by Latoya Burnham
Asher Dynamo Murrell might not have walked away with the Junior Monarch title in the eight to 12 category of the competition last Saturday night, but this nine-year-old is anything but sad about that.
In fact, little Dynamo is still rejoicing in the fact that he did so well in his first attempt, and that his new friend Jazz Z was able to pull off his first win in the competition.
As surprising as it is, Dynamo will be the first to tell you that with his birthday just around the corner on Kadooment Day, August 6, he did not go in the competition to win, he just wanted to make enough money to purchase a motorcycle he has had his eye on for months.
“I wanted to raise enough money for me to buy a motorcycle. We went in the store and I tell my daddy I wanted a motorcycle and he thought it was a toy motorcycle but when I carry him into the store he saw it was a real one and then I showed him which one I wanted. It was red and black,” said Dynamo, whose second place in the competition ensured he not only got the last $100 he needed for the bike, but added a bit more to his kitty.
His dad, musician, writer and arranger, Paul Murrell said he believed he was tricked. When his son first told him about the bike, he assumed it was a toy. What he saw when he walked into the store was a miniature bike with gas engine, made for a small youth.
“I had already said yes, so there was no going back,” his dad laughed, as he ran a loving hand over his son’s head.
In the background at the Hilltop Prep, where his son is going to camp for the holidays, the children are humming and chanting notes with blissful abandon.
It is here that Dynamo is educated and owns a snack shop. A shrewd young entrepreneur already, the lad wants to grow up to have a job that makes “nuff money”, so he can help his family and his school, he said in whatever way they wanted.
Paul said his son entering Junior Monarch came after a discussion on the best way to earn enough to purchase this bike he so wanted. It was all about the Maths.
“He made me calculate what he could earn with appearance fees, and then when he got into the semis and finals people would give him money for doing so well. So by the time he got to finals he only needed $100. It was then he said, ‘Daddy, I don’t mind winning’.”
This from a lad, who confessed he did not like singing even when he entered the competition; but then something unexpected happened.
“I start singing every since but I didn’t really like singing. Then when I was going into the Junior Monarch to earn my money, I started learning things so then I start to like it. I guess it is the singing and hearing people screaming,” said the youth, who added that it was this encouragement from the crowds that helped him enjoy his time on stage.
So focused was this young man, that when he told his dad, after careful calculation that he would enter the competition, he went away with his father’s urging to think about what he wanted to sing and came back two days later with a first verse and chorus written to his song, Wisdom.
“He sang it for me and sang the chorus, so I just basically built on what he already had and at several times I thought about rewriting it and strengthening it in terms of lyrics and what’s not. Then I said it is not natural for a nine-year-old to come and want to sing about wisdom and approach it this way. So I say I believe this is what God is telling him and this is the message he wants to get across and I would work with that and not try to impose me into the song or in any aspect of his performance. So we have just tried to help him to do whatever he wants to do,” Paul said.
He then attended a few of the National Cultural Foundation’s workshops for children, but his father was determined as well that his son’s own style of performing be kept in tact.
Most people would remember his first appearance in the Junior Monarch tents, with a fedora, precociously cocked to one side, as he danced across the stage and even added a bit of jonesing to his routines.
His performances, were all choreographed by him, with the exception of the finals when he was joined on stage by dancers from Praise Dance Academy and even then he was instrumental in deciding what he wanted his dancers to do.
Paul said his son was not necessarily the best at academics, but anything “artsy” and cultural, he was the first to join in — acting, dancing, singing being now among his passions.
“Funny enough, we always used to fret him and tell him he can’t sing. His sister always sang and when we did our children’s CDs he always wanted to sing and when I was getting it mixed, I would put his voice really low because he used to sing real bad and we used to fret him that he can’t sing.
“So when he told me he wanted to come and do this Junior Monarch, I said, ‘Oh dear now’. But everything went like clockwork. So I am very, very, very happy because I wasn’t interested in the competition aspect. I always give my children the opportunity to expose themselves in any area and see where it goes. So this was not about competition for either one of us.”
With a father who is steeped in the calypso social commentary; a mother, Janelle Murrell, aka Lioness, who performs with the Ultimate Calypso Tent, it has become a pride now to both parents to nurture their son’s new interest.
It is also telling that this interest has sparked a fire inside Paul himself — so much, that the writer for calypsonians like Sir Ruel, Sammy Jane, Jimmy Dan, Hee-Haw and others will now turn the pen on himself.
“I am actually thinking about competing next year — never done it before but I am thinking about it. I have something to say and I don’t want to hide behind somebody.
“Ash,” as he calls his son, “has been an influence, not the success of it, but that he has never done it before but he brought a sense of excellence to it. I am accustomed to the stage, I am always on it. I am always performing, so the performance aspect won’t bother me. I am accustomed singing but in a background capacity but I don’t know how being a lead vocalist will be, but I will go through the process and if I don’t think I’m ready I won’t compete.
“It is not about competition. It is about the expression of the artform and of music. I think as a Christian too, my role is to spread a good wholesome message, not necessarily God, God, God, but a wholesome message.”
Even beyond this, he wants to throw the offer out to assist with other youngsters in the competition next year in writing, arranging and whatever else he can do to keep social commentary alive among the youth.
Where his son is concerned, Paul said: “We are going to work on the writing because at the end of the day I believe a good calypsonian writes his own music, so that you can twist and change…
“I am going to work with him and find out what he wants to do as well. If something is not broken, don’t try to fix it. I like how we worked together this year and we had help in the finals from Praise Academy of Dance, Marcia Weekes. My strength is writing not performance.”
A talented youngster who plays drums, keyboard and “a little trumpet” already, Dynamo said he was already considering what he would write about for competition next year. He has had a taste of the juniors competition and he now intends to see how far this can take him. [email protected]