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Well, the art of MC-ing has been found wanting everywhere. A few weeks ago, I lamented the fact that very few associates in the Arts cared about the health problems of Michel Raffoul, the costume builder. But recent statements have caused me to extend my views on this level of ingratitude.

Generally, I try as much as is humanly possible not to critique or even criticise persons without pointing out their strengths. After doing so we can elaborate on weaknesses. Hence, I am one of those who will not have spoken glowingly for a numbers of years about the combination of MC's Val and Alex at Kaiso shows. To my mind these guys now having served 25 years in the business of deserve consideration for a Golden Drum award.

Bruno, I know, has received a Special Recognition award for his work with Teyat Pawol and an award at the Golden Drum level would just encapsulate what Val Cuffy and Alex Bruno are best known for.

They have varying styles but complement each other well. One of my criticisms is sometimes Val directs his fun at a paying patron. However, depending on what is said, if it's clean and does not necessarily damage one's character, then everybody goes home happy.

One has to remember Val's background as an entertainer/comedian; he entered the Calypso arena in the early 90's with "Chew my Pocket" in which he made fun of himself and the rest is history; the reverse psychology worked and Val became like Alex later on an indomitable force on stage particularly as the MC for Calypso shows. But really we watch standup comedy all the while on cable TV and the Picong element is used by many international stand-up comedians. Granted with the sensitivity and sometimes immaturity of our audience, I agree we need to tailor our act when we are in a position of privilege behind the microphone, where the whole world, not only the patrons can hear.

I have grimaced a few times when an MC makes fun of regional visitors ridiculing them with the use of the Creole language; but in the end they get a bottle of something for being a good sport and everyone is happy.

One has to remember that preceding these guys we had BABA, Franklyn Moses and much earlier Harrigan of blessed memory. The two have elevated the level of the art and as Franklin Moses showed, they are very professional at what they do. Yes, and as Mervin Paul indicated (in a critical comment on DBS news) we can all improve. So why not call the guys and tell them so away from the media? Is this not an attempt at ridiculing them publicly, ironically, something they are sometimes accused of?

This MC business in Dominica, that Peter Prosper and others make look so easy, is difficult business; it requires great skill to face a crowd of thousands and to serve as a stop gap, to entertain, while awaiting the next act which in Dominica could be anytime. God forbid, but let Raymond Lawrence be unavailable for a Queen Show pageant and you will begin to understand. In fact, patrons this year were not very complimentary of the former queen who was thrust in as co- host of the show.

Again, as someone who has done some media training, I find it strange why Mr. Paul who is not an authority or stakeholder (other than being a patron) should be asked to comment on something like this or get his views aired. If comments from the general public comments are sought, I could understand the "Street Vibes" element. But for news one should be able to make informed comments, and not on the flimsy premise that one is a paying patron. I play the bass guitar and lead a steel pan group, but I have refused to go to any pan meeting as I am not competent at playing the instrument. I let a member who is a practitioner attend instead.

So yes, I complement both Val and Pawol. I think Pawol handled the criticism (recognizing as always the need for fine tuning their art) quite maturely when he was contacted for comment. I just hope when Val Cuffy and Alex 'Double A' Bruno host another seminar for M-Cees, which this country badly needs, we will see more persons coming on board.

Still, it's not just the M-cees who are not given due recognition but also sponsors who invest $12,000 and more annually on Carnival Queen shows and are hardly acknowledged after the competition until the next year when the letters go out. More should be done by various show organizers to recognise and commend. Particularly sponsors who do not have the direct means to erect stalls or sell products at the venue to re coupe cost.

This year for instance Malcom Stephens and Sons sponsored successfully for their fourth time individual participants in Carnival. Queens Leandra Lander, Mara Walters and second runner up Eileen Labassiere all benefitted from Malcolm Stephens' sponsorship. I am sure the Stephens' family interest in such sponsorship stems from that fact that Mrs. Janette Stephens was one of Dominica's Carnival Queens in the 50's. This year, for the first time, a company sponsored a calypsonian. King Karessa was sponsored in a big way by Malcolm Stephens from his recordings to his performances on the night of the Calypso Finals.

This is fantastic, yet not much was said about it apart from the words and efforts of artiste himself. I think the management of Calypso should have had a lot to say as this could herald a new era of private sector involvement.


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