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Caribbean, the Real Deal Page 3

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"Sure," I said. "I can do that, but what do I wear?"

"Ya whe a beeg hot, ya know, made wid stra. Ya gots ta look like a turst. Like ya layin in de sun!"

On the evening of the big event, I met Linda, the other woman he’d shanghaied, and together we walked to the high school, where we found Jay Gould backstage. He paraded us around, introducing us to the other calypsonians as "MY GIRLS, DEEZ MY GIRLS!" He ran thr"ough the songs he’d written, and I had to admit he was good. What he lacked in talent was compensated by enthusiasm.

Hearing the crowd, we peeked out. Every seat was taken, and every space in the aisles was full. People were sitting on laps, on shoulders, standing on ledges; some were even trying to get in by crawling through the jalousie windows.

The first performance ended with raucous yelling. The second singer got the crowd on their feet. Then Jay Gould appeared, and the place went nuts. Linda and I, the tourists, reclined at the front of the stage on beach towels. Behind us, Jay sang his first hip-whining number. He sang it like a king, but it was his next song, the one about the whales, that made his day.

He belted out the lyrics: "If dem whales is dere prop-a-tee, well, tell dem pen dem up!" When he hit the refrain, everyone was with him, singing, dancing, shaking up the house. It was a hard act to follow and an impossible one to beat. In the end, the crown was placed above Jay Gould’s grinning face. He would move on to the national competition in St. Vincent. My day in the sun was over, but his was just getting started.


Jan Hein and her husband, the artist Bruce Smith, cruise the Caribbean aboard Woodwind, their self-built 34-foot gaff-rigged ketch.

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