Let us celebrate some of the women who made their mark in calypso!
By Cevel Regis
This is not the first time that a woman has won the crown but we cannot pass up this opportunity to celebrate some of the women who made their mark in calypso. In 2020 not only was a woman crowned the National Calypso Monarch, but we also saw a historic clean sweep for the top 3 places — with Karene Asche and Heather Mac Intosh placing 2nd and 3rd respectively.
Since the mid 1970s the number of female calypsonians represented in calypso tents have increased and we continue to see women move towards capturing the pride of place in calypso tents and competitions both locally and internationally. For decades our female calypsonians have been singing songs to elevate and empower women, stabalise family life and other social and political ills in society.
Here are 8 powerful women who have cemented their names in calypso over the years. This is certainly not a complete list of women who work tirelessly in the fraternity, but it highlights those who have imprinted their footprints in calypso history.
Thelma Lane (Lady Trinidad) was the first woman to sing in a calypso tent and opened the door for other female calypsonians. She started singing at a very young age and was also part of a group called Matchless Boys. Lady Trinidad debut in the Crystal Palace Calypso Tent in 1935 performing two calypsoes “Advice To Young Women” and “Old Man’s Darling.” She was also the first woman to record a calypso in 1937.
Maureen “Lady Iere” St John started off as part of a duet with her husband. She began singing her own songs back in 1942. Portraying a persona of motherly-love and good-wife image, Lady Iere performed women empowerment calypsoes such as “A Warning To Mothers” and her famous “Love Me or Leave Me.”
Francine Edwards known as Singing Francine worked alongside the likes of Calypso Rose to change the dynamics of calypso. Born in Barbados, she migrated to Trinidad in the 1950s where she became a backup vocalist for Kitchener and Sparrow. Among her hits include “Happiness,” “Mass in the Savannah” and “Carnival Fever.” Singing Francine won the Calypso Queen of The World title 5 times and has built a considerable body of work in parang music.
McCartha Lewis (Calypso Rose) is a role model for many if not all female calypsonians that came after her. Calypso Rose was the first woman to win the National Calypso Monarch title in 1978 and she is responsible for having the name of the competition changed from Calypso King.
She has been composing and performing calypso since age 15 and has managed to dominate and sustain her career for more than fifty years. Calypso Rose is the recipient of many local and international awards for her contribution to the art.
Sandra Des Vignes- Millington , sobriquet Singing Sandra was the first woman to win the National Calypso Monarch title since 1978. Her two compositions “Song For Healing” and “Voices From The Ghetto” were enough for her to get the nod from the judges and reign supreme on the night. This win also reaffirmed the place of women in calypso music. Singing Sandra is the only woman to win the Calypso Monarch title two times. She won the competition again in 2003 singing “For Whom The Bells Toll” and “Ancient Riddims”
In the early days of her calypso career Denyse Plummer was on the receiving end of unappreciative audiences. Plummer defied all odds becoming a successful calypsonian and won the Calypso Monarch title in 2001 with her popular patriotic composition “Nah Leaving” and “Heroes.” She has left the calypso competition sphere and is now a gospel artiste.
In 2011 Karene Asche became the fourth woman to win the National Calypso Monarch title. Her winning compositions were “Careful What You Ask For” and “Uncle Jack.” Karene also won the Junior Calypso Monarch title, NWAC Calypso Queen among other regional titles over the years.
On Thursday 20th February 2020, Terri Lyons became the 5th woman to win the National Calypso Monarch title. Her performances of “Meghan My Dear” and “Obeah” were enough to earn her a spot in the history books of women monarchs. Lyons is the daughter of living legend Austin “Superblue” Lyons.