There wasn’t a dry eye in the Tabernacle, Ladbroke Grove, as Helena B (Helena Bedeau) sang her moving song, A Mother’s Tears. This was a signal to the audience that, as the only female contestant at the London Calypso Tent 2019, she had climbed the twin mountains of the Groovy Soca Monarch (with Sugar In Between) and National Calypso Monarch titles.
She held off strong challenges from reigning king De Admiral, veteran Lord Cloak and the ever-popular G-String.
Congratulations, Helena; you’ve done the double!
Yes I have! I’m so excited, I can’t even talk right now!
Your song, ‘A Mother’s Tears’, is so topical at the moment and it really, really moved the Tent. How did you come up with the song? Did you write it yourself? Or if not, how much input did you have?
I did not, Alexander D Great wrote it, and then came to me and said, “Helena what do you think of this?” I had given him the topic, and told him I specifically wanted to write about gang crime and parental suffering because it’s ridiculous what’s happening out there.
I told him what hurts me, what moves me about what this world is coming to. In fact, it’s not only about London, it’s America, it’s happening everywhere. You know the kids are just getting shot down, killed, like by the police. But we didn’t want to make it too drastic, so we said, “Okay, we’re going to target the parents. How are they’re going to feel when their kids get killed? And when they come home and they hear that their son is out there dead, or shot, it hurts a lot of families. These children need to know that their parents think about them and care about them, and that they don’t want to be the one out there burying their kids. So I didn’t want to focus too much on the killing, but more on the parents trying to protect them.
There’s a lot of crime with the youths out there, and I’m going to record it because I really want it to be put out there, and let [the youths] start making a change now, because I myself have a son and I don’t want him to grow up into that, so I thought of that topic and I said to Alex, “Write that tune for me.” And he’s so proud.
So this has resulted in your historic double win. How will you celebrate?
Oh my God! I don’t know, but I’ll be selling food for Carnival, that’s what I’ll be doing!
Good stuff! De Admiral did the Windrush Song last year and he won, so this year it was down to you and him, with his Brexit song.
But he also had a powerful song; he could have gone on to win. I also thought G String could have won.
You won the Groovy Soca Monarch with a great song, ‘Sugar In Between’, a smoother song with a different message…
Helena B, [cutting in] …a message in there, but with more sexiness. That’s why I called it Sugar In Between; it’s sweet but has a message.
Are your songs going to stay in this serious vein now, or are you going to mix it up?
I’m very versatile, so I’ll sing soca, reggae, hip hop, calypso for you – anything I can. I will enter any competition and smash any competition, with the best I can.
Everyone is very happy with the song that you won with. Is there any particular message that you want to send out to the youths?
Yes. I just want them to be safe for this carnival and be careful, and just go home alive. That is the most important, because around this time is a more hectic, drastic time, and these are the times that they tend to get into trouble at the carnival. I have nephews as well, they’re into drill music and I tell them to stay away from carnival to live longer. Because they’re so young and they’re the future of England, and they need stay alive and be protected. They don’t need to kill each other. It will work itself through talk. This postcode gang crime- they need to stop that! This country is for everyone to enjoy. If there’s a problem, talk it through and reason, but don’t kill. Everybody has a mum, a dad, who’s out there worried for them. You have to think about that. So be safe for carnival.
As far as the Calypso Tent, it has to have a future, because great artists like you came through it. You sang at the original Yaa Asantewa Centre where the London Calypso Tent began, and here you are, the new Calypso Monarch.
Yes, so I hope that next year will be bigger and busier. When we have meetings I will discuss how we can bring more people into the tent. More sponsorship, more advertising, so we can bring in more people. Maybe to keep them off the streets we could do more things for the youths. So maybe they could start singing calypso, so they could take over from our generation. So we could look into those things. We used to have youth calypsonians and my daughter used to perform – until she won all the trophies [laughs]! Maybe we could look into finances and do more things to get the youth off the streets, and let them know their culture in calypso and soca. It doesn’t specifically have to be calypso, but they can bring a next vibe into the Tent. Maybe a mix with soca and groove, hip-hop and ting, to make it more interesting for the youths.
The founder of the London Calypso Tent, calypsonian The Mighty Tiger (Ashton Moore), is sadly no longer with us. How do you think he might have felt about your double win tonight?
He was always there for me to win. He was always like, “Helena you must win! You must win!” I don’t know, there was something about him that liked me.
How happy would he have been?
I think the tent would have been much bigger if he was alive, because he would have done so much to try to get more people involved. But sadly he’s gone, so we, as calypsonians, are supposed to encourage people in and contribute more to get the youths coming in. Even my kids, all of them come to support me.
Once again, congratulations for your win. Thank you very much.