Feeling outraged by the results of last year’s Dimanche Gras show here in Grenada, this writer penned a piece in August, 2015 called “become calypso warriors” in which the placements of the various artistes in the calypso competition was critically assessed.
That article read in part: “Further, to the best of my knowledge, others determine the ultimate winners of our calypso competitions. They are the ones who have to shoulder all responsibility for the ensuing chaos we see so many times after a new calypso King or Queen is crowned. The only question I usually ask is: As the official judges, are they evaluating performances based on declared criteria (melody, lyrics, rendition, presentation…) or are they “picking” specific calypsonians to be so honoured from one year to another?”
The piece went on: “Going forward, what can serious calypsonians do to effect changes with respect to the outcomes vis-a-vis our annual calypso monarch competitions? To this writer, the remedy is quite straightforward: like King Ajamu, become calypso warriors. Please do not disappoint me by asking me to expand on this suggestion. Our calypsonians are experienced and sufficiently competent to figure out exactly what has and must be done to protect themselves, their yearly investments of time and money into competing, their intellectual property rights and, above all, their beloved art form!”
Despite those challenging words of wisdom, nothing seems to have changed either from the perspective of evaluating our performers in locally organised competitions or from the participation of certain artistes in these shows.
Look, the message here is as simple as the ABC: If calypso competitions are organised and artistes are encouraged to participate and compete robustly, it is reasonable to assume that the calypsonians who partake in those shows are doing so on the basis that they would give off their very best and hope to be handed the “big” price at the end of the day or night once the judges would have done their assessments of the various performances given the criteria laid out before them.
The criteria used to evaluate the calypsonians are not rocket science. Once trained properly the judges should be competent enough to apply the criteria to each performance and at the end of the show come up with fairly consistent scores for all of the artistes.
The calypsonians, on the other hand, ought to be fully aware of the things being used to evaluate them and be as prepared as feasible going into the competition to earn maximum scores from the panel of judges. No pre-conceived notions should be used as a basis for declaring a winner. All decisions ought to be based on what happens on the day or night of the competition. Period!
Taken together from the perspectives of both the judges and the artistes, one can easily surmise that there should be little controversy when the results of our various calypso competitions are ultimately announced. Yet, the reality is almost always vastly different from that position. Why?
This writer has no crystal ball or insider information on what exactly goes on behind the scenes or within the judging panel whenever these calypso competitions are held. And interestingly, your humble servant does not care to speculate on those issues either. However, as someone who has been following calypso in and out of Grenada for decades and believes that he has sufficient knowledge of the art form, the results of many of our local competitions leave much to be desired.
Case in point: A few days ago the 42nd Independence Calypso Competition was held at the Grenville Bus Terminus with Rootsman Kelly and his “New Day” taking away the first place. He was followed in second, third, fourth and fifth positions by Sheldon Douglas (All Is Not Lost), Allan G (Grenada Standing Proud), Teacher Eddie (State of Dependency) and Sour Serpent (Tri-Island), respectively.
Now, tell me, did you attend the show or listened the live television coverage on the GIS? Did the results make sense to you?
Let’s cut through the chase. Why was the young Filandi Jeffrey, known in the calypso world as Stunna, with his “Ah Doh Care” not among the top-three positions? Can anyone in our Tri-island State justify Stunna’s exclusion from the top-five placements that were announced on the night of competition?
Once again, let me urge our local calypsonians to “look in the mirror” as their colleague from Trinidad and Tobago, Sugar Aloes, has suggested in song. Do you wish to continue to participate in local shows when time after time the results seem more in keeping with who the artiste is as opposed to the quality of the performances on the night of competition? The ball is squarely in your court and you should think rather carefully before making the next pass!
Evidently, most of the local calypso; not soca, competitions are virtually dead given the insignificant number of persons in attendance. Therefore, it should not be too difficult for the calypsonians so blatantly affected by the outcomes of those competitions to stage their own shows and bring decent lyrics and music to the Grenadian public.
If you boycott those local competitions and sing for the people, I am sure a large number of persons would support your initiatives because they feel your pain and cry – your cry. Enough should be enough!
Returning to the Independence Calypso Competition, like the mayhem with the placements in the recent Miss Universe Pageant Show and as the Barbadian calypsonian, Kid Site, wondered in 1991, was the naming of the top-five positions a case of “mistaken identity”?
Surely, indeed, the results of the 2015 Dimanche Gras and last Saturday’s Independence Show suggest quite clearly to me that we are desperately in need of a “new day” in Grenada’s calypso competitions!
(Dr. Brian Francis, a former Permanent Secretary in the local Ministry of Finance, is currently a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Economics at the Cave Hill Campus in Barbados of the University of the West Indies)