by Curlan Campbell, NOW Grenada
- Grenadian artistes are answering the call to be a part of the extempo Covid19 StayAtHomeChallenge
- Blaka Dan posted his extempo rendition on his Facebook page
- Valene Nedd, Kelvin Otis Celestine, Thamara St Bernard and Dr Satesh Bidaisee have joined extempo challenge
Grenadian artistes have answered the call to be a part of the extempo Covid19 StayAtHomeChallenge, first inspired by St Maarten calypsonian, Andrew “His Majesty Baker Jr” Richardson.
NOW Grenada was first made aware of the challenge done locally when Groovy Artiste, Wrenroy “Blaka Dan” Ogiste, posted his extempo rendition on his Facebook page and tagged other artistes to do the same.
The challenge has proven that artsites can play their part in encouraging people to be vigilant and adhere to social distancing protocols and stay indoors during this pandemic.
Richardson, who appeared on Trinidad’s TV6 Morning Edition programme with host Fazeer Mohammed, spoke on the rationale behind the viral challenge which has received extempo responses from artistes throughout the Caribbean. He was inspired by a challenge by Tyler Perry, who started his fellow celebrity musicians, actors, pastors and friends to do a challenge entitled “He’s Got The Whole World” which was posted on his Instagram page on 22 March 2020, which has since garnered over 1.8 million views.
Blaka Dan has inspired other musicians to do the same challenge but with the use of a lyrically improvised form of calypso. “I first found out about the extempo challenge when my friend Brian London sent me a rendition of his contribution and told me I was nominated. Then I saw another rendition coming from Terri Lyons and I was inspired then.”
“My main objective behind the extempo is to bring awareness of the importance of good hygiene, social distancing, and other guideline practices are given to us by the Ministry of Health and researchers. Music is an easy way to reach many and that is why I placed my talent on the forefront and nominated many other artists to do the same,” Blaka Dan explained.
Since the start of the challenge, many other artistes including Valene Nedd and Kelvin Otis Celestine among others have joined in and posted their extempo. Thamara St Bernard has also produced her version of Covid-19 extempo challenge. She said her inspiration came from witnessing the severity of the pandemic and people’s negligence in adhering to the advice of the expert. “The inspiration behind the rendition was seeing how severe the pandemic is outside of our country and the negligence of us as a people. I was tagged by a Grenadian living abroad named Camillia Cadore. When she tagged me I was actually a little nervous as this was my first time in this genre…so I was super happy how well it turned out.”
St Bernard hopes that her message within the extempo will encourage people to take this pandemic more seriously. “I used sentences that had a double meaning and mixed in some serious points and instructions and also a little humour. I really do hope and pray that we Grenadians take this seriously because the death toll alone should be enough to wake us up… and also, we should follow the instructions so we can survive this pandemic.”
Even Dr Satesh Bidaisee, Professor of Public Health and Preventive Medicine at the St George’s University (SGU) has responded to the challenge. “A significant part of the global response is that of information sharing to share knowledge to inform behaviour towards the control of Covid-19. All forms of sharing information are welcomed which includes through music including the extemporaneous art form. My performance is rated as just barely a passing grade!”
Despite describing his experience of being isolated as disorienting, Dr Bidaisee understands that this is the only full-proof method of curbing the spread of the coronavirus. “The initial social distancing experience was disorienting and to some extent still is. However, adapted practices to online education, research and service duties are proving to be quite effective. Saying all of this is in the context of every expectation towards progressing beyond the Covid-19 experience which is providing the best coping mechanism as it provides an opportunity to look prospectively.”
During his time in isolation, Dr Bidaisee discovered the challenge on social media. “I first came across the Covid-19 extempo challenge on Facebook and this is not my first time dabbling into the extemporaneous art form. My students and colleagues alike, much to their misfortune, have encountered my attempts at extemporaneous singing in the classrooms, in conferences, and even at meetings. I have had an interest in extemporaneous music since I was a kid and try to find avenues to engage my interest which the Covid-19 extempo challenge provides.”
Dr Bidaisee, like many of the other artistes who responded to the challenge, hopes that people will heed the warning and stay indoors. “Primarily to recognise that we are all experiencing the challenges of our individual and collective response to Covid-19. And, secondarily, to seek avenues to explore interests and ideas of their own to pursue during this period of time as it can be quite therapeutic and rewarding as well.”