And suppose that Cro Cros Dimanche Gras calypso really
was a repeat of a song he once sang in Shadows Masters
Den. What exactly does this tell us about the National Calypso
It shows, I would argue, that you can take the competition
out of the Savannah but you cant take the Savannah out
of the competition.
Without trying to sound ominous or downright superstitious,
I would like to go on record saying that the Calypso Monarch
competition has nothing going for it but bad vibes.
Old calypsonians used to talk about there being jumbies in
the Savannah and they were most likely right. The jumbies
were the spirits of bygone calypsonians who haunt what has
become a lacklustre competition filled with enough bitter
calypsonians to rock the calypso boat.
First and foremost the problem with that competition always
comes back to the judges who never know how to judge calypsoes
from different genres. A humorous calypso is never on an even
field with a social commentary and a political commentary
is never on an even field with a social commentary.
Political commentary is dying a slow, painful death because
everyoneincluding Cro Crorealises you dont
get picked if you criticise the Government. The occasional
token political calypso gets through, but its unlikely
to steal the crown.
Each calypso should be judged according to a clear rubric
that measures structure, creativity, lyrics and melody. There
is clear judging criteria, but too often judges seem to be
at a loss on how to follow it.
If judges were properly trained in how to follow a rubric,
there would be less than one per cent disagreement about who
would win. The content would matter only in terms of the rubric.
Ask any English teacherwho grades essays, and he, or
she for that matterwill tell you how easy it is to follow
So one would expect lyrical content to be judged according
to how a calypsonian builds an argument. A calypso judge would
be able to separate himself from political content that he
does not agree with and judge the calypso solely on its structural
merit. Does that happen? At the risk of sounding like Fox
News, you be the judge.
The next problem with calypso judgingand I use that
term loosely to include soca judging, even Road March judgingis
that the judges do not know their musical history. No one
in this country seems to realise how many times we have been
duped by plagiarised melodies.
Worse yet is that the handful of people who bring up the problem
with borrowed melodies, a euphemism for stolen
melodies, dont even use the right terminology in discussing
the problem. Too often they refer to a stolen melody as sampling
when sampling is actually lifting a recorded part of another
persons song and putting it into a new song. Its
like cutting a chunk of cake out a pan and inserting it inside
Plagiarised melodies mean that the melodies were stolen and
played in a new piece of music while the thief pretends its
his original melody. He re-records the melody and puts it
in his song.
As I have written ad nauseam, teenagers today havent
been exposed to enough different types of music to know how
many pop melodies are masquerading as calypsoes out there.
Talk about playing a mas. Music is playing the biggest mas
in Carnival these days.
And now for the biggest problem of all. Calypsonians areand
always have beentheir own worst enemies. Their festering
sense of pettiness never ceases to amaze me. While they have
a right to comment about any judges decision or even
express their concerns or dismay about a judges decision,
the timing is always suspicious.
I have not always seen eye to eye with the T&T Unified
Calypso Organisation (Tuco) but I do agree with its very perceptive
statement about the timing of the calypso protest against
Cro Cro. Why would calypsonians wait until after he won his
crown to express their feelings that he had sung his calypso
No doubt all of these squabbles come from too many crabs being
packed in one barrel. There just isnt the demand for
traditional calypso like there used to be. The
soca boat got an engine donated by William Munro years ago
and it took off like a speed boat. Whose fault was that? It
was the fault of traditional calypsonians who scorned socas
presence in the Dimanche Gras show. They pushed the life out
of calypso to protect their weaknessesnot their strengths.
The traditional Calypso Monarch competition was left with
too many competitors who wouldnt know a melody if it
bit them. Those well-rounded calypsonians such as Shadow who
make it to a Calypso Monarch final never receive their due.
The only hope I see for that Dimanche Gras competition is
to wrestle it away from Governments claws. Give it to
William Munro. Let it struggle a while in a new format and
new forum. Let it be the third competition along with the
Power Soca Monarch and Groovy Soca Monarch competitions now
featured in Munros show.
Let it have some fireworks and fire. Dont make it a
lame duck, worse off than any politician on his way out of
office. With all the petty fighting going on around this art
form, calypsonians should be big enough to realise the real
problem at hand.
Calypso is not going forward because it is no longer the newspaper
of the people. It doesnt have enough braggarts to stand
up to society. Its fast becoming a toothlesseven
spinelessshadow of its former self. When it comes to
calypso its clear massas day is not done.