Listen
Dice, Dominica's best calypsonian
Dice, Dominica's best calypsonian

It is well known by now that Dominica is now the last port of call, the last bastion and hope for the survival of Calypso as we presently know it. Trinidad, where Calypsonians like the Mighty Sparrow, Kitchener, Duke, David Rudder, Shadow, Chalkdust, Cro Cro, Sugar Aloes, Baron and a long list of other Calypsonians who have now bowed out under the pressure of Soca stars such as Marshal Montano, Bunji Garlin, Destra, Fayan Lyon and Farmer Nappy. Since Super Blue invented the wave craze in the days of Rebecca and Soca Baptiste and Arrow of Montserrat stormed the globe with Hot-Hot-Hot, the writing was on the wall. Even the great Mighty Sparrow bowed when he entered the ring with Soca Pressure.

St Vincent, St Lucia, Grenada with their Skinny Fabulous and Ronny McIntosh as well as Ricky T and Talpree respectively have penetrated the region with the new sound of Soca and have dominated competitions in their various territories. The same can be said for Barbados' Alison Hinds and Edwin Yearwood or even Antigua's Claudette Peters. However, Dominica, a most culturally vibrant nation is yet to make such a mark on the regional stage as far as Soca is concerned.

Maybe we have focused on our own Bouyon and that our close proximity to Guadeloupe and Martinique has had a greater influence on our music diet and preferences. This seem plausible as we can boast of greats such as Ophelia, Gordon Henderson, Jeff Joseph, Chubby and Michele Henderson all outstanding lead vocalists not necessarily renowned in the rest of the non- Francophone English-speaking region.

It is also ironical that while Dominica can take some credit in the formation of this genre of Soca by virtue of a collaboration with a couple Dominican artistes such as Chris Seraphin, Tokeyo and others with Trinidad's Lord Shorty who is attributed to creating the first Soca song "Ou di mwen ou petit Shorty," we have not produced any outstanding Soca act to date.

Even more telling is the fact that Dominica still produces some of the best Calypsos in the region and no one knows this except Dominicans, the few who visit during carnival and those of us who reside in the diaspora. For example Dice, as fabulous as he is, has not achieved regional acclaim as Bajan Red Plastic Bag, Antigua's Short Shirt or Vincentian Becket. Our bands such as Triple Kay, WCK, Stars, Grammax have done much better than our perennial Calypsos.

While it is clear that marketing of the arts is a major problem in our country, more so than others, if Calypso is to even survive within our shores prize money/incentives will have to increase if we are to compete and not be overhauled by the jump and wave craze fused with Jamaican Dancehall acts which have collaborated with the Trinis and infiltrated the region.

The generations of the Basie, Senator, Tronada, NC, Spider, Ghost, Hurricane, Scrunter, Brakes, Man Himself, Natty, Super L have quickly come and disappeared and the new generation do not have the same love and appreciation for the art form. as obtained before. Now it's all about money and no one can blame them as music is now a business and not something just staged for enjoyment or to showcase for tourist.

It is now approaching two decades since the prize money for the monarch has remained at 20 grand. Calypso today demands that writers have to be paid, musicians have to be paid, score writers, studios have to be paid and money must be spent on props, outfits for the competitions and tents. So it is very likely a monarch may net less than 10 grand as most of them are not the composers of the material they present.

At one time it was thought that one could not increase the prize money when the gate receipt and the attendance hovers around 5-6 thousand annually in a calypso finals with 2-3 thousand in attendance at quarters and semis. If one depends on gate receipts then that is true, however the DCA must look beyond this and seek out sponsorship for calypso beyond the telecom companies.

How do you influence the next generation to preserve this fast dying art in the rest of the region to keep it alive when the prize money is fast becoming obsolete in relation to other competitions? Imagine only one song in the Bouyon Monarch, no elimination rounds or weekly appearances in tents to woo fans to your song. Then boom $15.000 while the would be Calypso has to face an average of 10 stage appearances leading up to the grand finals, face the weekly critics of Calypso pundits on various talk shows, be put under the judgement of the pen about 5-6 times if you include the tent competition and sometimes still have problems paying the studio and miscellaneous costs, if you are one of those who fall at the quarters for example.

Therefore, for the continued patronage of Dominica's Calypso, I trust the DCA will consider some of the sentiments that I have expressed, for the survival of Calypso. Let's do something about it for Calypsos' sake.


Listen