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MONDAY MAN: Sargeant in the thick of things

Lisa King

MONDAY MAN: Sargeant in the thick of things

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This year’s Crop Over Festival officially started last Saturdaywith the ceremonial delivery of the last canes and the gala at Queen’s Park, but preparations for various aspects of the annual festival had started long before.
One event which is always off to an early start and requires careful attention and preparation is the Junior Calypso Competition.
And one of the people who plays an active part every year is Anthony Sargeant, musician and school teacher. He has spent the last 26 years preparing the junior calypsonians for competition and has no intention of abandoning his charges. In fact, his dream is to see the creation of an annual Inter-school Junior Calypso Competition.
He says it is a very real possibility that such a competition will be realized but in the Barbadian setting it will be a gradual thing, where it could be looked at as an independence activity so it would have more appeal with schools an increasing number of schools getting involved as it gains momentum.
Sargeant, who volunteers his time to the existing competition working as the external coordinator has been involved with the completion from its inception in 1986; he knows the ins and outs of the competition and has met so many competitors that he does not remember them all by name. 
He assists the programme in the initial stages through the workshops held for all juniors interested in calypso. Those with songs, he works with them in various areas to ensure that they are well prepared, while those interested in performing but without a song, he assists them in getting one.
A competent guitarist, Sargeant has many wonderful memories of the competition including the very first junior monarch competition where he was the composer of the winning song performed by Richard Lil Richie Holder.
“It was fairly relevant because it was about the results of the landslide election 26 to 3 and from there I was in it and working with some winning voices. I later teamed up with Malika Hart who won the title on three occasions”, adding that he also had fond memories of Coco, Sir Ruel and Khiomal.
Some refer to him as the godfather of the junior monarch competition but to the competitors he is simply “Uncle Sarge”.
While proud of his achievements, Sargeant recalled that while working with children at schools he tried “ . . . to encourage them to take part and I received some opposition because it was considered bajan and you cannot sing it because it had a fairly negative message coming through; so people thought”.
He pointed out that the changes came about because parents began to accept calypso and that when children are involved it is a creative expression and use of their talent.
As times changed, the type of music also changed, and given the influence of dub and hip hop coming into the calypso he said that all the young people like that type of music. However, those in the competition with us realize that it is about social commentary and they stick to that genre taking that talent over to the Pic-Of-De-Crop competition.
However, he noted that many of them changed their style as they got older, shifting from the social commentary and getting into party music.
In an effort to encourage continuity at the workshops, they invite the adult calypsonians to interact with the children at the various workshops staged to help build their skills and encourage them, while at the same time making it clear that the junior calypso competition was not simply about doing something when you are young, but about developing themselves to be a calypsonian or musician. Many have followed the advice and are attached to calypso tents.
The flow of new entrants in the competition year after year is pleasing to Sargeant who pointed out that eight first-timers out of 26 participants this year made it to semi-finals.
A self taught guitarist who always liked music, “Uncle Sarge” is a happy man who is always praised by junior calypsonians, parents and guardians for the tremendous job he has done over the years with the youngsters.
“I always had a liking for the guitar, was not much of a singer, but I eventually ended up working as a guitarist with the junior monarch band.
“The band consisted of experienced musicians and it was held at the national stadium when I became involved as a teacher, which is my other profession.
“I chose the teaching profession based on my community upbringing and having worked at a school which is near to my heart, I was able to interact with children and have reached so many at the junior monarch level,” he said.
Sargeant said that some school principals have noted an improvement in the behaviour and work of the students after joining the competition, adding that some students, who hated reading, got more accustomed to it.