THE EDITOR: One radio station polled its audience on the debacle that was the 2020 National Calypso Monarch Competition. The station wanted to know whether the calypso finals should go back to the Dimanche Gras
I am uncompromising. I wish to see calypso back into the Dimanche Gras. Give each artiste one song. Select 14 semi-finalists (include the previous year’s winner). Reserve places for humour. Reserve places for soca/dancehall (the ism is already in demise). Add the Calypso Queen and the Young King as a matter of course. In other words, TUCO should present an entertaining package with all the elements and derivatives of calypso.
With the modern technology we are now online. The social media comments suggest a keen audience that goes beyond the QPS. Can we not respect their needs and expectations?
The problem is that we do not know our calypso history. The competition used to be a one-song event. As far as I know Sparrow introduced the two-song concept for the monarch because he was really prolific. By the time 1956 passed, he was able to dominate the field. Later the judges introduced categories like “the spirit of Carnival.”
In reviewing this year’s competition, a number of situations spoilt my pleasure.
There was Duane O’Connor’s encounter with a mike malfunction. He pleaded,“Could we do this again please? The mike you gave me was not working. Malfunctions like this are not unusual but the microphone should have been tested before the performer began his presentation. After all, he was live and online.
And there was last year’s monarch Ronaldo London’s premature retreat from the stage before he had finished his second calypso.
Then there was Scrunter, singing his heart out with his 1979 classic Woman on the Bass and having to beg the sparse and unresponsive audience, more than once, “All yuh sing the thing! Ah not hearing all yuh!”
The coup de grace, however, was when Scrunter folded his arms in frustration, He said, “Something wrong…In our day…you could ah fill the Grand Stand and the North Stand.
The fault was not the audience alone. It was the entire package that TUCO offered. The artistes were not entertaining.
The competition could generate much more excitement if the radio and TV station commentators play their part. If the judges need workshops, so do the media. All they have to do is their homework.
There are publications from the National Action Cultural Committee, Dr Hollis “Chalkdust” Liverpool, Prof Gordon Rohlehr, Dr Keith Warner, Ray Funk, Rudolf Ottley, and the media houses should have their own archives. They have to consult people like Dennis “Sprangalang” Hall, Winston Maynard and Teddy Pinheiro.
Look at where we reach. The people responsible for calypso have created an embarrassing disconnect from the population. They better get down to work now to save TT calypso before the next year arrives.