From Old Year to New
Hi, I hope it is not too late to say Happy New Year to all readers of this column. Since we were out of commission for a few weeks during the Christmas holidays, one need to reflect and recollect before going forward in 2014 in this column on the arts and entertainment.
Well, Janae Jackson became then only other individual, apart from Julian Riviere, to have won the DBS Christmas Song Contest back-to-back and the only female to have won a national singing competition twice in a row, outside of calypso.
Still, according to Janae, she will be taking a break from competitions because she wants to concentrate on CXC exams in 2015. After this year's Junior Monarch, she will pause, following a most successful 6 years of competitions from the tender age of nine. Janae, to her credit, has either won or placed about 10 times in song contests; that is, by any standard, commendable.
The Christmas Song Contest was of a higher standard than last year and DBS staffers in particular Cecil Joseph and Kimara Hautault, must be complimented once more for their efforts.
The new backup band, the "8th Note Band" added a new dimension with their jazzy styled music and use of the saxophone by band leader Marvin Marie. The dexterity of the youthful musicians and the mix by Arawak's technician Keith Woodman deserves commendation and put to rest the concerns and tensions at the dress rehearsal. One of the highlights of the evening was a solo performance of "Oh Holy Night" by guest act 13- year old Kasim Birmingham, the 2013 QTS song contest winner- what power, control and range!
Though every competitor was exceptional and presented a variety of genres and vocal ability, the four top places winner: Janae, 2nd placed Corlene Letang, 3rd placed Shirley "Lady S" Charles and 4th Akim Ismael, together with Red-Eye Rudy, with a well presented rendition, the perennial and Dominica's most prolific performer in song contests, "Elf" Henderson, and Phael Lander, were also crowd favourites as they presented true West Indian styled Christmas in reggae and soca respectively. The former was deservedly given honorary mention by the judges. His thematic development and appropriateness of message was probably the reason why he did not place- not lack of performance.
Nonetheless, for vocal quality and emotional lyrical appeal, Janae and Sisserou Singer Corlene, ( who, incidentally, had the same 'Caring for Underprivileged Youths at Christmas' theme as was presented last year by young Ms Jackson), stood out. In the end, the former's diction, use of stage, flawlessness and general presentation of "I miss you this Christmas" which included an unexpected appearance by her Mum and Dad allowed her, to comfortably get the nod over the 13 other participants.
Generally, the show was well received and presented by MC Noreen Joseph, save for some unwarranted jeers led by some Sisserou Singers members who obviously were rooting for participating members Corlene and Akim. Ironically it must be said that the winner's dream is to become a Sisserou Singer one day, as she is so impressed with their annual performances and so this, I am sure Aunty Pearle will agree, is not representative of the discipline that the group is known for.
Meanwhile, Ruff & Reddy's two-decade-old "Sunshine Christmas" CD, must by now be rated among the top three recordings ever released by a Dominican group. Year after year it is one of the most frequently played recordings at Christmas in the region and time and time again it causes me to reflect on the genius of Mervin Delsol ( bassist, keyboardist, engineer of the album) who has fallen on difficult times, mentally and physically. I trust that Daryl Bobb and company can come together with government, the private sector and other good citizens in " Finding a Way" for musicians and others who have fallen by the way side.
During the Christmas holidays it dawned on me that I see too many Caribbean islands' festivities featured on CMC, Tempo, RE TV and there is a dearth of activity when it comes to the Nature Island. Someone in 2014 must look at this carefully; from a marketing of the arts point of view it appears that nothing is happening in the Nature Island as far as entertainment. The private sector, the DCA, DFC and indeed Marpin must find a way to present this information to the world and marry nature and entertainment.
I am saying this at a time when I believe Marpin News quality is slowly on the decline. The programme uses too many still pictures for a television as well as faulty audio and poor visuals; this really does not help the new and talented female news presenter. If this continues they may well want to present their news on Channel 7 because there is hardly anything to visualise. I think our TV stations must take some responsibility for selling the Nature Island to its own through plays, music videos and shows. It hurts when Christmas traditions are represented in Caribbean countries on Caribbean Passport or when historical places and beauty spots are showcased and is like we don't exist.
We appear to be a country just for retirees to the rest of the region or one when we want to see God's nature, then take a bath in the river, and go to sleep. No! I say in 2014, lets help the WCK's , Colton T and many other solo acts who have shown by being number one on regional music video countdowns, that the land of 767 is much more than this, and we have more talent than most. Let's aim for a 24-hour local channel where we can even sell time to our regional islands. We certainly have the talent and the artists-what we need is the political will and private sector support.