left that in the past …
This anonymous man from Dominica also offered a valuable contribution:
Well, I say it must be a curse, this COVID-19 virus
And it taking over the world, every man, woman, boy and girl
It affecting every country, cripple the world economy
Everybody now search their soul, I say Jah taking back control…
Well I say it must be a curse, this COVID-19 virus
And it took over the world, every man, woman, boy and girl
Affects all countries, paralyzes the world economy
Now everyone is looking for his soul, I say to regain control …
Three generations of Caribbean people living outside, with health workers, also came together to challenge. The video was widely broadcast on WhatsApp:
As nurses in the USA, this is what we would like to say:
Coronavirus, ah telling you, man, we don't think that USA has a plan
But we will fight through and through, stay in your house I'm telling you
Wash your hands, wear a mask, and don't get corona up in your ass
As nurses in the United States, this is what we would like to say:
Coronavirus, ah I tell you, we do not believe that the United States has a plan
But we will fight to the end, stay at your house, I tell you.
Wash your hands, put on a mask, and the coronavirus does not come from behind you.
With a serious message with a touch of humor, Amery Browne, ambassador and former MP from Trinidad and Tobago, had the last word:
Some turn to science, some start to pray, some in the supermarket all day
Some spraying Lysol under their shoe, some buy out all the toilet tissue
But from the facts we cannot hide, our social distancing must be wide
So listen to me, swallow your pride, my friend – keep your tail inside
Some turn to science, others start to pray, some in the supermarket all day
Some spray cleansers under shoes, others buy all the toilet paper
But we cannot hide from the facts, our social distance must be wide
So listen to me, swallow your pride, my friend – keep your butt at home.