At the silver jubilee event of the Trinbagonian Unified Calypsonians Organisation (TUCO), President Paula-Mae Weekes called on the organisation to continuously recreate and regenerate itself. She noted the loss of three major contributors to the art form, Winston Bailey, Winston Scarborough and Andrew Marcano over the last two months and reminded TUCO of its responsibility to preserve and promote calypso and to meet contemporary challenges with modern thinking.
Weekes’ call for a calypso tent that runs all year long is ambitious, particularly given the fragile state of the tents that TUCO manages during the Carnival season, shows that are far from the craft at the height of its form. Modern thinking has also largely eluded TUCO in a cultural environment which has become far more accessible to the curious while also offering up many distractions from the lure of calypso as culture and art.
At the funeral of Winston Bailey, the Shadow, TUCO’s president, Lutalo Masimba called for the establishment of a museum of calypso history, while committing his organisation to fighting music piracy and pushing for more local content. But these discussions belong in another century entirely, one that wasn’t so enabling for small organisations who with directed enthusiasm and will have the tools to create a model for engaging all three of these problems. Someone interested in calypso doesn’t need to visit a tent when a search on YouTube turns up a daunting catalogue of work.
Piracy of calypso music has largely disappeared because almost anyone interested in the music can find it with a click or two on their smartphone. But none of those web searches yields any income for the creators of these works, and until TUCO comes to grips with the reality of calypsonians in 2018, it will continue to yearn for a future that’s already long gone.
When the East Indian community living in TT wanted a museum, they went ahead and built one near the Temple in the Sea in Carapichaima, opening it in 2006. TUCO also needs to revisit its existing business model, which has pushed the organisation onto precarious financial ground. In January, Dr Nyan Gadsby-Dolly, Minister of Community Development, Culture and the Arts, was working with the calypso body to organise its funding after TUCO explained that it had taken a loan of $4.2 million against the promised subvention. In June, TUCO announced the signing of a memorandum of understanding with UWI-Roytec to create a certificate level training resource in the business of entertainment with, he admitted, a bias toward calypsonians.
Masimba promised a calypso transformation during October, Calypso History Month, these baby steps need to be matched by powerful strides into the future.