Calypsonians doing their own thing
"Dey doe know how hard I working, while they sleeping." "Do good for nigga man is just Mama ras."
The above quotations which set the tone for this article are from 1980s compositions from Dominica's ace calypso writer, Pat Aaron, who today, rightfully or wrongfully, is the ridicule for many fans and calypsonians today. Whether it is political conviction or vendetta one can't deny his King- making, and some may say King-breaking abilities. But this really is not the issue; the truth is that composers also take a lot of blows and as one of those referred to as 'prolific' by the Lugars, I must bring to light the following.
I was bombarded two weekends ago when Chris B made a mess of his song again and again! Why? How come? I almost felt I was the one it was me was the one at fault. After all Lugars tainted me, with the help of his new writer, as one who had a political agenda making reference to "I ca eat concrete." Well, for the record I have written four times for the gentleman; "Internet children" is one of the best written and most impactful local calypsos of this century. Since then this phrase has become a buzz word for those who "want in now". His only year in the finals was accompanied by "After the party" calling for more attention to be placed on calypso and its marketing. The following year was "Strange language" or popularly called "Speaking in tongues", then followed "Ca eat concrete" and last year a tribute to "Nurse." Unfortunately Lugars did not do his own thing, as his most recent composition implies, because his song was reconstructed from a Labour Party theme song by another former calypsonian who probably, unlike yours truly, had no agenda! Well calypso fans and readers of this column, judge. Is the problem the writer's pen or the calypsonian's head? Can Jackson be categorized a political composer? All the aforementioned songs were finals material and I must be honest and say, he again had an opportunity this year even with his new writer.
Well many writers in varying degrees have been faced with such ingratitude when the easiest thing someone could is to be upfront and say well I trying something new! But that's not all writer face a great percentage of artistes are not honest and avoid compensating their writers a merger 20-25% from say a $5000, the prize money of a finalist. They put their phones off, their number is changed, phones were not charged, lost their cells; suddenly they become inaccessible, forget where you live or pretend they do not see you or worse still do not even greet you!
One may say, let them enter into a signed arrangement but there is a culture attached to calypso; you never know if the song is going to pass eliminations and so since most calypsonian are poor , sometimes unemployed or underemployed you try to be flexible and request payment from the calypso earnings. If you just ask for a signed document, well the next composition will be "Jacko like money!" But once, twice, thrice beaten….well, probably I need to take a leaf from the "Lord of the Art-form's book and let persons 'hate me' with a full pocket instead of an empty one.
Dominicans love calypso competitions, but never ever consider the importance of compensating the writer/ composer for his toil, craft and skill. Many times you have to literally hold the hands of the calypsonians, attend rehearsals late into the night for support, make sure the Swinging Stars have the song as was intended by the composer, ensure that the singer is comfortable with the key and the pace of the song, ensure the back ups are doing what they are supposed to be doing, advise on props, train artist as to how to sing or evoke mood, get the recording right in the studio: the composer is writer, musician, stage and music director most times for a meager 20%-25% . Intellectual property rights observed in TNT and other jurisdictions the composer claims half the prize money. The calypsonian has to find his arranger, manager, stage manager, sponsor etc.
What has the public to say about calypsonians who discard your material after having it for months in advance of eliminations, and you only find out because you hear them practicing another one in the band house!
Probably if some of us were " Gods of Kiaso Kingdom" guys would not clandestinely change lyrics, ask, beg and hustle a writer to compose for them two to three song and don't sing any but do not have the decency to inform the writer of their decision. There is one calypsonian who has burnt all bridges, in four years he has changed five writers.
Calypsonians have been abandoned by writers and others have stepped in to assist and they have by so doing reaped greater success, only to find they return to their without informing, approaching or giving some recognition to the one who bailed them out. This happens over and over and over again, year in year out. Disrespect!
You may ask how I know this. Well, I am living testimony of the ingratitude and the callous manner in which calypsonians treat their writers without any consideration for the sweat, toil and dedication and this gift from God.
In all humility, I give God all the glory because you may be able to teach one to play music or sing but a good writer is inspired. But can one who has nurtured such blessing over decades allow six of his compositions of high quality in four successive years to go down the drain because singers muddle or forget their lines? No serious calypsonian can do this successively, perennially without taking corrective measures.