De Nacheal performs at Junior Monarch competition
De Nacheal performs at Junior Monarch competition

No one can and should underestimate the role of judges in the Calypso art form, to be treated with such little importance as seems to be the case by the lack of training and workshops for judges organised by the DCA.

This initial comment seem to pass under the radar as, to the credit of these very same judges, they normally get the Monarch right and we go home satisfied. But too many times it's about popular appeal guiding the judgement rather than intellectual competence.

The above statement is supported by the fact that after the eliminations when the most blatant travesty was not placing one of the best compositions, melodies and renditions in the competition, that of Nasheal. Three judges sat down an committed a grave injustice of allowing 15 calypsonians and only God knows how many others to be a judged better that this former Junior Monarch.

While I want to applaud the three for reconsidering and admitting as such claiming that some error of omission occurred or the collation of points was the problem. Whether it was public pressure led by DBS' manager, himself a competent analyst, the fact is they did not feel that they were above reproach or criticism and did include an obvious semi- final composition. They have indeed by so doing set an example for us, be it politicians or anyone in authority, to learn to exercise humility and correction.
Nonetheless, I take issue with the above reasons and this is borne out from a prior conversation I had with one of the judges when the travesty was committed. This veteran judge of Calypso stated the following in justification for not having the said calypsonian as part of the initial 12 or even the three reserves: They could not hear/understand what she was saying; the song lacked cohesiveness; she was screaming.

I took the opportunity to inform that individual of the following: If you can't hear a calypsonian one should request a stoppage of the band; that I was in fact the writer and summarized how cohesive the story line was.

The judge seem to be saying he did not know I was the writer and have in my 35 years of Calypso writing have been consistent with my storylines and development and have never and would never present a sub-standard composition as my writing career has borne out. So the next best thing he seemingly conceded I reminded him was well 'she was not clear.' The judge insisted it was the 'live 'presentation that was the concern. Granted, yet, I could not understand the same calypsonian could sound so clear and articulate on a live recording on radio and at the same time beyond comprehension by the judges. To compound the situation the judge insisted that it was not the speaker. Incidentally I sat in the VIP area just as the judges and could not vouch for the statement of lack of clarity or incomprehensibility. The fine applause after Nacheal's performance also suggests that it was only the three judges or the one in question alone who had problems.

What is even more disturbing is that this year more than half the songs presented, particularly in the second part of the show, was way below acceptable standards; hence, it would have been a walk-in-the park for Black Diamond, the reigning Junior Monarch, Tasha P, Webb, Hunter and a few others of which Nasheal must be, or rather should be, easily fit in. I was even more flabbergasted when every live commentator called out Nacheal's "Death Ride" among their top five; no question marks. Therefore the three judges should be competent enough to recognize something was wrong.

Most presenters on the night either sang out of key, talked or were incomprehensible. I must say though, some creativity was evident in Sour's "Grindner" and Unwanted's, "Selling the Country in Parts". These were interesting concepts skilled writers could really develop into masterpieces.

I surmise that this particular judge who I know has done and have been empaneled when other travesties in the past took place is just not capable. While the majority of judges certainly need workshopping. Willingness, love the arts form, always coming to Calypso shows seeming objectivity is not enough to qualify one to be a judge. Your knowledge must be augmented with your ability to execute impartially and provide reasons why you have arrived as such a position.

I think the judges are all well-intentioned but quite a few lack the analytical and musical competence to sit on the panel while others require refresher exercises from time to time. This has not been conducted for quite some time by the DCA and so I anticipate a few more Nacheal-like disasters this Calypso season.

Alas, I hear talk of a workshop soon by this progressive executive and the newly installed judges coordinator; so let us hope some of my fears will be averted.