Calypso: a must on any WCMF line-up
The line up of bands has been released early for WCMF 2016; that's good news for the planning and organization committee since we missed out last year due to the ravages of storm ERIKA.
I listened intently to the impassioned plea and concerns expressed by DCA's PRO Davidson "Observer" Victor on the omission of Calypso on the line up of the WCMF.
I concur with the callers to the talk show programme but I do not feel too worried because I really think this is a gross oversight which, no doubt, will be corrected.
I advance the following to remind the people who take such decisions to examine. Early in the development of the WCMF there was, and still is, a concern that there has been a plethora of Haitian Compa and Jamaican Reggae groups in the Festival. There has been the counter argument that Haitian Compa is Creole or patois in its origins and that is certainly in sync with what the DFC is trying to promote. It was further argued that Creole is not necessarily patois but rather the language and expression indigenous to a country.
The fact that Reggae bands are still dominant reflect the reality that this is Dominica's and, I dare say, the region's most preferred and popular musical expression, competing closely with Bouyon among the youthful populace.
If, for instance, one was to judge from the various shows promoted throughout the year, the show-going public is over exposed to Jamaican acts, while very few of our locals are invited to Jamaica for any sort of performance. Here goes the export of our annual entertainment income to Jamaica! But we won't go there now, because we can provide a number of reasons why this is so.
However, we will argue that Calypso accounts for the biggest show in Dominica not just from the point of view of gate receipts but general island wide participation by the public, media and private sector over an extended 10 -week period. No other art form in Dominica enjoys such dominance or prominence. One may remain in obscurity for many years, singing Reggae, Dancehall or even Bouyon, but when you make an appearance on the Calypso stage life changes; just ask Chris B or King Dice himself.
Calypso was the precursor to Cadence; it was first called Cadance -lypso and even Soca music was born or created right here in Dominica by King Shorty of TNT. Therefore, it is difficult to understand why Calypso is not included in every WCMF line up. Both Calypso and Cadence should never, ever be left out. What makes this omission more glaring is that King Dice who is the most dominant calypsonian ever in any country in the region, having won eight successive crowns and some six Road Marches, will not grace our stage; or let me say, may not, because I feel this will, and must, be corrected. Except for this omission of the Calypso expression (which is Creole by its very nature, in terms of its history and cultural form) the line-up is commendable. I really want to applaud the organizers for the many local acts who are carded to perform this time around. The Chief Cultural Officer reminded us at the launching that we must not lose sight of the Festival's 'creoleness' and she was not speaking of patois specifically as this word connotes much more.
As with Jamaican Reggae (Jamaican Creole expression) Calypso is the only art form which shaped our thought, action, and governance. In fact Soca competitions have been abandoned due to lack of support and Bouyon, which just replaced it, is still in an experimental stage while Calypso has been formalized since 1958 when the first Calypso King was crowned.
Surely, it's a no brainer since the argument above alone warrants that a Calypso component must be an integral part of WCMF every year. I am reminded that despite being the only country in the region where Calypso shows bring the greatest interest among the population, ironically Dominicans don't like Calypso out of season. It's the competition they like, not necessarily the art-form in a general sense. This may be true and extended to Cadence all of which we have helped to bury because of our general lack of support. However, in St Lucia, Cadence is still very much alive and not just an Oldie Goldie feature at dances.
Fitzroy Williams of Exile One fame will also add that it is still very much alive in Africa at shows that he had been privilege to have from time to time and by virtue of royalties he's still receiving.
There is also a school of thought that the powers that be would want to censor as, ironically, DICE has been crowned eight times virtually singing compositions against the government hence some fear the WCMF, which is geared at the foreign market and tourism, does not lend itself to such negative exposure. I do not necessarily share this opinion.
Additionally, I still advocate for a night of Gospel as I have done in the past. It seems that we have forgotten that it was due to the power and wrath of God and Nature that we could not have a festival last year and so we have still not found it fitting to have a Gospel group of some international repute to be part of the Sunday night's billing. I blame myself because I did not write formally since the DFC asked the public to propose groups for the festival even if this was well articulated in my weekly column.
Still, in keeping with the subject at hand, I am convinced that with a member of the executive of the DCA being also a board member on the Discover Dominica Authority or DFC and some members of the executive well positioned to lobby decision makers, that the non-inclusion of calypso will eventually be corrected…I hope!