BASSETERRE, St.Kitts (Friday 25th September 2020) – With live backup by the Grand Masters Band, the atmosphere at the funeral service of the late 53-year-old Dion Geron ‘King Ayatollah’ Stevens came off as a calypso showcase in thanksgiving for the life and times of the three-time crowned ‘Bad Boy King’ of the National Carnival senior competition arena.
The funeral service was held on the afternoon of Monday 21st September 2020 at The Gardens play field located in the Irish Town community, following which the funeral procession to the Springfield Cemetery featured a music truck with well-known entertainer Maurice ‘EK’ Flanders of Real Right Entertainment at the DJ control.
The deceased’s hit songs such as ‘Kaiso Terrorist’, ‘Three long years’ and ‘Writing on the Wall’ saw his fans and supporters jamming and singing in the streets and at the service itself.
This media house spoke with some of the attendees including members of the calypso fraternity such as King Craig and King Konris who both did tributes that day.
Read on to see what they had to say.
Keshawn ‘Banker’ Walwyn of Banker Mas Camp
“Yeah man I’ve known Ayatollah for a while since as a youth growing up; he’s always been an inspiration in the art form, always encourage I-man [me] to continue striving artistically and culturally. We’re going to miss him but that’s just how life goes. Long Live Tolah, long live kaiso. anything done for Tolah is a good sign.”
Alphonso A. ‘King Phonsie’ Phillip
“We were fierce competitors against each other, and not so much against each other but in the arena because everybody wanted to win. He was the guy you always look out for because he always had if not so much of a song, you had to look out because his presence onstage, he made it unique in that he can actually take something that is very simple and kinda turn a crowd upside down with it. He was what we called a crowd pleaser; a guy who put himself out of the way to actually make the crowd like him, and if you didn’t like him, you would like him when you see him onstage …he was something to behold onstage. I had respect for him and we had a lot of respect for each other. He never passed me any place and with great respect, he always addressed me as king and I extended the same title to him whenever we spoke with each other. It was a sad thing for me when I heard of his passing. Like everybody else I felt it, and I conveyed condolences to his immediate family, and as I say and would always say and I said it just a while ago, as a king I hope that he had given his life to Christ and that he is in a better place right now.”
Parliamentary Representative for Constituency One (East Basseterre) Dr. Geoffrey Hanley of the Opposition St.Kitts-Nevis Labour Party
“It is indeed a privilege for me to be here at King Ayatollah’s funeral not only as the Parliamentary Representative but as a close family friend because my sister has a child with one of his uncles so we had that family connection. As a child growing up, he always encouraged me and even more so as I entered the political arena, every time he saw me he always gave very good words of encouragement in terms of me remaining strong and fighting right down to the end. I also had the privilege of witnessing to him while he laid at the hospital when he was going through his last moments, I think he had the time and he would have made it right with the Almighty so today as we say farewell to him, I pray that God will continue to strengthen the family and recognize that there isn’t anything that they ask God to do that He would not do for them. I am extremely proud of the calypsonians who did it their way in paying tribute to one of our great legends in the area of calypso. I think his legacy will remain because he wrote many songs for many calypsonians and I believe that they would ensure that the legacy continues, and I’m hoping that more can be done in the Ministry of Culture to take calypso seriously into the primary schools and enhance what is being done currently so that we can have, the life of calypso living on for the longest ever.”
Craig ‘King Craig’ McDowell
“I would have done a tribute today for the King Ayatollah. The Department of Culture did a show for Independence and they did honour some calypsonians and I did a tribute to Ayatollah then. The tribute was arranged before his passing but he just happened to pass just before that so I did the tribute and they asked me to do it again at his funeral. I feel very honoured being asked to do this. Me and Ayatollah go way back. We lived in the same area. I’ve been listening to his songs way back. He has been writing for me in my junior career come up to the senior competition. Actually, the first time I sang in the senior competition in 1995, we both went to the finals and he placed first runner-up and I placed second runner-up [King Phonsie won that year]. We’ve always been in touch; even when he got sick, I went to visit him at certain times. Coming on to the latter part of his ailment, I would have stayed away because I couldn’t handle it. The calypso fraternity has lost a good competitor for sure, a good writer, fans would miss the good entertainment; we just hope he rests in eternal peace.”
Konris ‘King Konris’ Maynard
“Let me take this opportunity to express heartfelt sympathies and condolences to the family and the friends and the calypso community and the nation on behalf of King Ayatollah. King Ayatollah will be forever remembered through the annals of history because he has his legacy in stone in the calypso Fraternity. He had distinctive voice , he had stage presence and charisma, he had the bacchanal nature necessary to be in competitive calypso and he had the music and the flare to top it all off and so he will be greatly missed as a performing artiste but luckily his music is recorded and we can listen to it for prosperity. He has made a lasting impression on me as a young calypsonian coming up. I looked at Ayatollah to get ideas and to understand the art form especially for instance when I went to compete in Anguilla where he had won before and so I paid attention to his performances then to see what I could gather from them to enrich my own self and so I have a lot to be thankful for with Ayatollah because he has made an impact in my calypso life and so and I hope he will get all the roses that he needs to get now. He would have gotten some while he was alive but we must continue to give them as he goes in glory now.”
King Ayatollah passed away on Wednesday 26th August 2020 from natural causes due to an illness.