Rethinking approaches to judging Calypso
It would be easy to put together another finals show and possibly one even better than the original finals with Calypsos from Daddy Chess, Lugars, Chris B, JD and others. Complement this list with "Commit" and "Murderer" and that show could be of greater commercial value.
Initially Picky was not considered to be worthy to go past the eliminations round but he made it right through to the Finals; that should signal to us that good songs can get lost. While the quality of a Calypso has a lot to do with delivery when it is being performed, leaving out a word or repeating a line cannot or should not prevent a good or great Calypso from going on to the next round.
Really I don't know where this came from because in the past I have seen calypsonians forget a line, or two, many times and have deservedly made it through. We speak here of esteemed calypsonians such as Hurricane, Dice and NC. It seems sometimes judges are more concerned about punishing the calypsonian instead of judging the Calypso. Those of you who followed Calypso in the Eighties would remember NC's "Reunion 88". That song was not well rendered or constructed in the semis but it went on to win the crown and ended up being one of our best Calypsos. King Hurricane repeated lines in "Humpty Dumpy" and still placed third!
There is also another area that needs rethinking. Because Calypso is an all-inclusive art you cannot judge it by segments. Judges have to be astute and well-trained, theoretically and practically, to be good observers. It has now become apparent to me that quite a few find it difficult to separate a pleasant voice quality from weaknesses in structure and lyrical content. Some performers mesmerise and sing their way into the Finals and no one can recollect what they sang. In other words, their only impact was on the judges' sheets, and not on the people, whom Calypso is supposed to represent.
Just as the Queen Committee has put in place judges who are qualified and have particular competencies to judges the Queen Show one cannot have a Calypso show without the right combination of persons who are versed in composition/lyrics, music and stage presentation/drama. It happens during Calypso competitions that all these competencies are absent For instance, at the junior level not one judge had any competence in music and so when the budding Irish Kid, who eventually won, sang off the note or fell flat, that was overlooked.
Once again, with the judging criteria at the Stardom King of the Tent there is no way Omi's "Murderer", as popular as it is, could out-class many of the other competitors unless the points for lyrics was cut in half! A commentator/judge said that the Junior Monarch convincingly won when a stunned audience could not see how; not rendition, not presentation, not melody and certainly not diction could match that of the 1st runner up or Nika of the WHS. Hence, we must not only rethink our approaches to judging the art form, but also whom we employ to do the job.
There is also great merit in the view expressed by Val Cuffy that our Queen Shows should be held earlier to allow a more current queen and not the one of last year to preside over Carnival; and yes, something has to be done to ensure that calypsonians' second song face some evaluation before the finals. Most, if not all of them, could not stand the test of getting to the Finals on their own merit.
Finally, congrats to the Dice on a most deserved 7th crowning. I will say more on this young man later. Nonetheless, I wish to put on record how unfortunate the Wave was, and conversely, how fortunate the Bobb as he did not execute as he did in the Quarters or Semis. What is true, in summary, is that Dice, Webb, Bobb, Karessa and Hunter represent Dominica's best calypsonians over the past decade. Of course King Dice is in a league of his own and forms a formidable tag team with writer Pat Aaron to which local calypsonians have no answers. Congratulations to too Irish Kid, the Junior Monarch. Here's a talent who represents the future of the art form.
In closing, a special thanks to Pa Ben and members of the Miami Dominica Association for their annual recognition not only to those who have made significant contributions to Calypso, but to persons in every sphere of Dominica's social, cultural, educational and even legal landscape. My personal thanks and appreciation for the "flowers" offered by the folks of the Catholic Marriage Encounter organization for their "Calypso Master" award, in recognition of my work as a composer, more specifically for Chris B's 'Fan's Advice' given the accolade of best composition for 2014, this I share with Man Himself, composer of 'Rumours'.