Calypso, respect and pageants
Congratulations to all winners of Mas Domnik 2019 shows with especial the nine-time Monarch, the Dice. He is now in position number two in the region after Antigua's Short Shirt for having the most Calypso crowns even surpassing greats such as Sparrow and the Chalkdust, of Trinidad and Tobago.
Now the DCA and Discover Dominica must find a way to capitalize on this phenomenal feat by Dice and writer Pat Aaron. I remember at one time Antiguans touted Short Shirt Monarch of the Universe. Well, Trinidadians would not stand for it, and so a battle ensued between Short Shirt and Sparrow.
In all humility I would recommend that a competition of sorts be arranged between Dice and Trinidad's best in a neutral country with a new and old song or say five to ten compositions of both old and new and decide once and for all who is indeed the Calypso King of the universe. Notwithstanding, I am sure about one thing: that Dice at the top of his game, has no competition on the local front or do we still need a tenth crown to admit the truth? Still some sort of onus is left on Dice and his team to make himself a regional name having won cumulatively over $200,000 in prize money but very few people outside this country know of his existence. Sad.
Another situation that was blatantly obvious was former King Hunter, still one of Dominica's best, but was lucky to be in the Finals of 2019, and after a rather dismal performance proved this, to the misfortune of Jaydee and about three others.
Calypso fans sometimes ask why calypsonians are so weak in the second round. Complacency and a mad rush to the finish line, after putting all eggs in one basket, is an obvious reason. But even a bigger issue is loyalty, greed and poor judgement. One would think that when a writer composes a wonderful song then there is more in his armory somewhere, especially if he's a prolific, tried and proven composer over decades.
It is a well-documented fact that when some of these dis-loyal calypsonians have arrived at the Finals, they suddenly conclude that (a) now they are there they can write their own second song (b) less money for the song writer, more the performer because the writer would have done only one song(c) they find a way to find fault with the second composition so as to favour theirs (c) they simply want to bask in their glory that they did it all by themselves (d) or the last scapegoat, "I received it late", even if they mastered their first song in less than 10 days.
One rule I always operate under as a composer myself, is if your second composition cannot of itself take you to the finals, then it's on crotches, a liability, leaning on the first for much needed support and your chances of doing well is less than 50 percent.
I am of the view, talking from personal experience, that a couple calypsonians could have beaten Dice, or posed a greater challenge on at least two to three occasions had they stuck to their writer. Therefore, part of Dice's success has been his unfailing loyalty to his tried and proven writer even when pundits think he has a mediocre second song; the same loyalty King Bobb and the late Booplay have displayed in their writer. No other Calypso writer in Dominica with the exception of Pat Aaron is blessed with such loyalty from a calypsonian. What's more, it is very painful to the writer when they hear the song chosen by the calypsonian and know it's much weaker and will obviously do damage to the first composition.
Worst still some calypsonian request two and three writers to compose for them, choose what they think is best and many times don't have the courtesy to inform the discarded writer who usually gets to know be accident.
You might now be thinking that this shabby treatment of composers can't get worse. But it can and has. Writers many times, do not receive tickets from the calypsonians to hear the execution of their compositions. Luckily, I am an honorary member of the DCA due to my past status as a president of DCA, but what about the others who have to buy their own tickets because girl friends, family and props suddenly become more valuable than the composer?
Meanwhile, others give problems to sign off on a 20-25 percent of just the prize money or performance fee, even while they receive (and writers do not benefit) money from other shows locally and in the US. As Mark Marie, local copyright expert, has alluded, according to the Calypso criteria, the composer contributes to 70 percent of the song-lyrics & melody- and the calypsonian 30 percent – rendition and performance.
Shifting gears the National Queen show was fabulous as usual. It's no accident why Dominica has the best record in regional pageants. However, the continuous monologue is not the problem in the talent round, but rather the lack of skill and talent in execution. Therefore it must be now advertised that girls who want to compete must have a talent to be showcased and not just a scripted dialogue to be uttered making the judges work merely academic.
Save for one contestant each year on average, all the young ladies do very well in the question and answer segment and this year was no exception. Congrats to Marisol John. She looked like the queen from the start. Still it must be disconcerting to the Queen Show Committee when the Miss Jamboree or Teen pageants out do some of our National Queens which is supposed to be the top pageant on island. I guess it all has to do with the quality of selection and preparation.
In closing, I again call for the Award of Honor, Dominica's highest award, to be bestowed on Raymond Lawrence who has over five decades become an institution in culture; the voice of pageantry and culture, a brand, much like the Cabrits or Trafalgar Falls. I dare say less deserving individuals have been so honored.