Puzzling format for Calypso Monarch

THE EDITOR: I note the decision of TUCO (Trinbago Unified Calypsonians Organisation) to revert to two songs for Calypso Monarch 2020. Except for the semi-final. Huh? I called TUCO twice (just to be sure) and was told the following.

For the preliminaries, several hundred contestants will be judged on two songs. From this, 40 (plus one reserve) will be chosen for the semi-final where they will sing one song. From this, 11 (plus one reserve) will be chosen for the final (to face reigning monarch Ronaldo London) where they will sing two songs.

Ignoring, for the moment, the decision to revert to two songs, the format itself is puzzling. Why one song for the semi-final and two for the other stages? Consider two calypsonians, C1 and C2, who make it to the semi-final.

C1 has one very good song (worth 90 marks) and a weak one (50 marks). C2’s songs are worth 80 marks each. With a total of 160 marks, C2 would have placed much higher than C1 (140 marks). However, because of the strange format (one song in the semi-final), C1 could make it to the final instead of C2, assuming the same level of performance, more or less.

Since the rules require a contestant to sing their two registered songs, there is not much C1 can do about his/her weak song. In a two-song final, C2 would easily beat C1, except the former won’t be there because of the baffling format. It cannot be right that C1 should advance to the final but not C2.

If TUCO decides it wants a two-song competition, it must be two songs throughout.

Now to the decision to revert to two songs. I have no problem with calypsonians deciding they want to sing two songs for the competition. That’s their prerogative. Whether or not the public will be receptive to this is quite another matter.

All major singing competitions worldwide (Eurovision, The Voice, Britain’s Got Talent, etc) require one song. Of course, that’s not the sole reason we should sing one song. But it’s not as if we’re being overrun with good quality compositions. Most struggle to compose one good calypso, much less two. Many are based on some sort of dirge or generic “melody,” similar to the one used by extempo singers. Not the stuff that you remember.

Can anyone remember the name of (or can hum a bar from) any calypso that won the Calypso Monarch for the last 20 years? What about a bar from one of the other finalists? No? Think the quality will be better with two songs?

According to TUCO, the membership said having two songs would bring back “some quality to the competition.” Really? How? I think someone mixed up “quality” and “quantity” or truly believes that “more is better.” How do those calypsonians with one outstanding song feel about this move? Is this designed to eliminate them in favour of those with two run-of-the-mill songs?

I thought it was a progressive move when TUCO switched from two songs to one for the Calypso Monarch. Now it seems it has regressed by going back to two, sort of.


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"Puzzling format for Calypso Monarch"

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