Calypso Season 2014 begins
Well, it's that time of year again when tents open calypso writers put pen to paper and everyone knows who is in the quarters after entrants were eliminated; semi-finalist and finalist get ready for battle. Yes, it's calypso season and one would not be surprised to hear the controversies: who's in, who's not, what's up with Mas' Camp and the pending law suit? Will any new sensations appear this year?
By now some of the above questions would have been answered, at least partially. We expected some strange omissions as happened to a few calypsonians last year, as well as equally strange analysis and judgement as was wrongfully meted out to Ras Kelly's 'Papa is you' last year.
A betting man would want to put his money on King Dice, even without having heard his songs, based on his dominance over the past decade. To my mind, all things being equal, no one comes close to Dice. Black Diamond has all what it takes to be the next monarch except for a lack of consistency in material in his short stint as a calypsonian. He will have to decide on whether he wants to remain within the comfort zone of the Lloyds and his father, an active calypsonian, or whether he should seek assistance from other composers.
It would seem that the old guard-the Observers, Checkers, Hunters and even a comeback by De Haxey is destined to be the same. The latter was erased during the eliminations. The brotherly brothers are normally 'soft' when 'red' is in power and so the bite of a 'Joking Carl', the true pulse which gave life to the art form on the slave plantations, is often compromised. We need another Spider 'Hypocrites' or an NC's 'Mamo Doe rock de boat' from Hunter,( still one of our best), to surface as a serious contender.
Daddy Chess is also a great talent but I still think he is more comfortable as a Soca artist based on the style of most of his compositions while Soul Puss is fast gaining a reputation as a one-song calypsonian.
That leaves Bobb, as long as he does not try to reinvent the wheel or experiment too far from the calypso label, then his performance, voice and searching lyrics may keep him knocking. In fact, it is quite remarkable that the same four who placed in 2012 repeated in 2013 i.e. Dice, Karessa, Webb and the Bobb. Though a veteran, Karessa as the premier calypso performer on island can't be put into the same category as "the old guard" for, he has shown in recent years, that he is the only calypsonian to give King Dice some real competition.
Calypsonians would have, no doubt, learnt from what happened to Checko and would even be more careful and crafty with their lyrics as the bombs are poised to explode in a pre- election year. This provides an opportunity for some social commentary, and possibly, the judge's approval after being bombarded with political commentary.
Obviously our most consistent and prolific writers -Tim Durand ,Pelam Jno Baptiste, Freddy Mendes, Pat Aaron and Ian Jackson, who has announced his final year, cannot say that the socio-political climate has not provided them with material.
Having afforded the opportunity to judge in Trinidad I would like to advance the following to the DCA:
(a) After each calypsonian renders his material, his tabulated card should be collected by the judges' co-ordinator. The reason is that too often judges go back and erase scores after comparing one song against the next. This should not be encouraged as one should score a song as he feels, and sees the performance during the 5-8 minutes the calypsonian spent on stage. Hence no two songs should be compared; rather their individual topic and its development is the key. Two years ago, for instance, persons were trying to compare which 'Haiti' song was best: Karessa's, Daddy Chess' or Soul Puss'. This is not desirable; it's all about treatment of the subject and impact at the point of delivery.
(b) Secondly I trust that the DCA and judges coordinator, Edgar Hunter, strive to eliminate the discrepancies in scoring the calypsonian on stage. To do this I advance this method which would eliminate any judge having a ten-point margin, (which ultimately affects the placement of the artistes) over any other in any category i.e. lyrics, melody, presentation, rendition. Firstly, categories and performances should be defined by a score range. Example: if it is the panel's view that a song is very good or excellent then this category should have, for example, a 5- point rating of 25-30. If considered to be only good or fair then a rating of 19-25 could be considered or say if it is poor then 10-15 might be the range for the judges to determine. What this method does is that it sets some standards as to what is good or bad and prevents a hard marker from giving 17 points for 'good lyrics' while another gives 26. It reduces the margin of error or bias.
I take the opportunity to make an appeal to senior calypsonians on behalf of Junior and the Leo Club who year after year get very little financial or technical assistance; they provide a platform for the continued existence and growth of our calypsonians. One must not forget that's where Shakey, Lady Star, Tronada, Tasha P, Dice, Haxey, Observer and a few others started.
My view of Eliminations this year suggest the following: that judges as well as commentators continually overlook the efforts of Mask Eruption who was one of the flawless performers, was well received, and still could not find favour with the judges even while a few calypsonians sang off-key.
The above suggest to me that quite a few judges are tone deaf and have no knowledge of music. It would probably take quite some time for some to determine if a calypsonian is not singing in key...flat. For example, it has become a trend, set by a few calypsonians to be off-key perennially and judges seem to be oblivious to that fact!
Secondly, new comer Jay Dee (potentially a dark horse) should never be named on the reserves after having presented and executing one of the best written compositions for the night which encompassed all the salient calypso elements. Luckily, he comes in since Karessa will not compete this year. This could have easily been be another case tantamount to the omission of Daddy Miller in 2013, in my opinion.
Thirdly, it is clear that the DCA will never do anything about limiting the number of competitors at Eliminations in an effort to make the show more compact, and to assist the judges' attention span and accuracy. Thanks to MC Pawol's professionalism, a potential 8-hour show ended in just a little over 6 hours...still too lengthy!
Finally since we have not had any workshops for a number of years, we can expect the same judges at all the shows; bringing along the same prejudices, politically and otherwise, same short-comings, same stereotyping, and pre-conceived opinions of certain artistes. Notwithstanding, they don't get paid and have been 90% correct most of the time. So we are still indebted to them for volunteering their time and effort for the art form.