Musicologist on bias claimsReview calypso judging

Musicologist Marcus Baptiste on Sunday day suggested the system of judging for calypso competitions be reviewed to reduce the likelihood of bias.

Baptiste, who graduated recently with a Master’s degree in Carnival Arts from the University of Trinidad and Tobago, said artistes should be given the opportunity to see their scores immediately after their performances.

He said the technology already exists to facilitate such a change.

“There is the school of the school of thought that, immediately after a person’s performance, like in the Olympics and international sports, points are posted up which will allow an instant gratification for the artiste. We could probably look at ways to implement a system like that,” he told Newsday.

“With that system someone can say, ‘I sang in position four and I am running second so far (in a competition). Somebody could then personally track where they stand. I think the calypsonians will accept that a little better.”

Baptiste was speaking against the backdrop of last week’s incident in which former monarch Duane O’Connor threatened to file an injunction in court to stop Sunday night’s Dimanche Gras if he was not included in the final of the calypso competition.

On Thursday, O’Connor’s attorney Keith Beckles gave the Trinbago Unified Calypsonians’ Organisation (TUCO) a 12-hour deadline to come up with a valid reason as to why his client, did not make it to the final of the competition, following last Saturday’s Calypso Fiesta, Skinner Park, San Fernando.

O’Connor had queried the results of the official score sheet after he learnt that one of his scores in the melody category had been changed from 28 points to 25 points without a reason.

Baptiste, who has judged both calypso and steelband competitions in the past, said judges must be able to justify all they have written on score sheets “because the only communication that we ever have between the judges and the contestants is, in fact, what is written on that paper.

“In order to do so, there needs to be a better training of the judges in my opinion.”

Baptiste, who also holds a Bachelor’s degree in Music from the University of the West Indies, suggested that people interested in adjudicating for competitions take part in a six-month workshop.

“At these workshops, issues regarding score sheets could be addressed, so that if a judge makes an error on a sheet that sheet could be destroyed and a new one with his or her final thinking be prepared.”

In reviewing the case, as put forward by O’Connor, Baptiste said it appeared as though the calypsonian had “sufficient grounds” to query the matter.

“With that three point difference, it would have qualified him, based in the information that I have, to be in the finals,” Baptiste said.

“Clearly, what we see happening is a big flaw in that judging system where the judged changed what appeared to be 28 to 25 points. There is room to justify how he came up with the 25 or even the 28 points.

“It begs to question, ‘When was the change made?’ Was it made just on the spot?”

Baptiste said the judges’ policies must be questioned.

“Is it that you made an error on a sheet and you just scratch and initial or do you do a new sheet, because what you need to do is justify to the calypsonian receiving it. This is where I believe Duane can feel slighted.”

He added: “At the end of the day, calypsonians invest and they looking for a return. They not just singing for the love of culture.”

Baptiste said the Dimanche Gras presented an opportunity for calypsonians “to win a certain prize.”

“So, if it is, for whatever reason you feel deprived, not just for the stardom or the mention of a track record, you are also deprived of financial reward for being in the Dimanche Gras finals. This is clearly the case and Duane could have felt slighted by that lack of opportunity.”

Baptiste said he was among a group of young graduates who are planning to review all aspects of Carnival, including judging for shows.

“Every year, the judges decision is always in contention. We have a system in TT where the judges decision is final. But we need to make sure that we do it right - that we are always on point. “We need to make sure the artistes do not feel slighted because in speaking to Duane, he would have been content to know that he did not make it. But when you see instances where your marks change and there is no real justification as to why it was changed, then it becomes a problem.”

In the existing scenario, Baptiste said it was difficult to say what transpired.

“There is no fact, proof, support to any of these claims. And the only way you could prove that is by having a combination of the judges’ score sheet over a period of time.

“And if there is any judge who consistently shows a pattern one way or the other, we could see if there is any apparent trend prevalent in their work.”

On the flip side, Baptiste said it was easy for people to claim bias in competitions.

“It is easy to believe there is some kind of underhanded action taking place when that may not necessarily be the case.”

He added: “The reason for all of this uneasiness is the prize. At the end of the day, Carnival is where we get to celebrate and express ourselves.”

And while there are those who wish to make a statement and be creative, others see the festival strictly in terms of business.

“So, this comes down to money and if it is that you are not given the opportunity to make that extra money, you will feel slighted and this is what you see happening now in Carnival. Some people may want to deny it. But but at the end of the day, the bottom line is the dollar, sad to say.”


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