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Dice performs in a Calypso Finals compitition
Dice performs in a Calypso Finals compitition

Dominica's Calypso has outlived all others for its social political commentary. Even the formidable home of Calypso, Trinidad and Tobago, will confess that the Soca/jump-and-wave-craze, be it "groove" or "power" has taken over the populace but not so in Dominica. Nevertheless, we cannot rest on our laurels thinking that's it's going to be so all the time ; hence, I have presented a Strength, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Challenges Analysis (SWOC) for this week's article coming on the heels of a Calypso post mortem meeting at the UWI Centre. Note this article was written a week in advance of that meeting notwithstanding it's publication some four days after.

Strengths:

  • Dominica can boast of a large audience who not necessarily love Calypso but love the competition aspect, and so a ready audience/ patrons are a plus for the art form.

  • Calypso can boast of one of, if not the most, experience band in the region in that particular genre who serve as back-up to scores of calypsonians annually.

  • One of, if not the most organized, associations in the region who plan and execute their own show and are not just a union representing calypsonians as is done in neighboring territories.

  • The only Calypso association that can boast of a million dollar facility to house their offices and for training in the arts.

  • The administrators of Calypso are also practitioners of the art themselves and so are best positioned as trustees and can better identify with any other outside Carnival organizing committees or the Jaycees as was the case in the 50's to early 70's

  • The DCA is a registered non- profit organization with laws and by laws governing its operations. It also affords them the latitude to act as a body in matters of contracts and other financial dealings with the blessings of the membership.

  • There exists strong support at the junior level and alliances with Leo Club as well as other young dynamic singers/ performers who enter the arena every year, which augers well for the future continuance of the art form.

  • Is financially sound.

Weaknesses:

  • Not many calypsonian show an interest in the development of the business of the art or its administration; most are concerned with just singing; their 5 minutes of fame on stage.

  • Neither is there great administrative pool of talent to draw from; hence the recycling of executive member who sometimes serve in offices for decades without much innovativeness as complacency creeps in.

  • While not as major, but politics with respect to votes cast does play a role when electing officers to serve as opposed to competencies.

  • Very little training or use of the building for which over $75,000 is paid annually to the bank.

  • Shortage and recycling of judges and those who have competence in this area particularly as it's a job of conscience and not one for which money is paid.

  • Executive members are not really evaluated and many times do very little for what is trivialized as stipends for administrative duties which can range from $4000 to $6000 per season. Really in the Dominican context they are actually salaries.

  • Calypso is being played less and less on the streets.

  • Antiquated judging system which does allow for guidelines for measuring a good or bad Calypso

  • The complete dependence on gate receipts to pay off prizes and debts.

Opportunities:

  • There are opportunities to make and sell videos of Calypso tents & the finals which can be available on the streets by carnival Monday and Tuesday.

  • A Calypso tent is needed in the north of the island where several of our top calypsonians came from, such as President Hunter.

  • Training of our judges and song writers. Also the junior calypso monarchs get little or no technical support from senior calypsonian. No mentorship programme and only one or two calypsonians make it their duty to come to their practices far less to support the actual show.

  • The control and management of streaming of the Calypso show as we have a strong Dominican Diaspora who would be willing to experience Calypso finals in the USA, for example.

  • Linkages and exchanges/ shows with other regional brother organizations particularly where Dominica has a strong population presence, such as Antigua and the USVI.

  • The Calypso Monarch must be afforded the opportunity to perform and expose Dominican Calypso at various regional carnivals and festivals. It cannot be left to them only, as Hunter has done successfully at one time, or for Ann Marie Clarke to stage shows in New York. Hence, marketing and a budget is an opportunity which must be explored to promote the music. It cannot be that our music is only known onto ourselves and the Diaspora!

  • Training at schools and our State College. I have formalized requests and have made approaches to render my services in this matter, to no avail.

  • Now that testing the best is on a hiatus, there lies an opportunity to have at least one other Calypso competition showcased- this time by the DCA.

Challenges:

  • Prize money for the monarch seem to have stuck at $20, 000 for decades and so the attractiveness of Calypso will eventually be challenged by the Bouyon Monarch whose administrators certainly have found a way not to depend on gate receipts. Already they have just come on board and before their 5th year they pay $10 grand to the winner for one song and for much less work or commitment on the artiste: no eliminations, no quarters, no semis and far less rehearsals etc. Convincing and attracting sponsors has to be the way forward. The DCA has to define what a Calypso is or else all sorts of genres will use elements as have been creeping in leaving fans wondering is this really a calypso?

  • One of the Association's major challenges is to commit and give attention to concerns of patrons re the length of eliminations, being decisive about the road march which should be announced by Ash Wednesday with the statistical data from persons who are commissioned to tally. But, of course, we hold post mortem after post mortem and nothing really happens….let's wait and see again and again.

  • Dress rehearsals before the Calypso Finals is a challenge as there is only one venue but for the visual, sound and technical quality of the show this is vitally important.