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Calypso writers, left to right- Lloyd, Durand and Aaron
Calypso writers, left to right- Lloyd, Durand and Aaron

After the first Stardom Tent where the calypsonians performed their second compositions I was disappointed in most cases. One calypsonian who was very unfortunate not to have made it to the Finals knowing fully well what he had in store should he have made it, lamented that he had not been given the opportunity when he heard a number of songs.

For me it's a myth that what is previously perceived to be a mediocre or bad composition to suddenly become great or have grown to be loved over a couple days or few weeks to such magnitude. A good song for me remains good or can grow even more on me with time; conversely a poor composition remains poor and will get worse with time. It is therefore absolutely necessary that the calypsonian's composition should be instant, uncomplicated, no mixed metaphors or confusing innuendoes from day one. But again this is just me, a writer/ composer who has been trained to appreciate such values in a song from the melody, diction and first verse.

In fact in TNT, where I had the opportunity to judge, the sheets are taken away after the second verse and chorus; no doubt the organizers are sending the message that your opinion of that composition should have been formed by then and there is no chance of erasing or judging a composition against another once your initial opinion had been formed. I am not saying this method is right or the best but it is something worth discussing.

A serous tent structure exists in TNT and some other regional countries unlike Dominica where there are just two and in recent times it's skewed in terms of patronage. There's no reason why Portsmouth or a few other villages could not set up their own tent structure; maybe we don't have sufficient quality, sponsorship or population- but that's another matter.

What concerns me and many patrons is that the quality of the first-aired compositions is normally way above the others. One of the reasons for this is that calypsonians don't want to incur expense for recording not knowing whether they will get to the Finals or even the Semis. 'Mandisa' is one such case in point that I think was overlooked for at least a booking in the Semis. Therefore, the other song is rushed to completion probably within a week or two.

Additionally, studio cost has already taken up the pay given by the DCA, so unless you are a DICE,WEBB, KARESSA or TASHA, using just five most prominent perennial finalists as examples, you may not want to record another until you feel you are a well-entrenched semi -finalist and have a possible claim to final berth.

There are also the few calypsonians who write and perform their own such as Karessa, Haxey,Explosion, Jaydee, Chess at times, but in reality the pool is limited and the writing and compositions are often led by Pat Aaron who writes for almost everyone in Mas Camp; there are also Ian Jackson, Tim Durand, Pelam Jno Baptiste and, in recent times, Haxey. We can add to that pool the late Freddy Mendes who along with Jackson pen most of the songs for junior calypsonians over the past decade.

The call is timely and right to have workshops and even courses run by the State College and even UWI. Quite a few Caribbean scholars have used Calypsos their thesis. Our own Steinberg Henry, Alex Bruno and esteemed professors Gordon Rohlehr of TNT have done the same.

Calypso is no a game or mere entertainment but a way of life of a people. It shapes character, informs on events, provides an economic, political and social barometer, and allows introspection. It's no wonder we fight over it, critique it, stand up in rain and mud for it, go to court for it, sing it in the churches, quote it, banned it ; it makes one laugh, cry, feel patriotic, provides hope; it is used by politicians to win elections- it's powerful.

This is why I suggest we look at having another song sang in the semis. By so doing there is greater surety that the standards of songs represented will be better. One can't sing one song from the Eliminations, at 4-6 tents, the Quarters and Semis, prove to the public what again do you have? Is it a flash in the pan or are you just a one-song calypsonian?

Before we lose it we must recognize now Trinidad once the cradle of hope has resorted to one song in their finals it all depends to a large extent on Dominica to preserve what we do well in. But it won't last forever if we don't invest in its future. Soon the Bouyon monarch will be paid more than the Calypso monarch after 60 years of Calypso. The prize money has remained at 20 grand for too long. Ten years from now where do you think the young is going to gravitate too? Though I enjoy such debates and healthy opinions but discussing the issues are more relevant than quarreling on talks shows about the merits and demerits of "Looters". In our hypocrisy and politicizing we fail to comment on songs like "Maria Taking Wood" or "Pussy cat". The under-utilized Kaiso house, almost a white or black elephant, all need to be discussed thoroughly.

While I know as a creole-speaking country that created three genres of music and it would be quite natural that we draw from these in our compositions I am not very happy that it seem that some Association member have no problem in the subtle infiltration of Bouyon and Cadence parading as Calypso-all I'll say is-watch it, before it becomes so integral that it dominates and we will not be able to define Calypso and it will be a free all genre-less. While other still have no problem with the length of Eliminations and a filtering of what is showcased citing "it's a peoples thing" and everyone must have their five minutes of fame. Well that is indeed a myopic viewpoint if we want to keep standards up and rising.

Sponsors, government, educators, recording studios, composers, musicians, the DCA as the engine need to be more dynamic to allow Calypso to leave Roseau. Picky's 50 years in Calypso seemed to have just passed without any fanfare. Yes, I do concur with 'Racco' and Edgar Hunter that courses and training need to be offered and I have taken the lead by registering such an interest.


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